Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor



“Oh no! What happened?” “W220.2XD: Walked into lamppost, subsequent encounter.”

Last week, I ran across this very entertaining piece over in Healthcare Dive about the new ICD-10 codes. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is an incredibly useful tool in public health that basically can reduce an injury to a series of numbers. As you can imagine, this is very powerful when it comes to determining if something is on the rise. Researchers can easily count the number of times something occurs, and if it’s up from previous years, there might be something there.

Part of the beauty of the ICD-10 codes is how specific they are. The previous system, ICD-9 (creative, I know) wasn’t nearly as specific as they only had 13,000 codes compared to the 68,000 in ICD10. With the advent of ICD-10, The Powers That Be have gone into painstaking detail breaking down injuries, diseases and other maladies into incredible precise codes that can be used by researchers and public health professionals.

Today, we’re going to go through my favourite ones.

Do you know what code it is if you get hit by a Macaw? Because one exists. | Photo via National Geographic
Do you know what code it is if you get hit by a Macaw? Because one exists. | Photo via National Geographic

W55.89XA: Other contact with other mammals
There are many codes for contact with mammals. Raccoons, cows, pigs and cats are all represented. However, the mighty seal is not covered, which made Buster Bluth very sad. He would have suffered from W55.89XA.


W61.12XA: Struck by macaw, initial encounter. ​

Look like our patient
*puts on sunglasses*
Is a little Macaw-struck

(The other option here was for an AC/DC reference…)

Click here for the rest of the post!

Going to #CPHA2014

The 2014 CPHA conference will be held in Toronto, ON | Picture courtesy Wikimedia

Next week, I (Atif) will be heading to the Canadian Public Health Association Conference, where I’ll be presenting at two different points.

I’ll be chairing a session titled “Youth Injury Prevention in Canada – Where should we direct our intervention resources.” It promises to be an interesting presentation, where we’ll be discussing injury in Canada, and where to start tackling the problem of injury. This session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 28th from 1:30pm – 3:00pm.

Injury represents one of the most important negative health outcomes experienced by young people in Canada today. Injuries inflict a large burden on children and adolescents and their
families and communities. Injury events are costly in so many ways, whether measured in premature mortality, or the pain, disability, lost productivity and emotional consequence of non-fatal events.

This panel will be made up of child injury researchers and advocates who will make their case for different forms of injury prevention intervention. At the end of this panel, delegates will: understand more about the burden of youth injury in Canada; be aware of at least four different avenues for injury prevention intervention (primordial intervention, context-level interventions, safe sport and peer-influence interventions); have identified the rationale, strengths and limitations of each intervention approach; and have learned more about ways to undertake and gain support for youth injury prevention (from the CPHA conference program).

Click to go to the conference website

My second presentation is one of the studies from my PhD, titled “The influence of location of birth and ethnicity on BMI among Canadian youth.” This is a study that’s in press (woo!), and represents my own research focus. This one will be in the Kenora Room, on Thursday May 29th 2014, from 11:00am to 12:30pm.

Body mass indices (BMI) of youth change when they immigrate to a new country. This occurs by the adoption of new behaviors and skills, a process called acculturation.

We investigated whether differences existed in BMI by location of birth (Canadian vs foreign born) across 7 ethnic groups, both individually and together. We also examined whether time since immigration and health behaviors explained any observed BMI differences.

Data sources were the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study and the Canada Census of Population. Participants were youth in grades 6-10 (weighted n = 19,272). Sociodemographic characteristics, height, weight, and health behaviors were assessed by questionnaire. WHO growth references were used to determine BMI percentiles.

Foreign-born youth had lower BMI than peers born in Canada, a relationship that did not decrease with increased time since immigration. Similarly, East and South East Asian youth had lower BMI than Canadian host culture peers. Finally, Arab/West Asian and East Indian/South Asian youth born abroad had lower BMI than peers of the same ethnicity born in Canada. These differences remained after controlling for eating and physical activity behaviors.

Location of birth and ethnicity were associated with BMI among Canadian youth both independently and together.

