Evidence Soup
How to find, use, and explain evidence.

6 posts categorized "food and drink"

Tuesday, 09 August 2016

Health innovation, foster teens, NBA, Gwyneth Paltrow.


1. Behavioral economics → Healthcare innovation.
Jaan Sidorov (@DisMgtCareBlog) writes on the @Health_Affairs blog about roadblocks to healthcare innovation. Behavioral economics can help us truly understand resistance to change, including unconscious bias, so valuable improvements will gain more traction. Sidoro offers concise explanations of hyperbolic discounting, experience weighting, social utility, predictive value, and other relevant economic concepts. He also recommends specific tactics when presenting a technology-based innovation to the C-Suite.

2. Laptops → Foster teen success.
Nobody should have to type their high school essays on their phone. A coalition including Silicon Valley leaders and public sector agencies will ensure all California foster teens can own a laptop computer. Foster Care Counts reports evidence that "providing laptop computers to transition age youth shows measurable improvement in self-esteem and academic performance". KQED's California Report ran a fine story.

For a year, researchers at USC's School of Social Work surveyed 730 foster youth who received laptops, finding that "not only do grades and class attendance improve, but self-esteem and life satisfaction increase, while depression drops precipitously."

3. Analytical meritocracy → Better NBA outcomes.
The Innovation Enterprise Sports Channel explain how the NBA draft is becoming an analytical meritocracy. Predictive models help teams evaluate potential picks, including some they might have overlooked. Example: Andre Roberson, who played very little college ball, was drafted successfully by Oklahoma City based on analytics. It's tricky combining projections for active NBA teams with prospects who may never take the court. One decision aid is ESPN’s Draft Projection model, using Statistical Plus/Minus to predict how someone would perform through season five of a hypothetical NBA career. ESPN designates each player as a Superstar, Starter, Role Player, or Bust, to facilitate risk-reward assessments.

4. Celebrity culture → Clash with scientific evidence.
Health law and policy professor Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) examines the impact of celebrity culture on people's choices of diet and healthcare. His new book asks Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness. Caulfield cites many, many peer-reviewed sources of evidence.

Evidence & Insights Calendar:

September 13-14; Palo Alto, California. Nonprofit Management Institute: The Power of Network Leadership to Drive Social Change, hosted by Stanford Social Innovation Review.

September 19-23; Melbourne, Australia. International School on Research Impact Assessment. Founded in 2013 by the Agency of Health Quality and Assessment (AQuAS), RAND Europe, and Alberta Innovates.

February 22-23; London UK. Evidence Europe 2017. How pharma, payers, and patients use real-world evidence to understand and demonstrate drug value and improve care.

Photo credit: Foster Care Counts.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Free beer! and the "Science of X".


1. Free beer for a year for anyone who can work perfume, velvety voice, and 'Q1 revenue goals were met' into an appropriate C-Suite presentation.
Prezi is a very nice tool enabling you to structure a visual story, without forcing a linear, slide-by-slide presentation format. The best part is you can center an entire talk around one graphic or model, and then dive into details depending on audience response. (Learn more in our writeup on How to Present Like a Boss.)

Now there's a new marketing campaign, the Science of Presentations. Prezi made a darn nice web page. And the ebook offers several useful insights into how to craft and deliver a memorable presentation (e.g., enough with the bullet points already).

But in their pursuit of click-throughs, they've gone too far. It's tempting to claim you're following the "Science of X". To some extent, Prezi provides citations to support its recommendations: The ebook links to a few studies on audience response and so forth. But that's not a "science" - they don't always connect between what they're citing and what they're suggesting to business professionals. Example: "Numerous studies have found that metaphors and descriptive words or phrases — things like 'perfume' and 'she had a velvety voice' - trigger the sensory cortext.... On the other hand, when presented with nondescriptive information — for example, 'The marketing team reached all of its revenue goals in Q1' — the only parts of our brain that are activated are the ones responsible for understanding language. Instead of experiencing the content with which we are being presented, we are simply processing it."

Perhaps in this case "simply processing" the good news is enough experience for a busy executive. But our free beer offer still stands.

