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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Private and public linkages of soda companies

imagesGiven the extensive interest these days about how public health decision-makers are being influenced by the soda industry, we decided to take a more systematic look at what institutions and people have close ties to the industry, and what sorts of relationships they have. It is no longer a secret that the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of World Health Organization, accepts money from the Coca- Cola Company, PepsiCo, Kraft, Nestle, and Unilever. Similarly, some members of the WHO’s Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group have food industry ties, particularly in the form of receiving funding. But who else in the public sphere of governance is linked to “Big Soda”, and how?

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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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Gutting the research and development treaty

imagesFor several years, health advocates have tried to assemble a treaty to fund research and development on neglected diseases that predominate in poor countries. This week, US and EU negotiators gutted that goal.
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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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Is there a food stamp-obesity paradox?

Ever since the observation in 1995 that hunger and obesity co-existed among children, a flurry of research has sought to answer the question of whether those who are more “food insecure” are most likely to also become (ironically) obese. Many studies have now correlated participation in food stamp programs (since renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) with obesity. One in seven Americans are now on food stamps after the recession, so this finding may have important implications for the overall obesity epidemic. It may also seem like obvious selection bias to correlate food stamps to obesity; those who are poor are more likely to eat calorie-dense and cheap food, becoming both stuffed and starved. But a new study comparing food stamp users to eligible non-users found that the stamp users were disproportionately more likely to eat unhealthy foods. What’s going on here, and what should we do about it, if anything?

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