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More about the study of health-statistics than epidemics
on 6 August 2013
The Very Short Introduction series are written by professors of the subject and are aimed at provoking cross-discipline intrigue in the reader that may incite further investigation and reading - and boy are they good at achieving exactly that; often they leave more questions than answers.
So hot off the heels of Bacteria:VSI & Viruses:VSI I approached this booked assuming it was going to follow on nicely, detailing some of the more serious of epidemics and pandemics, having had my interest piqued by the previous subjects. However, what this book neglects to mention is that it is mainly about statistics, probability and sampling techniques to achieve the study of health statistics.
It introduces the concepts of person-years and incidence, explaining with the use of case-studies such as diabetes, lung-cancer and cholesterol levels, naming patterns that have come out of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer [EPIC]. Whilst this is interesting and will hold more relevance for some than others, I was expecting something slightly more intriguing and fast paced - like the procedural techniques used in the film Contagion.
This is definitely not something to critique the book over, it was purely my expectation vs. the reality that let this book down for me. If you have a background in mathematics, specifically statistics and sampling, then you have already read 2/3rds of this 126 page A6 book. The rest concerns a largely ethical debate about trials, testing and control. Intriguing, but a lot drier than it could have been.