2. How should medical guidelines be communicated to patients?

And now for the 'Science of Explaining Guidelines'. It's hard enough to get healthcare professionals to agree on a medical guideline - and then follow it. But it's also hard to decide whether/how those recommendations should be communicated to patients. Many of the specifics are intended for providers' consumption, to improve their practice of medicine. Although it's essential that patients understand relevant evidence, translating a set of recommendations into lay terms is quite problematic.

Groups publish medical guidelines to capture evidence-based recommendations for addressing a particular disease. Sometimes these are widely accepted - and other times not. The poster-child example of breast cancer screening illustrates why patients, and not just providers, must be able to understand guidelines. Implementation Science recently published the first systematic review of methods for disseminating guidelines to patients.

Not surprisingly, the study found weak evidence of methods that are consistently feasible. "Key factors of success were a dissemination plan, written at the start of the recommendation development process, involvement of patients in this development process, and the use of a combination of traditional and innovative dissemination tools." (Schipper et al.)

3. Telling a story with data.
In the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), @JakePorway explains three things great data storytellers do differently [possible paywall]. Jake is with @DataKind, "harnessing the power of data science in service of humanity".


Photo credit: Christian Hornick on Flickr.

Tuesday, 08 December 2015

Biased hiring algorithms and Uber is not disruptive.

This week's 5 links on evidence-based decision making.

1. Unconscious bias → Biased algorithms → Less hiring diversity
On Science Friday (@SciFri), experts pointed out unintended consequences in algorithms for hiring. But even better was the discussion with the caller from Google, who wrote an algorithm predicting tech employee performance and seemed to be relying on unvalidated, self-reported variables. Talk about reinforcing unconscious bias. He seemed sadly unaware of the irony of the situation.

2. Business theory → Narrow definitions → Subtle distinctions
If Uber isn't disruptive, then what is? Clayton Christensen (@claychristensen) has chronicled important concepts about business innovation. But now his definition of ‘disruptive innovation’ tells us Uber isn't disruptive - something about entrants and incumbents, and there are charts. Do these distinctions matter? Plus, ever try to get a cab in SF circa 1999? Yet this new HBR article claims Uber didn't "primarily target nonconsumers — people who found the existing alternatives so expensive or inconvenient that they took public transit or drove themselves instead: Uber was launched in San Francisco (a well-served taxi market)".

3. Meta evidence → Research quality → Lower health cost
The fantastic Evidence Live conference posted a call for abstracts. Be sure to follow the @EvidenceLive happenings at Oxford University, June 2016. Speakers include luminaries in the movement for better meta research.

4. Mythbusting → Evidence-based HR → People performance
The UK group Science for Work is helping organizations gather evidence for HR mythbusting (@ScienceForWork).

5. Misunderstanding behavior → Misguided mandates → Food label fail
Aaron E. Carroll (@aaronecarroll), the Incidental Economist, explains on NYTimes Upshot why U.S. requirements for menu labeling don't change consumer behavior.

*** Tracy Altman will be speaking on writing about data at the HEOR and Market Access workshop March 17-18 in Philadelphia. ***

Friday, 18 May 2012

Fun-with-Evidence Friday: Limericks about wine swirling and scams about shoe toning.

Happy Fun-with-Evidence Friday. I have two things for you.

First, from the always-delightful Annals of Improbable Research. Scientists are commended for contributing valuable evidence about wine swirling. Poets chose co-winners in the Wine Swirling Limerick Competition, which honored the study 'Oenodynamic': Hydrodynamic of Wine Swirling, by Martino Reclari et al. (Video here.)

Winning limericks came from investigator Patrick McKeon:

In a lab during end of year crunch,
Thought a researcher needing a hunch:
 'This wine I do cherish,
  So (publish or perish!)
I'll send in a film of my lunch.'

And from limerick laureate Matrin Eiger:

They use several metrics to show
The circular motion and flow
  Of wine as it swirls,
  As it whirls and it twirls,
Although why, I am too drunk to know.

