Book Note: Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics

February 11, 2010

Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics

While there may be more thoroughly-investigated and references books on the topic of understanding health statistics, I find this one the most accessible. At a very light 130 pages (lots of tables, pictures and charts) it’s an extremely quick read and gets to the heart of the matter. That heart is “Don’t get flummoxed by misleading health ads.”

The very patiently and cogently explains the difference between absolute risk (Zocor reduces the chance of death from heart attack by 42%) and relative risk (Zocor reduces the chance of death from heart attack from 8.5% to 5%).
Of course, this could be applied to well-meaning public service announcements meant to scare us into action as well.

The authors have been taking the lead to get the US FDA to require a “Drug Facts Box” for all direct-to-consumer print advertising. Such a box would not just include the most favorable way of describing clinical results (see above) it would also require the maker to list the common side effects and their likelihood as well. It would be a big step in the right direction. To get background on their work, take a look these two reports:

Highly recommended due to it’s ‘punch per page.’
(2/10)

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One Response to “Book Note: Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics”

  1. Rope Says:

    Tohcduown! That’s a really cool way of putting it!

    Like


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