Category Archives: Stats

The Disabled States of America: regional disparities in healthy life expectancy

m6228a1f3The CDC recently released their latest data on healthy life expectancy across the US. The data reveal stark inequalities not only in overall death rates, but moreover in how extremely disabled various parts of the country are as compared to healthier areas.


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Bending the child obesity curve

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released a fascinating glimpse into data suggesting that childhood obesity may be declining in several US cities and counties.

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Introducing The Body Economic

Body economic UK jacketPoliticians have talked endlessly about deficits and finance during our ongoing economic crisis. But we’ve talked far less about achieving another major goal that is just as important, if not more so, than promoting stable financial markets: protecting our health and well-being during hard times and into the future. What policies are most effective in preserving our health during economic recessions—and can we afford them?

That question, it turns out, can be answered through data and careful research on recessions both past and present. My colleague David Stuckler and I are today releasing our peer-reviewed book, entitled The Body Economic, in which we boil down over a century of data from across the globe to answer the question of what policies actually improve both our economies and our public health during and after economic recessions.

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Big data mining and new hypotheses in mental health research

BigdataThis is a guest post by the computational epidemiologist Dr. John Ayers:

Most of us are aware of the “big data” revolution fueled by electronic information. It has been suggested that big data, along with hypothesis-free methods popularized by films such as Moneyball, will allow for an unprecedented growth of knowledge across disciplines, including epidemiology and preventive medicine. While I am a bit more circumspect in expectations (there is no substitute for survey data in many cases), I do believe that electronic data collected for a fraction of the cost of survey data can work hand-in-hand with research derived from more traditional sources.

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Soda and global obesity: are sugar-sweetened beverages relevant outside the United States?

Global_Obesity_BothSexes_2008While sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have garnered much attention in the US given their associations with obesity and diabetes in the Nurses Health Study and a number of other assessments, a key question is whether this effect also translates to low- and middle-income countries where both domestic and imported beverages are becoming increasingly popular. In an article just published in the American Journal of Public Health, we looked at this question using the soft drink industry’s own statistics, merged with comparative survey data on weight status and diabetes across the globe.

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Interpreting our findings from today’s study on sugars and type 2 diabetes

Lustig sugar diagramIn today’s edition of the journal PLoS One, we published an “open access” study on the relationship between sugars and type 2 diabetes. The study was an international analysis applying statistical techniques from the field of econometrics to public health data in order to understand the relationship between sugar availability and diabetes prevalence. It was peer-reviewed by five independent statisticians and diabetes experts. The study can be easily misinterpreted—for example, one doctor made the silly comment: “Well this is just like correlating the number of cups someone owns to their risk of diabetes, which is confounded by obesity”—which reflects that the doctor did not read the study or didn’t understand the statistical methods involved; obviously, as professors who teach statistics all day, we controlled for obesity and dealt with these kinds of issues up front. The study is not a typical simple “correlation study” that is far too common in the medical literature. There are, however, very important caveats to the findings, and some context that’s pretty critical to understand. So we wanted to re-iterate the very careful wording in the study and make sure that the actual study findings made it somewhere into the melodramatic discourse on this subject…

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400,000 “stolen years”: analyses of gun violence in the US

Our data-visualization colleagues at Periscopic have released a new report on US gun statistics.


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New IOM report on US versus…everyone else

2013-01-09 02.01.45 pmThe Institute of Medicine has released a major new report today on the reasons why the United States seems to have poorer health, despite its greater wealth, as compared to other industrialized countries.

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Highlights from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 studies

GlobalBurden_170This morning, The Lancet published the most comprehensive look at the Global Burden of Disease in over a decade. The “GBD 2010” revealed major shifts in our understanding of global public health and what is causing disease worldwide. For those of you not planning to cure your insomnia tonight by reading all 196 pages of the text, here’s a quick run-down of the major results:

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Chocolate consumption, Nobel laureates, and crappy statistics

A few weeks ago, the New England Journal published what we’d call the worst example of medical statistical misadventure we’ve seen in years: a paper claiming that “chocolate consumption enhances cognitive function” based on a correlation between chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel prize winners in a country (no, we’re not joking…it’s a real paper). Before we indulge in chocolate and a bit of other consumption during Thanksgiving, we thought it would be a good time to revisit a little lesson known as the ecological fallacy…

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