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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Oct;112(14):1440-5.

Statistical methods for linking health, exposure, and hazards.

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Department of Biostatistics, Academic Information Systems, Center for Applied Environmental Public Health, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, 1440 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


The Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (EPHTN) proposes to link environmental hazards and exposures to health outcomes. Statistical methods used in case-control and cohort studies to link health outcomes to individual exposure estimates are well developed. However, reliable exposure estimates for many contaminants are not available at the individual level. In these cases, exposure/hazard data are often aggregated over a geographic area, and ecologic models are used to relate health outcome and exposure/hazard. Ecologic models are not without limitations in interpretation. EPHTN data are characteristic of much information currently being collected--they are multivariate, with many predictors and response variables, often aggregated over geographic regions (small and large) and correlated in space and/or time. The methods to model trends in space and time, handle correlation structures in the data, estimate effects, test hypotheses, and predict future outcomes are relatively new and without extensive application in environmental public health. In this article we outline a tiered approach to data analysis for EPHTN and review the use of standard methods for relating exposure/hazards, disease mapping and clustering techniques, Bayesian approaches, Markov chain Monte Carlo methods for estimation of posterior parameters, and geostatistical methods. The advantages and limitations of these methods are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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