Surviving the World of Statistical Selection

On November 18, 2008, The New York Times published an article titled, The Wrong Place to Be Chronically Ill. The article reports the finding of 7,500 patients surveyed in several countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States, who suffered from at least one of seven chronic conditions: hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lung problems, cancer or depression.

The article further states that the shameful findings on the patients in the United States the health care they received, that more than half of the American patients went without care because of high out-of-pocket costs. They did not visit a doctor when sick, skipped a recommended test or treatment or failed to fill a prescription. The uninsured suffered most, but even 43 percent of those who had insurance all year skipped care because of costs.

“The surveyed American patients also were likely to report wasting time because their care was so poorly organized. About a third reported that medical records and test results were not available when needed or that tests were duplicated unnecessarily. A third experienced a medical error, such as being given the wrong medication or test results. Some 40 percent found it very difficult to get after-hours care without going to an emergency room,” reads the article.

As I read this article, I was asking myself, why they conclude that America is the wrong place to be chronically ill, because as I look at the stated data, that a survey of 7,500 patients from different countries was observed, but it failed to state whether that proportion was randomly selected or not, and what was the exact proportion of the American patients who were among the surveyed patients?

Thus, looking at their data, I fail to believe that this number was a representation of all the American patients. As for The New York Times, I would expect nothing but the best report from them, but for them to actually publish that insufficient and unrepresentative data, surprises me. Even though the article generally and fairly estimates how most patients may be treated in America, I still feel that those who conducted this survey could have used more representative variables, such as the exact proportion of patients surveyed from each country, their gender, and age category.

Also, yesterday, I was watching TV and a Bosley TV commercial came on, illustrating their inventive hair transplant procedure and that it was clinically tested and proven. As I sat there watching it, I took my right hand and felt the top of my head, which has gotten thinner than I’d like to admit, and I was like, that sounds like a good solution to my nearly baldness. But then, I asked myself, how was it clinically tested or proven?

Just like some of the examples of the article and the Bosley TV commercial stated above, everyday, we are bombarded with information and data, which some seem representative enough to actually, but most may not be. That’s why it’s important that, no matter what is said or stated anywhere about anything, there is always a question and an answer to everything and it’s up to you, as an individual, to critically analyze each and everything in order to make an informed desicion.


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