Category Archives: IJHS 4 (1) – Statistics and Health

IJHS volume 4, issue 1: special issue on Statistics and Health 2014

Foreword – Volume 4, Issue 1

The etymology of “statistics” points to the Latin verb stare (= to stand) as the far origin of the word. In addition to the meaning to stand, stare gave a handful of derivative words. More specifically, it gave the words “status”, or the “state” of something or someone, and the word “State”, which designates the government. In late Latin, the adjective statisticum was present in the administrative discourse to refer to something “that concerns the State”. This latter word gave today’s word “statistics” (Cellard, 1980). Statistics now refer intuitively to a quantitative (and positivist) approach to our scientific quest for knowledge, in opposition to a qualitative (and interpretive) approach.

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The Epidemiology of Ophthalmological Disease among School Age Children in Rural India

Author: Clive VelkersMacKenzie Turpin, Raywat Deonandan


Preventable blindness is one of the primary health concerns in rural India, yet little is known about the prevalence of eye disease among India’s school-aged children. The clinical database of the Srikiran Institute of Ophthalmology, which describes clinicians’ visits to schools in Kakinada, India, was analyzed retrospectively to determine the prevalence of eye disease among 8488 students aged 18 years and younger. Among diagnosed illnesses, basic refractory impingement (including degrees of astigmatism) was the most common, followed by squinting. Vitamin A deficiency was not a factor in any of the tested subjects.

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Health Sciences (HSS) Buddy Program: Evaluation of its First Year

Author: Mostafa Abdul-Fattah, Rita Hafizi, Hiba Abdul-Fattah, Sonia Gulati, Raywat Deonandan


In the 2011-2012 academic year, the HSS Buddy Program pilot project was implemented in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. Intended to address rising student anxiety levels, the program teamed freshmen (first year) students with groups of older students to promote more instances of casual social interaction. Participants’ perceptions of the program were universally positive in terms of how enjoyable it was, its usefulness, and its relevance to student needs. Suggested improvements include recruiting of more male participants, liaising with school administrators to help avoid scheduling conflicts, starting the program earlier in the academic year, and forming social groups with fewer students. Overall, the approach undertaken by the Buddy Program was seen to be a valuable one worthy of continuation and growth.

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Reducing the Global Burden of Depression

Author: Prabjyot Kaur Chahil


Depression is expected to be one of the leading causes of morbidity by 2020. Nonetheless, the current methods of treatment for depression may not be effective in reducing the global burden of this disease. Currently, pharmacotherapy represents the first line treatment for depressive disorders; however, many adverse effects of anti-depressants are often overlooked and their interference with body chemistry may not be ideal for long-term treatment. In order to reduce the burden of disease of depression, methods of treatment such as counseling and therapy should be considered as alternatives to pharmacotherapy. Most importantly, these treatments reduce the occurrence of depression relapse, making them more effective in the long-term. In addition to alternative methods of treatment, depression prevention strategies should be prioritized. Not only is depression prevention the best solution therapeutically, but it is also the most cost-effective in reducing global morbidity. In order to implement these strategies, however, more evidence-based research on the prevention of depressive disorders is required.

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Human Health Effects of Dietary Aluminum

Author: Karine Landry


Aluminum is abundant in the environment and can also be found in most foods. To date, no convincing data has been found regarding the possible risk of ingesting aluminum through food, water and pharmaceuticals. This paper sought to review current literature to find evidence of the health effects aluminum absorption in the diet in humans.

The review found that the evidence is contradictory and as such, there is no established causation between dietary aluminum and adverse health effects. Many studies suggest a relationship between aluminum consumption and Alzheimer’s disease, but here again, the results are inconsistent. More research is needed to establish the risk of daily ingestion of aluminum through the diet, drinking water and the use of pharmaceuticals. Further research should be conducted on subpopulation groups, such as children, chronic pharmaceutical drug users and other vulnerable groups.

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Statistics in the Service of Health

Author: Constantine DASKALAKIS

Professor Constantine Daskalakis is Associate Professor at the Division of Biostatistics, Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA, USA), and Chair, Section on Teaching of Statistics in the Health Sciences at the American Statistical Association.


The word statistics was first used to describe a set of aggregated data (commonly demographic observations, such as births and deaths), and later came to also denote the mathematical body of science that pertains to the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data and uncertainty (Davidian & Louis, 2002; Dodge, 2006; Moses, 1986). For those interested in the historical developments in probability and statistics, there are many excellent books and reviews (Fienberg, 1992; Gigerenzer et al., 1989; Stigler, 1986). However, as John Tukey once said, “the best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone else’s backyard” (Leonhardt, 2000). Yet, there has been little systematic work on the impact of the application of statistics in various scientific disciplines.

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Education and Health: Building Indicators in International Comparison

Author: Patrice DE BROUCKER

Patrice de Broucker is Chair, OECD Network on Labour Market, Economic and Social Outcomes of Learning.


Nowadays, we often analyze the benefits of education as a sesame to access employment – the higher your level of education and better your field of study, the better your chances of getting quickly a stable, well paid and rewarding job. Surely this is important and it is a consideration that nobody can ignore when it comes to making a choice of a pathway through school and a career. But it would be inappropriate to think of education and its role in life only in such terms. Education is a source of many other benefits both for the individual and for society.

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Parental and Peer Influences on Adolescent Smoking: A Literature Review

Author: Cailin Mulvihill


Smoking cigarettes has been widely accepted as a negative health behaviour associated with many serious risks. Adolescent smoking is of particular interest from a public health perspective as the initiation of smoking in adolescence has been associated with higher addiction rates in adulthood. This review of the literature will examine the influence of social support networks, particularly parents and peers, on the initiation and escalation of adolescent smoking. The influence of social support networks primarily operates through the social learning theory, in which the adolescent mimics the behaviour of those in their social network. The literature suggests that while parents are more influential in young adolescence, peers become the main source of influence in later adolescence through processes known as peer selection and peer influence. Parents can positively affect adolescents’ smoking behaviour through effective communication and maintenance of a healthy parent-child relationship. Peers can also positively influence smoking behaviour through the same mechanisms of peer influence and selection. Knowledge of how parents and peers influence adolescent smoking initiation and escalation can potentially assist in developing public health programming that targets this high-risk behaviour.

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Objectivity, Subjectivity and Statistical Evidence

Author: Michael EVANS

Professor Michael Evans is President, Statistical Society of Canada, and Professor at the Department of Statistics, University of Toronto.


Statistics has applications in many fields. The point behind all of these applications is that there are questions for which there is no obvious way that we can obtain definitive answers. The reason for this lies in variation, which can arise for many reasons, and this leads to uncertainty. The health sciences provides an excellent example of this as the variation among patients, such as physical, genetic and lifestyle characteristics, lead to different responses to a treatment for a health problem. We are then left with the questions of whether or not a treatment works and, if so, how well.

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