Our findings stress the importance of considering both ethnicity and location of birth when designing and implementing interventions. While currently either one or the other is addressed, our study shows there is heterogeneity in BMI by specific ethnic groups depending on whether they were born in Canada or not.

As always I’ll be trying to livetweet the conference. I’ll be using the #CPHA2014 hashtag, so feel free to follow along online! As always, there are a wide range of presentations and workshops, so I’m excited to attend.

If you’re attending the conference, leave a comment with details of your own presentation so that other readers can attend your talks. And if you see me at the conference, be sure to say hi!

This was posted simultaneously on my blog PLOS Blogs Public Health Perspectives

Heading to #CPHA13

Ottawa is a beautiful city in the summer - hopefully we'll be able to enjoy it! | Photo credit: Atif Kukaswadia
Ottawa is a beautiful city in the summer – hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy it! | Photo credit: Atif Kukaswadia

Just a short note today – I (Atif) will be heading to the Canadian Public Health Association Conference next week, which is being held in my home town of Ottawa, Ontario. I’ve never been to the CPHA Conference, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be tweeting findings from the conference using the #CPHA13 hashtag, and I’m hoping others will be too. There are a wide range of presentations this year, and I’m excited to hear about all the research that people are doing, as well as the vision that CPHA has for themselves and for their role in promoting public health in Canada.

I’m going to presenting a poster on one of the studies from my PhD titled “A Cross-sectional Analysis of Immigrant Status and Its Relation to Physical Activity Among Canadian Youth.” I’ll be by my poster for the breaks, so drop by Canada Hall 2 to learn all about it.

If you’re attending the conference, leave a comment with details of your own presentation so that other readers can attend your talks. And if you see me at the conference, be sure to say hi!

This was posted simultaneously on PLOS Blogs Public Health Perspectives

Science Heroes: Why Science Needs A Celebrity Spokesperson

We exist in a strange society these days. Jenny McCarthy is viewed as an authority on vaccines and people listen to the opinions of Ben Affleck and Sean Penn when it comes to politics. Yet people who study and have dedicated their lives to these causes remain out of the limelight and hidden from the public. While everyone knows about celebrities who campaign on issues, how many people can name a researcher who study them? One  problem facing scientists is the lack of communication between science and the public: we’re perceived as living in the ivory tower of academia and are totally out of touch, or worse, we’re in the pocket of Big Pharma/Food/The Umbrella Corporation/Evil Faceless Corporate Interest.

But in reality, scientists are just regular people with an interest in one specific part of our world, and we want nothing more than for everyone else to find out work as fascinating as we do. It’s something that Jorge Cham of PhD Comics discusses in his TEDxUCLA talk, where he highlights how he was hired to create a video (that you may have seen) about the Higgs Boson.

There’s a definite gap between scientists and the public, and three questions immediately come to mind: 1) Why do scientists not engage, 2) How can scientists engage and 3) How do we find a celebrity to endorse “science”?

Click here to continue reading!

#overlyhonestmethods – Reaching out with humour

For a week and a half, I was a minor internet celebrity!

Science has an awkward relationship with the public. There’s a perception that we exist in an ivory tower, and the common media perception (as is evident by shows like The Big Bang Theory) is that we’re somewhat socially inept, with a lack of people skills and an inability to talk about our work in a way that others can understand.

So I was thrilled when #overlyhonestmethods became a thing. There have been many little science in-jokes floating around the twittersphere; one of my favourite was the hashtag #middleearthpublichealth which came out right before The Hobbit released in theatres. Tweets like “Craving the ‘Precious’: Gollum, a case study of the public health impact of severe ring addiction, Lancet 2010” abounded, and they illustrated public health rather nicely (for more, check out Brett Keller’s blogpost). However, they only catered to a niche audience: public health professionals, and public health professionals who got the Lord of the Rings references.

Click here to continue reading!

