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Posts Tagged ‘public health

“Data without some sort of analysis is just noise”*…

 

The Scientific American Reference Book of 1913, compiled by Albert A. Hopkins and A. Russell Bond, is available to read on the Internet Archive… a delightful snapshot of the concerns of readers of the magazine a hundred years ago, as well as an interesting tour through infographic design strategies au courant at the time.

“The Editorial staff of the Scientific American receive annually about 15,000 inquiries covering a wide range of topics,” explained Hopkins in a preface. While the magazine had earlier published a Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Notes, and Queries (which did well, selling 25,000 copies), the book didn’t quite fill the needs of every reader; letter-writers wanted general information about the world, not just scientific formulas.

They wanted information about the Antarctic region, the Panama route, shipping, navies, armies, railroads, population, education, patents, submarine cables, wireless telegraphy, manufactures, agriculture, mining, mechanical movements, astronomy, and the weather…

The infographics are also, of course, an opportunity to compare those times to ours (e.g.: the most recent data on expenditure on public education in the U.S. suggests that “teachers salaries”– “instruction”– has fallen to 54% of the total.)

More backstory and examples at “A Treasure Trove of Awkward Early-20th-Century Infographics.” Page through the entire volume here.

* Irene Ros, Bocoup; interview, October, 02, 2014

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As we compress, 1000 words at a time, we might send statistically-significant birthday greetings to Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet; he was born on this date in 1796.  An astronomer, mathematician, statistician, and sociologist, he was instrumental in introducing statistical methods to the social sciences. From 1825, he wrote papers on social statistics, and in 1835 gained international recognition for publication of Sur l’homme et le developpement de ses facultés, essai d’une physique sociale, in which he used the normal curve (which had previously been applied to error correction) to illustrate a distribution of measured human traits about a central value–  pioneering the concept of “the average man or woman.” One of his primary foci was public health: his establishment of a simple measure for classifying people’s weight relative to an ideal for their height, the body mass index (AKA, the Quetelet index), has endured with minor variations to the present day.

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Written by LW

February 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

The benefits of rarefied air…

 

From inner-city food deserts to car-centric suburbs, aspects of the physical environment are frequently cited as a contributing factor to the rise of obesity in the developed world. However, new research, published earlier this year in the International Journal of Obesity and summarised online at the Public Library of Science (PLOS) blog, Obesity Panacea, found a surprising correlation between elevation and obesity in the United States.

As the paper’s lead author, Dr. Jameson Voss of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, points out, mapping obesity prevalence in America reveals distinct, and hitherto unexplained, geographic variations:

Obesity appears most prevalent in the Southeast and Midwest states and less prevalent in the Mountain West. Despite significant research into the environmental determinants of obesity, including the built environment, the explanation for these macrogeographic differences is unclear.

Intriguingly, those areas in which less than a quarter of the population is obese map almost exactly onto the more mountainous regions of the country—the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada. And, indeed, after controlling for diet, activity level, smoking, demographics, temperature, and urbanisation, Voss and his colleagues found “a four- to five-fold increase in obesity prevalence at low altitude as compared with the highest altitude category”…

Read the full (and filling) story at Edible Geography.

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As we head for higher ground, we might send playful birthday greetings to Joan Miró i Ferrà; he was born on this date in 1893.  A  painter, sculptor, and ceramicist, who worked over time as a Fauve, Magic Realist, Surrealist, and Expressionist (and pioneered Color Field painting), Miró had a huge influence on artists in the later Twentieth Century (Frankenthaler, Rothko, Motherwell, and Calder among many others), and on design pioneers like Paul Rand.

“Women and Birds at Sunrise” 1946

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Carl Van Vechten’s portrait of Miró

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Written by LW

April 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

What could possibly go wrong?…

 

The AP reports that our friends at Frito-Lay have gotten the message about consumer choice:

The next Lay’s potato chip will taste like chicken and waffles. Or cheesy garlic bread. Or Sriracha, a hot sauce often used in Thai dishes.

Lay’s is letting potato chip lovers decide which one of the three will be its newest flavor. All of them will be sold at retailers nationwide starting next week. After trying them, fans have until May to vote for their favorites. The flavor with the most votes will stay on store shelves…

Lay’s adds about one new potato chip flavor every year. Last year it launched the Lay’s Classic BLT, made to taste like the sandwich. This is the first time in Lay’s 75-year history that it has let U.S. consumers choose the company’s next flavor.

For context, readers might review the New York Times Magazine’s informative piece on “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food“– the pull quote from which (from a Harvard professor of Public Health) is “I feel so sorry for the public.”

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As we reach for the baby carrots, we might spare a thought for Neil Arnott; he died on this date in 1874.  A Scottish physician and inventor, he created the Arnott stove (with a self-regulating fire) and the Arnott ventilator.  But he is surely best remembered as the inventor of the waterbed– “Dr Arnott’s Hydrostatic Bed” (1832).

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Written by LW

March 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

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