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Epidemiology and making sense of evidence

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NEJM issues unusual warning for readers about 1980 letter on opioid addiction. This week, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a type of editor’s note we’ve never seen before, on a highly influential letter published nearly 40 years ago.

NEJM issues unusual warning for readers about 1980 letter on opioid addiction

Above the one-paragraph letter, which reports data suggesting pain medications are not likely to cause addiction, the journal has added a note warning readers that the letter has been “heavily and uncritically cited” by sources using it to suggest opioids are not addictive. A new resource that could change community and public health: Rochester Epidemiology Project’s Data Exploration Portal – Mayo Clinic News Network. ROCHESTER, Minn.— After celebrating its 50th anniversary in May 2016, the Rochester Epidemiology Project team is not stopping to rest.

A new resource that could change community and public health: Rochester Epidemiology Project’s Data Exploration Portal – Mayo Clinic News Network

Instead, they are marking the beginning of the next 50 years with the launch of a tool that could change community and public health in the region. The Rochester Epidemiology Project’s new Data Exploration Portal places regional disease prevalence data at the fingertips of health care providers and researchers. It pulls from the database that includes nearly all health information for Olmsted County, Minnesota, residents back more than 50 years. Medical records from a large contingent of the residents of 26 surrounding counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin also are in the database. Exploring the data in this free-to-access tool will enable medical researchers to compare and correlate the prevalence of different conditions and determine if there is something to investigate. What is public health.

Basic epidemiology - Beaglehole. John Snow - a historical giant in epidemiology. The things most likely to kill you in one infographic. Humans are notoriously bad at assessing risk.

The things most likely to kill you in one infographic

It's why someone lights up another cigarette while worrying about getting killed by a terrorist, and why so many of us calmly drive to work everyday but feel nervous getting on a plane. To help people make sense of all this, the UK's National Health Service put together the Atlas of Risk, which we first saw tweeted by Duke University physician Peter Ubel. Here are the leading causes of death in the UK, with larger circles representing more common causes: And the top risks leading to death:

National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. Hans Rosling: 'A kind and constantly curious genius' Hans Rosling was a kind and constantly curious genius.

Hans Rosling: 'A kind and constantly curious genius'

He was truly committed to the poorest people in this world, passionate about statistics and dedicated to communicating a fact-based worldview. His knowledge, virtuosity and humour infused his unique data visualisations with a life of their own, encouraging people around the world to engage with facts about population, global health and inequality that might otherwise have passed them by. I first met him in his messy, overloaded office at Uppsala University in Sweden, where he was associate professor of internal medicine, in 1992. He showed me his now famous bubble graph on world statistics on handwritten overheads, and from that moment on he constantly provoked me to think and to become better. Hans was born in Uppsala on 27 July 1948, and the city – about 43 miles north of Stockholm – loomed large in his life.

Along the way, he touched countless young lives. Take nobody's word for it – evidence and authority in a world of propaganda. ‘Nullius in verba’ – roughly, ‘Take nobody’s word for it’ – is the motto of one of the world’s oldest scientific societies, the Royal Society.

Take nobody's word for it – evidence and authority in a world of propaganda

It neatly expresses the ideal that the credibility of information derives from evidence, observational or experimental, and not from the innate authority of the source. An important principle, for a Society with a royal patron, in a country which was still in the process evolving away from absolute monarchy. Despite instances of fraud, undue influence and genuine mistakes, good science still accumulates knowledge this way. How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next. In theory, statistics should help settle arguments.

How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next

They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what their politics – can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. Richard Smith: Epidemiology—big problems and an identity crisis.

The Germans probably have a more precise word for it, but it’s close to schadenfreude as an outsider to watch a professional group agonise over who they are, whether they matter, whether their methods are adequate, and whether they are missing something important.

Richard Smith: Epidemiology—big problems and an identity crisis

I had this experience in Bristol last week as a gaggle of epidemiologists simultaneously celebrated the achievement of Shah Ebrahim and George Davey Smith in editing the International Journal of Epidemiology and are now retiring. BMJ readers will, unlike many members of the public, know the word epidemiology and that it’s something to do with studying disease in populations. Indeed, in some fashionable quarters it’s being called “population health sciences.” As such, you’d think that epidemiologists have nothing to worry about because gigantic problems are arriving now with bigger ones on the horizon. A major pandemic is eight years away Deaths in England have increased by 9% But is it actually a problem, Dorling asked.

Theconversation. Everyone knows that Britain’s conclusive victory over Napoleon was at Waterloo.

theconversation

The story of that day – the squares of infantry repulsing cavalry charges, the Imperial Guard retreating under murderous musket fire delivered by a red line of soliders, the just-in-time arrival of Field Marshal Blücher’s Prussian army – is one of excitement, horror and heroism. However, Britain’s biggest contribution to Napoleon’s defeat was much less romantic.

Fewer people die in hospital at weekends, study finds. Fewer people – not more – die in hospital at weekends than during the week, according to a major study which contradicts evidence cited by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to justify the imposition of new contracts on junior doctors.

Fewer people die in hospital at weekends, study finds

Hunt has repeatedly stated that junior doctors must routinely work at weekends because the higher death rate is linked to lower staffing levels. When the Department of Health and the junior doctors’ leaders failed to agree on weekend working, Hunt announced he would impose a new contract. But a team from Manchester University has found an apparently simple answer to the question of why the death rate rises at the weekend among patients admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Critical appraisal

How to. Study designs and concepts.