Science and Storytelling

A short post today, as I know everyone is busy, and the time you spend reading could be better spent listening to me in the YouTube video above :)

I was fortunate enough to speak at TEDxQueensu last semester. For those of you familiar with the TED format, it’s a short (< 18 minute) talk about an idea or concept. Some famous ones are by Sir Ken Robinson (Schools Kill Creativity), Candy Chang (Before I die, I want to) and this talk by Simon Sinek (How great leaders inspire action). The latter is the one that inspired me to do this talk.

In a nutshell, I think science is awesome. But I also think that science is suffering a public relations crisis at the moment, with people having a hard time understanding what it is we do, and more important why scientific research matters. That idea is what fuelled my TEDx talk above.

For those wondering, TEDxQueens was a great experience. There were a range of people there, including fellow PhD candidate Heidi Penning, who spoke about her experiences raising a child with autism in her talk entitled “Discovering what lies beyond the bend.” I’d definitely recommend attending next year if this is the kind of thing you enjoy – and definitely audition if you have an idea worth spreading!

Thanks again to the TEDxQueensu team for such a great opportunity and for putting on such an awesome event.

This piece was simulblogged on Gradifying

New Post on PLOS Sci Ed: Unintentional Benefits of Open Access: The broader impact of making publications free

The Carleton University Library. I spent many hours here, studying, photocopying, sleeping. Photo via Emilybean

When I was in undergrad, we would photocopy articles down in the basement of MacOdrum library at my alma mater, Carleton University. You’d have to find the call number of the journal, head down into the basement, find the right row, then bookshelf, and finally discover someone had already taken the journal to photocopy it. I learned quickly to check the photocopy room first to see if someone already had the article rather than looking for it first.

But now we’ve moved into a world where everything is done electronically. Through the power of PubMed, Google Scholar and numerous others, you can obtain PDFs of many articles via your institution. And now, many of those articles are available under Open Access rules – so anyone can access them, regardless of academic affiliation.

Click here to continue reading!

New Post on PLOS Public Health: Public Health 2.0: Electric Boogaloo

Session: Public E-Health

I love conferences and seminars. Having someone who is passionate about an issue get up and present is one of the best ways to learn about something new, and can really bring something to life. But what’s perhaps most interesting is not how effectively someone can communicate an issue, but it’s in the break immediately afterwards. Do people leave to discuss the topic that was just presented? Do they leave thinking about what you said? In my mind, that’s one mark of a good presenter: they make you think about the issue so deeply that it dominates the conference lunch immediately afterwards.

I had this experience last week. As part of an introductory epidemiology course, the students were allocated to a side and had to “debate” an issue. One of the topics was “Vaccination campaigns can be helped by social media,” with the two teams arguing accordingly. That got me to thinking: How is social media used by public health professionals? And can it be used effectively?

Click here to continue reading!

Hey Mr Epid! What should I bring to a conference?

It’s conference time! Which means three things: 1) you’re frantically applying to every travel award, scholarship and bursary available to help fund your trip, 2) you’re trying to put together your poster and/or powerpoint at the last minute and 3) if this is your first academic conference, you’re wondering what to bring with you. This post is dedicated to the last point (inspired by Ars and other sites).

I like to pack light at conferences. You spend most of your time shuttling between rooms and the more you have with you, the more you have to worry about. That being said, I like to have the following 7 things with me at every conference:

Here’s my conference loadout. Macbook, iPhone, satchel, USB key, business cards and water bottle :) (item #7 not shown)

Continue reading “Hey Mr Epid! What should I bring to a conference?”

Interesting reads: MSF Scientific Day Edition!

I’m not going to post my usual collection of links this week. Instead, I’m going to encourage all my readers to check out the MSF Scientific Day. It’s looking to be an interesting event, and the Agenda and posters cover a broad range of topics. They’ve been holding interviews on Twitter with the presenters (#MSFSD), and it’s been well received so far.

I’d strongly recommend participating if you can. You don’t have to watch the whole day (I know I won’t due to meetings and work), but if you have some time to kill, stop by their live stream, ask some questions on Twitter or Facebook and expand your horizons.

You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

Have a great weekend! And for those of you running in the Ottawa Race Weekend, good luck!!


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