The importance of medical statistics
"Smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer". This is now a somewhat uninteresting fact because it is such common knowledge, yet 60 years ago relatively few people were aware of this. It has only been with the aid of research methods and statistical techniques that such a consequence of smoking was introduced to society and is now well accepted. Research has since shown us numerous other diseases that are caused by smoking. As a result of people giving up smoking, there has been a dramatic reduction in deaths in many countries.
"Does the flu vaccine work?" seems to be a straightforward question, but statistical analysis is needed before a useful answer can be given to persuade the government, health service and society that it is worthwhile. Without proper statistical analysis, effective treatments may not be offered, while ineffective ones could be.
Statistics is central to most medical research.
There are several aims to medical research, all of which involve a significant amount of statistics:
Monitoring and surveillance of health and disease
Establishing causes of disease or factors associated with death or disease
Preventing death or disease
Evaluating treatments for disease.