The term statistics can be used to convey three meanings. (a) Applied statistics is defined
as techniques of articulating, summarizing, analyzing, and interpreting numerical information. (b) Theoretical statistics
deals with probability. (c) Statistics are indices or summary statistics derived from data. Bio-statistics is a branch of
applied statistics that is management and analysis of numerical data on people, health, disease, medical treatments and procedures.
It includes vital statistics, public health statistics, and demography. Biostatistics is divided into 2 branches: descriptive
and analytic. Descriptive statistics deals with collection, organization, presentation, and summarization of data. Analytic
statistics deals with drawing logical and objective conclusions about a sample or a population. Biostatistics provides the
tools for the summary and digestion of a lot of numerical laboratory and clinical data including critical reading and understanding
of scientific literature.
LIMITATIONS OF BIOSTATISTICS
An investigator starts with a substantive question that is formulated as a statistical question. Data
is then collected and is analyzed to reach a statistical conclusion. The statistical conclusion is used with other knowledge
to reach a substantive conclusion.
Statistics has several limitations. It gives statistical and not substantive answers. The statistical
conclusion refers to groups and not individuals. It only summarizes but does not interpret data.
Statistics can be misused by selective presentation of desired results. Computation is not an end in
itself. It is a tool that can be used well or can be mis-used. A human must have a clear idea of what is required of the computer
and must instruct it accordingly. The human must also be able to intelligently interpret the output from the computer. All who tinker with computers must remember the adage ‘rubbish in/rubbish out’.
CAREER OPPORTUNITIES IN BIOSTATISTICS
Biostatistics finds practical applications in quantitative research,
administration, and decision-making. Statisticians work in universities, the public sector, and the private sector.
EXERCISE IN DATA COLLECTION, EDITING,
Use a mailed questionnaire
to collect the following class data:
Opinions and attitudes: color preference (choose
only among primary colors), ideal age at marriage, desired number of children, do you want to specialize (yes/no)
- Identification number (please use a fictitious
one but remember it for future use)
- Socio-demographic: age, gender, district of
birth, type of primary school (government or private), number of siblings
- Anthropometric: weight and height
- Health: blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory
rate, use of glasses (yes/no)
- Family history: use of glasses by father (yes/no), mother (yes/no), any sibling(yes/no).