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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Estimating the mortality rate from corona?

Aaron “Edlin factor” Edlin writes: What is the Gelman confidence interval for mortality rate from corona? My reply: I got nothin. Aaron continues: Would it be interesting to survey epidemiologists and generalists on their point estimates for the mortality rate for corona? Will the average guess be close to reality? Like with guessing jelly beans […]

Coronavirus PANIC news

I just canceled a cross-country trip I was going to take, replacing face-to-face meetings with videolink which I think will be just about as good. In other news, Cass Sunstein writes about “the cognitive bias that makes us panic about coronavirus”: At this stage, no one can specify the magnitude of the threat from the […]

Mike Pence and Rush Limbaugh on smoking, cancer, and the coronavirus

This is newsworthy because it was reported that Vice President Mike Pence was assigned to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus. Paul Alper pointed me to this statement from Pence in 2001: Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 […]


X writes: Sur France Inter ce matin, le 23 septembre est le jour en France avec le plus de naissances (+5%). Have you done the same analysis on births for France than you did for the US? I replied that we (Aki, really) have not analyzed any French data, but if you have the numbers, […]

Vaping statistics controversy update: A retraction and some dispute

A few months ago we reported on two controversies regarding articles in the medical literature on the risks of e-cigarettes (vaping). One of the controversial papers was “Electronic cigarette use and myocardial infarction among adults in the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health [PATH],” by Dharma N. Bhatta and Stanton A. Glantz, published in […]

How many patients do doctors kill by accident?

Paul Kedrosky writes: There is a longstanding debate in the medical community about how many patients they kill by accident. There are many estimates, all fairly harrowing, but little overall agreement. It’s coming to a boil again, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever looked at the underlying claims and statistical data here. The most recent […]

“Sometimes research just has to start somewhere, and subject itself to criticism and potential improvement.”

Pointing to this careful news article by Monica Beyer, “Controversial study links pollution with bipolar, depression,” Mark Tuttle writes: Sometimes potentially important things are hard, or even very hard. Sometimes research just has to start somewhere, and subject itself to criticism and potential improvement. I think this kind of thing supports our desire for high […]

Evidence-based medicine eats itself

There are three commonly stated principles of evidence-based research: 1. Reliance when possible on statistically significant results from randomized trials; 2. Balancing of costs, benefits, and uncertainties in decision making; 3. Treatments targeted to individuals or subsets of the population. Unfortunately and paradoxically, the use of statistics for hypothesis testing can get in the way […]

Exciting postdoc opening in spatial statistics at Michigan: Coccidioides is coming, and only you can stop it!

Jon Zelner is an collaborator who does great work on epidemiology using Bayesian methods, Stan, Mister P, etc. He’s hiring a postdoc, and it looks like a great opportunity: Epidemiological, ecological and environmental approaches to understand and predict Coccidioides emergence in California. One postdoctoral fellow is sought in the research group of Dr. Jon Zelner […]

How to “cut” using Stan, if you must

Frederic Bois writes: We had talked at some point about cutting inference in Stan (that is, for example, calibrating PK parameters in a PK/PD [pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic] model with PK data, then calibrating the PD parameters, with fixed, non updated, distributions for the PK parameters). Has that been implemented? (PK is pharmacokinetic and PD is pharmacodynamic.) I […]

Whassup with Why We Sleep?

Last month we reported on the book Why We Sleep, which had been dismantled in a long and detailed blog post by Alexey Guzey. A week later I looked again, and Walker had not responded to Guzey in any way. In the meantime, Why We Sleep has also been endorsed by O.G. software entrepreneur Bill […]

They’re looking to hire a Bayesian.

Ty Beal writes: The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is looking for an analyst with expertise in Bayesian methods. Could you share this post with qualified and interested candidates. The job is based in Washington DC.

“What if your side wins?”

Bill Harris writes: Thanks for posting my question the other day. Here’s another, somewhat related question. What if “your side” wins? What if, starting today, every analysis is done properly? Null hypothesis significance testing is something you read about only in history of statistics books. When binary decisions are made, they are supported with real […]

Causal inference, adjusting for 300 pre-treatment predictors

Linda Seebach points to this post by Scott Alexander and writes: A recent paper on increased risk of death from all causes (huge sample size) found none; it controlled for some 300 cofounders. Much previous research, also with large (though much smaller) sample sizes found very large increased risk, but used under 20 confounders. This […]

What happened to the hiccups?

Watching Sleepless in Seattle the other day, and at one point the cute kid in the movie gets into a conversation about hiccups, everybody has their own cure for the hiccups, etc. And it got me thinking: What ever happened to the hiccups? When I was a kid, the hiccups occupied a big part of […]

How to think about “medical reversals”?

Bill Harris points to this press release, “Almost 400 medical practices found ineffective in analysis of 3,000 studies,” and asks: The intent seems good; does the process seem good, too? For one thing, there is patient variation, and RCTs seem focused on medians or means. Right tails can be significant. This seems related to the […]

“Pfizer had clues its blockbuster drug could prevent Alzheimer’s. Why didn’t it tell the world?”

Jon Baron points to this news article by Christopher Rowland: Pfizer had clues its blockbuster drug could prevent Alzheimer’s. Why didn’t it tell the world? A team of researchers inside Pfizer made a startling find in 2015: The company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis therapy Enbrel, a powerful anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s […]

Controversies in vaping statistics, leading to a general discussion of dispute resolution in science

Episode 2 Brad Rodu writes: The Journal of the American Heart Association on June 5, 2019, published a bogus research article, “Electronic cigarette use and myocardial infarction among adults in the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health [PATH],” by Dharma N. Bhatta and Stanton A. Glantz (here). Drs. Bhatta and Glantz used PATH Wave […]

“Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017”

A reporter pointed me to this article, Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017, by Steven Woolf and Heidi Schoomaker, and asked: Are the findings new? Can you subdivide data, like looking at small populations like middle aged people in Wyoming and have validity? Can you make valid inferences about causes and […]

“Why We Sleep” update: some thoughts while we wait for Matthew Walker to respond to Alexey Guzey’s criticisms

So. It’s been a week since Alexey Guzey posted his wonderfully-titled article, “Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors.” I few days ago I reviewed Guzey’s post, and I summarized: I’ve not read Walker’s book and I don’t know anything about sleep research, so I won’t try to judge Guzey’s […]