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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Whassup with the FDA approval of that Alzheimer’s drug? A “disgraceful decision” or a good idea?

Andrew Klaassen writes: Any chance you’ll be weighing in on your blog on the apparently wobbly studies supporting the FDA’s approval of Aduhelm? I’m hearing angry things being said about it by the random people I know in medical research, but don’t know much beyond that. Here’s the one link on the story [by Beth […]


Gary Smith points us to this news article: Geoffrey Hinton is a legendary computer scientist . . . Naturally, people paid attention when Hinton declared in 2016, “We should stop training radiologists now, it’s just completely obvious within five years deep learning is going to do better than radiologists.” The US Food and Drug Administration […]

I have a feeling this lawsuit will backfire.

Palko points us to this news article by Melissa Davey: World expert in scientific misconduct faces legal action for challenging integrity of hydroxychloroquine study . . . A world-renowned Dutch expert in identifying scientific misconduct and error, Dr Elisabeth Bik, has been threatened with legal action for questioning the integrity of a study promoting the […]

Another estimate of excess deaths during the pandemic.

Elliott Morris points us to this set of estimates by Sondre Solstad of excess deaths during the pandemic. The above graph is for the whole world; they also have separate graphs by continent and by country. From the description: The Economist’s global excess-death-toll estimates are, as far as we know, the first of their kind. […]

Postdoc position in Bayesian modeling for cancer

Wesley Tansey writes: I’m recruiting a postdoc to join my lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center ( The role overlaps a lot with the interests of people on your blog. We’re specifically looking for people with experience in subset of the following: – Bayesian hierarchical models – Spatial statistical methods (e.g. Gaussian processes, trend […]

Estimating excess mortality in rural Bangladesh from surveys and MRP

(This post is by Yuling, not by/reviewed by Andrew) Recently I (Yuling) have contributed to a public heath project with many great collaborates: The goal is to understand the excess mortality in potential relevance to Covid-19. Before recent case surge in south Asia, we have seen stories claiming that the pandemic might have hit some low-income […]

2 reasons why the CDC and WHO were getting things wrong: (1) It takes so much more evidence to correct a mistaken claim than to establish it in the first place; (2) The implicit goal of much of the public health apparatus is to serve the health care delivery system.

Peter Dorman points to an op-ed by Zeynep Tufekci and writes: This is a high profile piece in the NY Times on why the CDC and WHO have been so resistant to the evidence for aerosol transmission. What makes it relevant is the discussion of two interacting methodological tics, the minimization of Type I error […]

If a value is “less than 10%”, you can bet it’s not 0.1%. Usually.

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. Many years ago I saw an ad for a running shoe (maybe it was Reebok?) that said something like “At the New York Marathon, three of the five fastest runners were wearing our shoes.” I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to have realized that […]

Doubting the IHME claims about excess deaths by country

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME) was recently claiming 900,000 excess deaths, but that doesn’t appear to be consistent with the above data. These graphs are from Ariel Karlinsky, who writes: The main point of the IHME report, that total COVID deaths, estimated by excess deaths, are much […]

Indeed, the standard way that statistical hypothesis testing is taught is a 2-way binary grid. Both these dichotomies are inappropriate.

I originally gave this post the title, “New England Journal of Medicine makes the classic error of labeling a non-significant difference as zero,” but was I was writing it I thought of a more general point. First I’ll give the story, then the general point. 1. Story Dale Lehman writes: Here are an article and […]

Whassup with the weird state borders on this vaccine hesitancy map?

Luke Vrotsos writes: I thought you might find this interesting because it relates to questionable statistics getting a lot of media coverage. HHS has a set of county-level vaccine hesitancy estimates that I saw in the NYT this morning in this front-page article. It’s also been covered in the LA Times and lots of local […]

Probability problem involving multiple coronavirus tests in the same household

Mark Tuttle writes: Here is a potential homework problem for your students. The following is a true story. Mid-December, we have a household with five people. My wife and myself, and three who arrived from elsewhere. Subsequently, various diverse symptoms ensue – nothing too serious, but everyone is concerned, obviously. Video conference for all five […]

The Pandemic: how bad is it really?

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. Andrew’s recent post about questionable death rate statistics about the pandemic has reminded me that I have not yet posted about a paper Troy Quast sent me. Quast is from the University of South Florida College of Public Health. Quast, Ross Andel, Sean Gregory, and Eric Storch […]

Is it really true that “the U.S. death rate in 2020 was the highest above normal since the early 1900s—even surpassing the calamity of the 1918 flu pandemic”?

tl;dr. No, it’s not true. The death rate increased by 15% from 2019 to 2020, but it jumped by 40% from 1917 to 1918. But, if so, why would anyone claim differently? Therein lies a tale. A commenter pointed to a news article with the above graphs and the following claim: The U.S. death rate […]

Hierarchical modeling of excess mortality time series

Elliott writes: My boss asks me: For our model to predict excess mortality around the world, we want to calculate a confidence interval around our mean estimate for total global excess deaths. We have real excess deaths for like 60 countries, and are predicting on another 130 or so. we can easily calculate intervals for […]

“Do you come from Liverpool?”

Paul Alper writes: Because I used to live in Trondheim, I have a special interest in this NYT article about exercise results in Trondheim, Norway. Obviously, even without reading the article in any detail, the headline claim that The Secret to Longevity? 4-Minute Bursts of Intense Exercise May Help can be misleading and is subject […]

Relative vs. absolute risk reduction . . . 500 doctors want to know!

Some stranger writes: What are your thoughts on this paper? Especially the paragraph on page 6 “Similar to the critical appraisal ….. respectively”. There are many of us MD’s who are quite foxed. If you blog about it, please don’t mention my name and just say a doctor on a 500-member listserv asked you about […]

Adjusting for differences between treatment and control groups: “statistical significance” and “multiple testing” have nothing to do with it

Jonathan Falk points us to this post by Scott Alexander entitled “Two Unexpected Multiple Hypothesis Testing Problems.” The important questions, though, have nothing to do with multiple hypothesis testing or with hypothesis testing at all. As is often the case, certain free-floating scientific ideas get in the way of thinking about the real problem. Alexander […]

HCQ: “The clinical trials they summarized were predominantly in young healthy people so even the best drug in the world wouldn’t look good under their framework.”

James Watson (this one, not this one or that one) writes: You might be interested by the latest WHO guidelines on the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to prevent COVID-19. HCQ is the COVID-19 pariah and the guidelines recommend stopping all research into it. They pooled 6 COVID-19 prevention studies and found that HCQ did not […]

A tale of two epidemiologists: It was the worst of times.

A couple of commenters pointed me to the story of John Ioannidis and Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz. David Gorski tells the tale. Ioannidis still seems to be dealing with the after-effects of his extrapolation last year that there might be 10,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States. This was just a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and as Gorski says, […]

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