Ebola, as I write, is ravaging several African countries, with the most optimistic predictions hoping that the rate of increase of horrible deaths will reach zero early in 2015. A recently discovered virus meets inadequate medical infrastructure and we have a classic public health problem on the scale of the cholera outbreaks that spurred the Victorians to build sewers, if not of the repeated plagues that swept London two centuries earlier.
A few weeks back I was feeling fairly smug, having put a bit of money on a 'No' vote in the Scottish referendum. I then placed a few quid on UKIP to win the Heywood and Middleton by-election earlier this month, which they didn't. But the latter result was quite close, so I felt that somehow it had been a 'good bet' to have made. So what makes a person right or wrong to have placed a bet in the first place? (Mathematically that is, leave your morals at your home page.)
Contrary to popular opinion, we have witnessed a fall in many types of crime over the past two decades. Between 1995 and 2013/14, all crime recorded by the Crime Survey for England and Wales fell 62%, with a 51% fall in robbery and a 17% fall in theft from the person. Despite widespread attention, there is still little consensus as to why we have seen such declines in crime. To make inferences about why crime has fallen, first we need to develop an in-depth understanding of the nature of specific offences over time.
When I think ‘public health’ this week, two stories spring to mind - Ebola and London parks, from the appalling to the ridiculous.
Last month in Berlin, Kenyan athlete Dennis Kimetto broke the men’s Marathon world record running it in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds, 26 seconds less than the previous record. This world record time has steadily been shortened by runners over the last hundred years. Looking at the sequence of yearly best performances, what long-term forecasts can we make in the context of this new world record?
New York City’s rat problem is infamous. The media describes a metropolis under never-ending siege by super-vicious, hyper-intelligent rodents. The problem has garnered so much attention that the city has held several hearings, developed a comprehensive extermination plan, and even convened a summit on the issue. While the true population of rats in New York City (NYC) is unknown, urban legend states that there are as many rats as people: roughly 8 million.