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Stat Med. 2000 Sep 15-30;19(17-18):2217-41.

Disease mapping models: an empirical evaluation. Disease Mapping Collaborative Group.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, King's College, University of Aberdeen, UK.


The analysis of small area disease incidence has now developed to a degree where many methods have been proposed. However, there are few studies of the relative merits of the methods available. While many Bayesian models have been examined with respect to prior sensitivity, it is clear that wider comparisons of methods are largely missing from the literature. In this paper we present some preliminary results concerning the goodness-of-fit of a variety of disease mapping methods to simulated data for disease incidence derived from a range of models. These simulated models cover simple risk gradients to more complex true risk structures, including spatial correlation. The main general results presented here show that the gamma-Poisson exchangeable model and the Besag, York and Mollie (BYM) model are most robust across a range of diverse models. Mixture models are less robust. Non-parametric smoothing methods perform badly in general. Linear Bayes methods display behaviour similar to that of the gamma-Poisson methods.

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