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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

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, […]

“Death and Lockdowns”

Flavio Bartmann points to this post by John Tierney criticizing lockdown policies for coronavirus, which begins: Now that the 2020 figures have been properly tallied, there’s still no convincing evidence that strict lockdowns reduced the death toll from Covid-19. But one effect is clear: more deaths from other causes, especially among the young and middle-aged, […]

Whassup with the haphazard coronavirus statistics?

Peter Dorman writes: This piece by Robinson Meyer and Alexis Madrigal on the inadequacy of Covid data is useful but frustrating. I think they could have dispensed with the self-puffery, rhetoric and sweeping generalizations and been more detailed about data issues. Nevertheless the core point is one that you and others have stressed, that too […]

Huge partisan differences in who wants to get vaccinated

Jonathan Falk writes: This piece by Noah Rothman argues (appropriately hedged “It’s just one poll, and the breakdown of subsamples to the narrowest possible margins forces us to be cautious when citing the findings” which is always something good to see) that vaccine hesitancy, which shows a pronounced Republican/Democratic split may not be a Republican/Democratic […]

No, I don’t like talk of false positive false negative etc but it can still be useful to warn people about systematic biases in meta-analysis

Simon Gates writes: Something published recently that you might consider blogging: a truly terrible article in Lancet Oncology. It raises the issue of interpreting trials of similar agents and the issue of multiplicity. However, it takes a “dichotomaniac” view and so is only concerned about whether results are “significant” (=”positive”) or not, and suggests applying […]

What is the landscape of uncertainty outside the clinical trial’s methods?

I live in the province of British Columbia in the country of Canada (right, this post is not by Andrew, it is by Lizzie). Recently one of our top provincial health officials, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has received extra scrutiny based on her decision to delay second doses of the vaccine. The general argument against this […]

Alan Sokal on exponential growth and coronavirus rebound

Alan Sokal writes: Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured Britons that, come 21 June—at least, if all goes according to plan—we will “re-open everything up to and including nightclubs, and enable large events such as theatre performances.” Life will return to normal, or so he says. Alas, Johnson is fooling himself, and it takes […]

A new approach to pandemic control by informing people of their social distance from exposure

Po-Shen Lo, a mathematician who works in graph theory, writes about a new approach he devised for pandemic control. He writes: The significance of this new approach is potentially very high, because it not only can improve the current situation, but it would permanently add a new orthogonal tool to the toolbox for pandemic control, […]

Postdoc in precision medicine at Johns Hopkins using Bayesian methods

Aki Nishimura writes: My colleague Scott Zeger and I have a postdoc position for our precision medicine initiative at Johns Hopkins and we are looking for expertise in Bayesian methods, statistical computation, or software development. Expertise in Stan would be a plus!

Rapid prepublication peer review

The following came in the email last week from Gordon Shotwell: You posted about an earlier pilot trial of calcifidiol, so I wanted to send you this larger study. The randomization is a bit funky and if you were interested it would be great to hear what sorts of inferences we can make about this […]

COVID and Vitamin D…and some other things too.

This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. Way back in November I started writing a post about my Vitamin D experience. My doctor says I need more, in spite of the fact that I spend lots of time outdoors in the sun. I looked into the research and concluded that nobody really knows how […]

“Our underpowered trial provides no indication that X has a positive or negative effect on Y”

It’s rare to see researchers say flat-out that an experimental result leaves them uncertain. There seems to be such a temptation to either declare victory with statistical significance (setting the significance level to 0.1 if necessary to clear the bar) or to claim that weak and noisy results are “suggestive” or, conversely, to declare non-significance […]

Further comments on “Assessing mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closure effects on the spread of COVID‐19”

A few weeks ago we discussed a recent paper from Bendavid et al., “Assessing mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closure effects on the spread of COVID‐19.” Lonni Besançon writes: Together with Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz we found that the study was fairly limited and did not properly highlight its limitations nor did it discuss several conflicting results from […]

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