Monday, December 23, 2013

Innumeracy on NHPR

NHPR ran a horrible story this morning.  About some frightful disease with a strange name (Crap A?) that I had never heard of before.  This disease causes dementia, blindness and death  It can be detected in infancy by some fancy bloodwork, and New York state now requires all newborns to be screened for this disease.  Fortunately the disease is very rare.  Unfortunately the test has a high rate of false positives, and the treatment is heroic, dangerous, and not very effective.  A case could be made that running these tests causes untold misery and suffering to the parents of the false positives, and does not save very many children, since many of them die under treatment.
   Saddest of all,  NHPR failed to report any of the numbers that would enable voters to reach a sound conclusion.  Such as number of newborns tested, number of true cases detected, number of false positive cases, number of children who survived treatment.  Numbers.  Newsies seldom report numbers because most of 'em have to take their shoes off the count higher than ten.

No comments: