Public Health & Biostatistics

Please provide an example of a video presentation (YouTube, TED Talks) on the use of Biostatistics in solving and/or analyzing public health problems. In addition, you should write a short summary of the talk (between 100 and 150 words) in your own words. Please provide the link of the original talk and your summary as a reply to this message. You cannot review a video talk that was already posted by someone else. Due Date: 9pm, Feb 12th

15 thoughts on “Public Health & Biostatistics

  1. This TED talk was a particularly good one for realizing the value of collecting statistical data. The speaker, Talithia Williams, got a PhD in statistics, and she is fascinated with what numbers can hide and what they can tell you. She herself values the importance of tracking data of an individual over the period of a longer course of time in order to understand a wide variety of medical issues. The example she uses in her talk refers to tracking your temperature changes over a long term. This change in temperature can be valuable for tracking a woman’s likelihood for becoming pregnant. Temperature shifts are also used to understand issues with the thyroid. Your thyroid tries to keep an optimal temperature for your body, but when it is not functioning well, that can be tracked through the collection of data regarding temperature. Just by collecting your temperature every day, you can learn about the possibility of thyroid cancer. It’s a great eye-opener for how statistics can be important in your own daily life!


    This video is part of a TV series produced by the University of Georgia College of Public Health. In this episode, infectious disease is focused on and many professors and experts in this field are interviewed about the impact of infectious disease on public and global health. According to the host, UGA has the “faculty of infectious disease” and this talk covers multiple areas including food-borne illnesses, zoonotic disease, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. According to the head of epidemiology, (the science that studies patterns, causes, and effects of disease), biostatistics is vital for making efficient and accurate use out of the data collected. Many of the professors interviewed about their respective areas of expertise are actually faculty of biostatistics along with another topic, which shows how important biostatistics is to public health since it analyzes information and allows us to form policies, interventions, and solutions to public health issues. I thought this video gave a great overview of many aspects of public health and helped me to see how biostatistics plays a role in producing the numbers we use to measure infectious disease and how we approach it in an interdisciplinary way.

  3. Hans Rosling, a global health expert and “data visionary,” used elegant graphical representation of biostatistical data during his Ted Talk entitled “Let my data set change your mindset,” to demonstrate the shrinking gap between “us and “them.” Through a series of graphs comparing the correlation between income and health of all countries in the world, a clear trend appears: just as developed countries have grown from an underdeveloped state, current underdeveloped countries are following the same trend. Effectively, “the world is converging.” The biostatistical data represented demonstrates both the successes and failures of global health policies.
    Rosling included a specific example about AIDS in Africa: the data disproves all theories relating HIV to war, income/economy, and country. This data demands that we reevaluate our perception of HIV as and “African epidemic.”

  4. In this Ted Talk titled, “Insights on HIV, In Stunning Data Visuals,” Hans Rosling, a well-renowned statistician and health professional, explores our limited understanding of interpretation of HIV rates. HIV rates have lowered significantly in the past 25 years; however, Rosling points out that it does not mean that things are getting better. Treatments have extended the lives of people infected, like in Botswana, distorting some of the data because they live longer despite having HIV, thus they need to be accounted for. Rosling’s data disproves our assumptions that all of Africa is severely affected because they are war-torn and in extreme poverty. His research shows that Africa is immensely diverse, even within in countries itself. Peaceful countries such as Zambia have extremely high rates, while some poverty-stricken, violent countries, like the Congo have low rates. There are many African countries that have the same percentage of adults with HIV as the United States and the rest of the world, but because of oversimplification we fail to see those numbers.

    This TEDTalk is about the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa. This epidemic is set across three countries and has recently been in the news this past year. Ebola had been first characterized over 60 years ago but it is still not well studied. It is believed that the reservoir species for the virus is in a bat species and it is well known that transmissibility from human to human is via bodily fluids. The panic from the epidemic has much prevented people from NGOs and other organizations to help and enter these western African countries. Bruce Aylward has severely simplified the heavy duty fieldwork and biostatistics that is conducted in order to bring across the point that the world needs to treat Ebola. There is a passive surveillance system that collects information about patients with Ebola from rural and more urbanized health centers. Information collected is analyzed by epidemiologists in Africa to help quarantine and treat Ebola patients while preventing the spread of Ebola. Despite the obstacles of the media and panic from the public, less people are contracting Ebola according to the epidemiological curve that Aylward presented (incidence rate of Ebola). There are many NGOs and the Red Cross that serve and train locals to help combat Ebola. In addition, there are mobile labs that diagnose and treat more patients from more rural areas that cannot access a rural health center.


    In this Ted talk, Gary Wolf looks at how we should be looking at our own statistics about our health. There are so many outlets that we now have. Apps to track our eating habits, our exercise, our sleep cycles, and much more. Earbuds that can tell us our current body temperature. All of this data being stored in your cell phone, or fit bit to be downloaded to the computer. We have all this data on our own selves. We should think about how we can affect our self health. Yes this data could be used in studies but that is just one application of what it could be used for. The knowledge you can learn about yourself could be much more valuable.


    Water related diseases, pathogens and accessibility is a conundrum that populations around the world are being faced with. This video talks about water accessibility projects that attempts to supply populations with clean and safe water to those in need. Bio-statisitcs was used in order to get through sample size calculations and to set up sampling methodology. In addition, the results that were developed had to be delivered in such a way so that companies could see a significant change and that in fact the projects were helping people get safe water. Bio-statisicts connects the people who truly need the help to those who are able to offer it.

