Articles Posted in Statistics

colorectalcancerhotspotmap-300x230While technological advances may help provide crucial warnings to young men, especially those who are black, about their heightened risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, the rise of other high-tech diagnostic aids may only worsen built-in, harmful racial biases in an array of medical practices.

Researchers at the University of Chicago, to their credit, have sought the assistance of health providers across the country to inventory and assess increasingly common medical software and the algorithms on which they rely to ensure whiz-bang decision-making tools don’t discriminate against patients of color.

The early results are distressing, showing how well-intentioned experts inject prejudices into programs that can lead to racially unfair choices about patient care. Ziad Obermeyer, an emergency medicine physician and co-author of the Chicago research, told Stat, the science and medical news site, this about algorithms used in many diagnostic tools:

bauchner-150x150Racial inequities roiled an array of health-related situations in recent days, showing how far the nation still must go to deal with pervasive injustices in medical systems nationwide.

The reported matters include:

  • The editor-in-chief departed a leading medical journal after one of his chief deputies, in a purported “education” session for which practitioners could earn professional credit, sought to deny the existence of racism in modern U.S. medicine and baldly asserted that no doctors are racist. The deputy already was forced out. The top editor, who served for a decade in his post, said he was sorry that the incident occurred on his watch, and his defenders praised his accomplishments at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

cdcoddeathsap21-300x122Even as the nation sees cause for optimism in its battle against the coronavirus, our struggles against substance abuse are falling far short of what’s needed. The opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has worsened significantly during the pandemic and experts are warning that too many of us need to cut back from excess boozing.

The New York Times reported that recent federal figures on the opioid crisis have back worse that officials feared:

“More than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September, according to preliminary federal data, eclipsing the toll from any year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis, one that has drawn less attention and fewer resources while the nation has battled the coronavirus pandemic. Deaths from overdoses started rising again in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic — after dropping slightly in 2018 for the first time in decades … The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May, when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying, and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect. Many treatment programs closed during that time, at least temporarily, and ‘drop-in centers’ that provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses, cut back services that in many cases have yet to be fully restored.

drugoverdosedeathscdc-300x131Although the Biden Administration may be winning Americans’ approval for its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, drug abuse experts have expressed rising worry that federal efforts are lagging in the fight against a rising health menace: the resurgent opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

While overdoses for the first time might claim 100,000 U.S. lives in a single year, the national campaign to quell the opioid crisis, a top priority not that long ago, has become almost an “afterthought” for policy makers in Washington, D.C., the medical news site Stat reported:

“According to interviews with leading doctors, lobbyists, members of Congress, and multiple Biden Administration aides, proposed reforms include billions of new dollars for treatment and recovery services, a deregulation of addiction treatment medications, making many of 2020’s emergency telehealth allowances permanent, and scaling up harm-reduction offerings like needle exchanges, fentanyl test strips, and naloxone [an overdose antidote] distribution. But over a month into Biden’s presidency, it’s not clear when, or even if, a major push on addiction treatment will happen. Even if one does, it’s an open question whether it will lead to modest changes or the more radical approach some advocates say the crisis deserves.”

carwrecked-300x200Motorists who didn’t make new year resolutions should sign on to some lifesaving, commonsense vows: They can pledge to slow down, focus on task more, and to halt the record road carnage that happened in 2020.

In the year just ended, Americans drove fewer miles than they had in recent years due to public health restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic and the virus-caused economic collapse. But drivers logged destructive results when they hit the road, the Wall Street Journal reported, noting:

“Historically, economic downturns have led to fewer vehicle miles traveled as well as lower rates of motor-vehicle deaths, but last year took a different turn. Nationally, vehicle miles traveled dropped an unprecedented 264.2 billion miles over the first half of 2020, a decline of 17% compared with the first half of 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the same period, the agency estimated the number of fatalities shrank 2%, falling to 16,650 from 16,988 the previous year. But the rate of fatalities grew 18%, rising to 1.25 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from 1.06. In other words, an inordinate number of people died given how many fewer miles they traveled. It was the highest motor-vehicle fatality rate for that span of time in a dozen years.”

dcemptystreets-300x200Auto insurance companies and agents may have sent customers cards, fridge magnets, or calendars as part of their holiday cheer. But tens of millions of motorists may wish to demand more — both much more, and less.

Consumer advocates say the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed driving and claims for wrecks enough still that auto insurers — who are raking in big profits — need in the new year to fork over more refunds or premium reductions, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported that advocacy organizations like the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Economic Justice, have investigated and “found that car crashes remained ‘well below’ 2019 levels”:

covidhealthcasualties-300x130As the nation closes out 2020 and months of a raging coronavirus pandemic, will old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind?

Covid-19, unchecked, has killed at least 330,000 Americans and almost 19 million of us have been infected with the disease.

Those numbers likely are underestimated. Based on still tallying “excess deaths” in this country — the higher than expected number of fatalities above the norm and likely due to the coronavirus, the truer toll from Covid-19 as of Dec. 16, likely exceeds 377,000.

casesurgecovidoct-300x175Numbers can tell a persuasive story, but will even overpowering figures shock Americans into taking the steps needed to deal with the coronavirus cases surging across the country?

By many metrics, it is counter-factual to contend, as President Trump insists, that the nation is “rounding the corner” on the Covid-19 pandemic and “the country is learning to live with it” — as opposed to getting sick and dying from it. Let’s take a look at a bunch of the metrics:

The United States’ new coronavirus case count exceeded 70,000 in a day for the first time since July.

dcstreet-300x199Officials in the nation’s capital have approved a broad-based plan to crack down on the dangers that motorized vehicles pose to pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, and whole neighborhoods.

The District of Columbia City Council acted in response to spiking fatalities and injuries — harms that have increased not only locally but nationwide, as the Washington Post reported, noting this has been “a troubling national trend that became even more pronounced this spring and summer during the pandemic shutdowns. People were driving less, but [road] crashes were more deadly.”

Even as DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has pushed her “Vision Zero” road safety plan, the newspaper reported:

bias1999-300x169Highly educated and rigorously trained doctors may be just as susceptible to a built-in bias that bargain-seeking consumers yield to when they hit stores seeking 99 cent goods, buy into TV hype for $19.99  wares, or fall for a salesman’s pitch for a used car priced at $17,999.

Ivy League researchers call the cognitive flaw “left digit bias.” They warn that this common irrationality can have consequences with doctors and patient care.

As Anupam B. Jena of Harvard and Andrew R. Olenski of Columbia reported in the New York Times’ evidence-based column “The Upshot:”

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