Tag Archives: epidemiology

Heterogeneity, not randomness, sets challenges for quantitative genetics and epidemiology: A response to Davey Smith’s “gloomy prospect”

Social epidemiologist Davey Smith (2011) argues that epidemiologists should accept a gloomy prospect: considerable randomness at the individual level means that they should keep their focus on modifiable causes of disease at the population level. The difficulty epidemiology has had in moving from significant population-level risk factors to improved prediction of cases at an individual level is analogous to the lack of success in the search for systematic aspects of the non-shared environmental influences that human quantitative genetics claims overshadow common environmental influences (e.g., the family’s socioeconomic status which siblings have in common). This article responds to the argument and analogy, aiming to draw three audiences—social epidemiologists, human quantitative geneticists, and philosophers of science—into a shared discussion that centers not on randomness, but on heterogeneity in various forms.
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Bringing interventions into the research itself, in Ontario and Santiago?

I am wondering whether there are points of fruitful interaction to be had between a proposed approach to research within the Ontario Health Study and the work on cultivating citizen volunteers among users Twitter in responding to disasters in Chile. Continue reading

Nature-Nurture? No! (an overview of a book)

Nature-Nurture? No:  Moving the Sciences of Variation and Heredity Beyond the Gaps

Almost every day we hear that some trait “has a strong genetic basis” or “of course it is a combination of genes and environment, but the hereditary component is sizeable.” To say No to Nature-Nurture is to reject this relative weighting of heredity and environment. Continue reading

How to describe an epidemiological detective or naturalist’s method?

For session 2 of my course on epidemiological thinking and population health I state:

Detailed observation (like a naturalist) or detective work–albeit informed by theoretical ideas–may be needed before we can characterize what the phenomenon is we are studying, what questions we need to ask, and what categories we need for subsequent data collection and analysis. (http://ppol753.wikispaces.umb.edu/Epi_2)

This statement invites clarification of what a naturalist or a detective does–what are their methods?  Continue reading

Creative Thinking in Epidemiology (Day 3 of Learning Road Trip)

On Sept. 21, the Creative Thinking in Epidemiology workshop was run again, this time with researchers associated with Cancer Care Ontario and the Epidemiology Department at the University of Toronto. Continue reading

Creative Thinking in Epidemiology (Day 1 of Learning Road Trip)

Today is the first of 20 days of what I am calling a “Learning Road Trip.”  Each day’s post will present the planned activity and be revised later to indicate how it went.

Creative Thinking in Epidemiology is a 4.5 hour workshop on 19 Sept hosted by ENVIRON in Amherst, MA, with participation from UMass Amherst. Continue reading

Creative Thinking in Epidemiology: 5. Alternatives to some statistical conventions & 6. Agent-oriented epidemiology

5.  Alternatives to some statistical conventions: As I have developed my ability to read the epidemiological literature and explain the methods and controversies over methods to others, I have taken note of approaches or perspectives that depart from statistical conventions.  The third Appendix includes some items from my mixed grab bag of alternatives.  There is no grand theory linking them.  Readers might have objections to some of the alternatives and the thinking behind them, but they might also be stimulated to explore their implications further.  Continue reading