  8. In this youtube video, Hans Rosling shows the relation between life expectancy and income levels in 200 countries around the world over a period of 200 years. He presents the data in an innovative way to capture the audience and shows the data plots while periodically pausing to explain why the data looks the way it is. Hans’ main point is to show that not everything can be seen by simply looking at statistics. One must look at why the statistics are that way to truly understand. Similarly, he discusses the problems associated with taking a look at averages in countries or even the world as they can always be broken into smaller pieces.

  9. Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics.

    Nicholas Christakis and his colleague James Fowler study the interconnectivity of individuals to each other and how these interconnected human relationships comprise a social network structure. While there are many social, psychological, and historical implications of social networking, Christakis argues that understanding and studying social networks may also serve as a tool for predicting epidemics. In 2009, 1,300 undergraduates from Harvard College were randomly selected and then they and their friends were tracked to determine the spread of the H1N1 flu outbreak that had been underway at the college at that time. It took 16 days for the flu outbreak among the initially selected students to spread to their friends, which translated into a 16 days advance warning of a rising epidemic in a human population –Christakis and Fowler were essentially able to statistically monitor the infection rate of the flu as it spread from one person to two to four, etc. By identifying the center, or the starting point of the flu epidemic, interventions may become more feasible and effective in preventing the spread of an epidemic.


    In this particular TED talk by Hans Rosling, entitled “The Good News of the Decade?”, he discusses the way in which UN statistical data displays the change over time of child mortality rates in Asia and Africa. While child mortality rates are shown to be decreasing in Asia, often the data can be misleading when presented in regards to Africa. The argument that Rosling puts forward is that when it comes to this issue of health, Sub-Saharan Africa should not be put in to one category, such that an average of the area is utilized to represent each different country. Since they have experienced, in some cases, significantly different changes in health statistics, this needs to be an individualized representation for the country itself, which will contribute less to the idea that nothing in Africa has significantly changed. He also argues that the time frame for seeing a difference is often too large in scope, such as when the UN uses 20, rather than 10 years, which can make as large as a 1-2% decrease difference: significant in the context of child mortality rates. He further continues on to draw a correlation between societal advancement: education, literacy, healthcare, etc., in the rapid decrease of child mortality rates over time in countries mentioned such as Egypt and Thailand.


    In his Ted Talk entitled “New insights on poverty”, Hans Rosling provides us with a remarkable visual animation of statistical data relating economic growth with health. He first analyzes how industrialization relates to fertility and life expectancy, as countries who were able to industrialize more quickly were able to achieve high life expectancy and low birth rates faster while those who industrialized more slowly, mainly many African countries, were left behind. He then looks at GDP versus child mortality, showing us that higher GDP relates to a lower child mortality rates. As countries became richer, their child mortality rate decreased. However, he shows us that this lower mortality was achieved at the cost of growing carbon dioxide emissions. These statistics are really amazing in showing how health relates to economics and allows for comparison of these trends between different countries.

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    This video talks about applying the concept of causation and correlation in vaccine studies. The video mainly talks about how statistics was used in studies to determine the relation between vaccine and autism. Though, The video also talk about how intentionally misinterpretation of such a data was used in the anti-vaccine movement. The video highlight the importance of statistics analysis in medical scientific studies and what are some criteria that are required in order for the result to be acceptable. After that, the cases made by the anti-vaccine movement regard how vaccine leads to autism were pulled down and reevaluated. The video did a good job at pointing out flaws in statistical analysis and how definitely pointing out how important a well understanding of statistics is, since a misconception about statistics would prevent you from fairly evaluating these vaccine studies, and make your judgement about vaccine.

  13. This TED talk is focused on the aspect infant/child mortality due to motor vehicle accidents. Although the social norm is to have your child in a car seat, the speaker presents statistical data to show that this may not be the best way. Biostatistics was used to show the probability of survival in children two and over with and without a carseat. The data set he used was comprised of over 400,000 real crashes. The results showed that it is actually better to have children ages 2 and over only use a seatbelt and not a carseat. It is because of the data he was able to come to this conclusion, and how he suggests a way of modifying carseats so that they will be safer for children.

  14. A medical doctor, statistician, and professor, Hans Rosling gave a Ted talk titled “The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen” that demonstrated that third world countries have made a significant progress in development over the decades. Using data and statistics from all over the world, Rosling emphasized that health comes first, then wealth. Specifically, he showed that United Arab Emirates had land rich in oil and minerals. However, the country only began to develop and progress once political leaders made health a priority. He further emphasized that health cannot be bought. Countries move towards development once they invest money in health, train health staff, and education its people. Through statistics Rosling revealed that, due to this movement towards making health a priority, there is no longer as big of a gap in infancy mortality and economy.

  15. This youtube video interviews Greg Crawford with the Bureau of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics. He provides vital statistics to companies to help them predict trends involving health in certain communities. The office of vital statistics gathers this information based off of birth, death and other certificates. They then compile and analyze the data to publish reports. They publish an annual summary of vital statistics, which is a detailed report with rates that allow for determination of trends of health outcomes in the past year. One of the most closely watched trends by the department watched is infant mortality. The goal of Greg Crawford is to provide data to the community to help allow for positive change in the health of the community.

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