Tag Archives: health

Economic benefits of longevity

The Wall St Journal carries an article by Sonia Arrison on the potential for, and benefits of, greater longevity. Her conclusions are similar to those I proposed in a recent article in Policy on The New Future of Old Age: The world’s advanced societies are finally in a position to launch a true offensive against […]

The future of longevity

While there is so little activity on trade agreements or negotiations and only promises of innovation in trade policy, I’ve been paying closer attention to other things. Demography, of course, and in this case epidemiology. It took twenty thousand centuries for life-expectancy to double. But it grew by as much again in just one century […]

Evidence on State hospital administration

Adam Cresswell in The Aus. offers us the data instead of spin. The impression of ‘excellence’ in Victoria fades in the light of the evidence.

“…[H]ealth experts say official comparisons show no evidence that Victoria’s system is any better: whether cheaper or, the more important question, whether patients emerge healthier on the other side” Extract from Diagnosis: state of mediocrity | The Australian

Another major public policy decision—the fight over State and Federal control of health funding—being spun, in public and in the Parliament at least, by hunches and impressions.

Caloric restriction diet doesn’t work

Reports this week that a “nutritious but reduced-calorie diet blunts aging and significantly delays the onset of such age-related disorders as cancer…” are a perverse account of a study that showed no statistically significant effect of calorie restriction.

Sandy Szwarc shows that the supposed benefits appear only if the results are cooked by ‘cherry picking’ the trial’s mortality records. She also summarizes the weight of evidence that calorie restriction ‘life extension’ is vodoo (or possibly a commercial venture in this case)

Does the data show ‘epidemic’ obesity risks?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just published the summary results of the National Health Survey for 2007-08. The interesting thing about this year’s data is that it includes actual measurement data (as well as self-reports by survey respondents) of ‘body-mass indices’ (BMI).

Superficially the BMI data in the new ABS survey seems to show that the loud alarms about an ‘epidemic of obesity‘ in Australia might be justified.

“Results from the survey classified 25% of adults as obese, 37% overweight, 37% normal weight and 2% as underweight. The highest rates of overweight/obese were in the 65–74 year old aged [sic] group… [T]he proportion of males classified as overweight or obese based on actual measurements rose from 64% in 1995 to 68% in 2007–08; for females the increase over this time was 49% to 55%.”Extract from the Summary, National Health Survey 2007-08

But what does this data really tell us? What does it mean to say that only 37% percent of the population is ‘normal’ weight and 62 percent is ‘overweight’? Does that highly skewed distribution strike you as peculiar? Perhaps calling the indices into question?

What do we know about the actual risk posed by this ‘epidemic’—assuming you can have an epidemic of risk factors—that should cause us alarm?

How creepy can big Pharma be?

Firms in the industry that leads a global clamor about the theft of patents have much slipperier standards when it comes to passing off on their own account.

Testimony in a current Australian civil suit against Merck, the creator of Vioxx (below), shows that Merck sponsored a fake medical journal. The phony ‘Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine‘ collected reprints of favorable mentions of their products, apparently to market to General Practitioners who have little time to look into the science more deeply.

The facts on flu

Most pandemics just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

Sandy Szwarc has published a fascinating dissection of the panic over Mexican ‘swine’ flu. She points out that if you check national health data, you’ll find that influenza kills about the same number of people in pandemic and in non-pandemic years.

“In fact, most of us have lived through a flu pandemic and never even realized it. The Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968-69, for example, killed an estimated 33,800 Americans. That sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same number of Americans who die from the flu in a typical year.” Extract from Junkfood Science