Do You know Your Risk? (Comment from NAHSL 2012)

December 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Awards and Recognition, NAHSL Annual Meeting 2012, Professional Development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To follow-up on  Lynn Sabol’s great post on the NAHSL Annual Conference presentation Seeing Through Exaggeration: It’s Overdue by Lisa Schwartz and Steve Woloshin I would like to highlight the section of the talk that focused on risk assessment.  The presenters included in their talk an excellent explanation of how risk statistics work and the important difference between relative and absolute risk.  Even though I have taken a number of statistics courses I still sometimes find it hard to fully understand what these numbers truly mean when they are presented in drug ads. 

To provide a very simple summary of the importance between the relative and absolute risk one needs to know when a drug claims to reduce your health risk by 50% (relative risk) whether that means that your chances are reduced from 2 in 10 to 1 in 10, or from 2 in a million to 1 in million (absolute risk).  The presenters highlighted the fact that, even though the statistics being presented in drug claims may be accurate, giving only the relative risk really gives the public no true idea of the real magnitude of the drug’s benefit.

Their explanation was so clear that I wanted to share the handouts with those of you who were not able to be there. 

The links to the handouts provided at the session are listed under the Tip sheet link at the website: //www.vaoutcomes.org/resources/

Robin B. Devin, MLS, PHD
Head of Reference and Health Sciences Librarian
University of Rhode Island Library

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