Sunday, January 1, 2017

An interesting exercise in sophisticated misinformation


The infographic is supposed to be from The Boston Paradox: Lots of Health Care, Not Enough Health. Leafing through the document, I see a similar but not quite identical graphic. The data is apparently drawn from a study based on the population of Massachusetts. It would appear the the British NHS has adapted a methodology from Massachusetts in order to arrive at this NHS specific graphic.

Fascinating because the simple chart serves as a catalyst to deep consideration. The implication, at a surface level is that there ought to be a correspondence between source of ill-health and the amount of money spent on it. But consideration of that proposition makes it appear simplistic. But why?

Because the source of the problem does not imply what the cost should be for dealing with the consequences of the problem. If 20% of sources of a condition are genetic, the graphic seems to imply that 20% of your resources ought to be spent on genetics. But of course that is not the case. Cystic fibrosis is genetic. Most of the treatments are medical services. We do not have a "genetic" treatment.

The upshot is that the graphic strongly points you to one way of interpreting data (reallocate money from medical services) but in fact, the graphic is, in its present form, meaningless. I would guess that the parties interested in providing services behind healthy behaviors and socioeconomic and physical environments are the ones behind this graphic. I would infer that they want money reallocated from doctors to social programs.

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