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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

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 […]

She’s thinking of buying a house, but it has a high radon measurement. What should she do?

Someone wrote in with a question: My Mom, who has health issues, is about to close on a new house in **, NJ. We just saw that ** generally is listed as an area with high radon. If the house has a radon measurement over 4 and the seller puts vents to bring it into […]

Evidence-based medicine eats itself in real time

Robert Matthews writes:

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 […]

“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 […]

“Losing one night’s sleep may increase risk factor for Alzheimer’s, study says”

CNN’s on it: A preliminary study found the loss of one night’s sleep in healthy young men increased the levels of tau protein in their blood compared to getting a complete night of uninterrupted sleep. Studies have shown that higher levels of tau protein in the blood is associated with an increased risk of developing […]

More on the epidemiologists who other epidemiologists don’t trust

You know how they’ll describe someone as a musician’s musician? Or a chef’s chef? There’s also the opposite: those people who to outsiders represent a certain profession, but who are not respected by their fellow insiders. An example is the team at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Paul Alper […]

What happened with HMOs?

Back in the 1970s, I remember occasionally reading a newspaper or magazine article about this mysterious thing called an HMO—a “health maintenance organization.” The idea was that the medical system as we knew it (you go to the doctor when you’re sick and pay some money, or you go to the hospital if you’re in […]

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 […]

The accidental experiment that saved 700 lives

Paul Alper sends along this news article by Sarah Kliff, who writes: Three years ago, 3.9 million Americans received a plain-looking envelope from the Internal Revenue Service. Inside was a letter stating that they had recently paid a fine for not carrying health insurance and suggesting possible ways to enroll in coverage. . . . […]

Claim of police shootings causing low birth weights in the neighborhood

Under the subject line, “A potentially dubious study making the rounds, re police shootings,” Gordon Danning links to this article, which begins: Police use of force is a controversial issue, but the broader consequences and spillover effects are not well understood. This study examines the impact of in utero exposure to police killings of unarmed […]

Pundits continue to push the white-men-are-dying story, even though the real pattern is occurring among women.

From the New York Times book review: Over the last century, Americans’ life expectancy at birth has risen from 49 to 77. Yet in recent years, that rise has faltered. Among white people age 45-54 — or a time many view as the prime of life — deaths have risen. Especially vulnerable are white men […]

Smoking and Covid

Paul Kedrosky wrote: This paper is getting passed around today, with its claim that there not only isn’t a causal relationship between smoking and COVID, but possibly a protective role. This sort of thing drives me crazy about pre-prints. If your data suggests a conclusion that runs counter to decades of prior work with better […]

“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 […]

How to incorporate new data into our understanding? Sturgis rally example.

A colleague writes: This is a very provocative claim about the Sturgis rally—can you do a stats “fact check”? I’m curious if this has been subjected to statistical scrutiny. I replied that I’m curious why he said this study is provocative: It makes sense that when people get together and connect nodes in the social […]

What about that new paper estimating the effects of lockdowns etc?

A couple people pointed me to this article, “Assessing Mandatory Stay‐at‐Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID‐19,” which reports: The most restrictive non‐pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for controlling the spread of COVID‐19 are mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures. . . . We evaluate the effects on epidemic case growth of more restrictive NPIs […]

Infer well arsenic dynamic from filed kits

(This post is by Yuling, not Andrew) Rajib Mozumder, Benjamin Bostick, Brian Mailloux, Charles Harvey, Andrew, Alexander van Geen, and I arxiv a new paper “Making the most of imprecise measurements: Changing patterns of arsenic concentrations in shallow wells of Bangladesh from laboratory and field data”. Its abstract reads: Millions of people in Bangladesh drink […]

Webinar: Functional uniform priors for dose-response models

This post is by Eric. This Wednesday, at 12 pm ET, Kristian Brock is stopping by to talk to us about functional uniform priors for dose-response models. You can register here. Abstract Dose-response modeling frequently employs non-linear regression. Functional uniform priors are distributions that can be derived for parameters that convey approximate uniformity over the […]

You’re a data scientist at a local hospital and you’ve been asked to present to the physicians on communicating statistical information to patients. What should you say?

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous writes: I just read your post reflecting on crappy talks . . . I’m reaching out because I’m a data scientist at a local hospital in the US and I’ve been asked to present to our physicians about communicating statistical information to patients (e.g., how to interpret the results […]

Routine hospital-based SARS-CoV-2 testing outperforms state-based data in predicting clinical burden.

Len Covello, Yajuan Si, Siquan Wang, and I write: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government policy and healthcare implementation responses have been guided by reported positivity rates and counts of positive cases in the community. The selection bias of these data calls into question their validity as measures of the actual viral incidence in the community […]