Shame on you, Joe Montana. And of course, there's the settlement of charges against Skechers for false claims about their so-called toning shoes. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced the Skechers shoe company will pay $40 million for deceiving consumers with cherry-picked evidence (provided by celebrity spokespeople). Among other things, the FTC alleged unsupported claims that Shape-ups would provide more weight loss, and more muscle toning and strengthening than regular fitness shoes.

Gotta love their can-do attitude, though: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Skechers CFO David Weinberg denied the allegations, saying the company only settled to avoid a lengthy legal battle. "While we believe we could have prevailed in each of these cases, to do so would have imposed an unreasonable burden on the company, regardless of the outcome."

Oops. As The Consumerist points out, one chiropractor who testified in support of the shoes said "After performing a six week clinical trial testing the benefits of SKECHERS Shape-ups, I am confident in recommending them to patients to increase their low back endurance and improve gluteal strength. Patients also benefited from weight loss and improved body composition.” But turns out he is married to a Skechers marketing exec.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Evidence shows your kids will like vegetables if you put Shrek's face on them. (And you might, too.)

There's new evidence that Licensed Characters on Food Packaging Affect Kids’ Taste Preferences, Snack Selections. "Children significantly prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters, finds a new study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. The study, published in Pediatrics, shows a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences."

Shrek Forever After - Vidalias Forever Sweet - Wall Street Journal Okay. But here's where i disagree with the researchers: They say "Rather than advocating the use of licensed characters in the marketing of healthy foods, these findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods...."

There's real-world evidence that cartoons can sell healthy stuff. The most recent Shrek movie has made people a bit crazy for the onions. Even the Wall Street JournalABC News, and Entertainment Weekly have noticed. Vidalia onion sales have been boosted by a Shrek-related marketing campaign (sounds like something dreamed up by my idol, Alton Brown). The Wall Street Journal says "The campaign, 'Shrek Forever After, Vidalias Forever Sweet,' was unveiled this spring in conjunction with the release of the flick and the start of the Vidalia season, which stretches to September. The onion association's partnership... uses the movie's characters on packaging, store displays and on a website. Through June 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, farmers had shipped eight million more pounds of Vidalias than by the same date last year—though the 2010 season started two weeks later than in 2009."

I yam what I yam. This approach works for other vegetables - according to the ABC story, spinach sales rose 30% when Popeye started downing the stuff by the canful. So why shouldn't we use cartoon characters to sell good foods, rather than scold people for wanting bad stuff? Seems to me this is the better way to change behavior.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Love Jamie Lee Curtis? Me, too. But the evidence is still fuzzy for probiotics & prebiotics.

If you've ever suffered a severe reaction to antibiotics and lost all your gut flora (I have), you'd probably try most anything to make sure it never happens again. (Not fun.) So-called probiotic products - sold as pills, powders, liquids, and foods - are targeted at people who want to improve their digestion for a variety of reasons, including side-effects of antibiotics.

Jamie Lee Curtis for ActiviaBut do these things work? The evidence is fuzzy. Under normal circumstances, a person's diet should provide the bacteria they need. And they can get more with fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and miso. The LA Times health column has a nice writeup about the evidence, for a general audience: Be skeptical of claims about probiotics and prebiotics. Proof of the efficacy of how the bacteria aid digestive health is often sketchy.

Amber Dance explains that "You carry around 3 to 5 pounds of bacteria in your colon and small intestine, and most, but not all, of these intestinal denizens are helpful. Foods and supplements designed to support the good guys come in two main categories: Probiotics (foods containing live bacteria of the beneficial variety) and prebiotics (containing foods those bacteria like to eat)." There are a handful of studies showing some digestive improvement after probiotic consumption, but the evidence is far from overwhelming. Dance repeats warnings from experts: "The bacteria that have inhabited a person's gut for decades will not easily give up their place to newcomers." And although prebiotics seem logical, there's not much scientific data on them yet.

Overly enthusiastic? Food manufacturers have marketed several probiotic yogurts and other products. But claims about efficacy fall into a gray area, and the U.S. FDA doesn't regulate probiotics. Earlier this year, Dannon agreed to settle charges of false advertising related to its Activia® yogurt (see DannonSettlement.com).

P.S. Just realized I wrote two posts today about guts. The other one is about Dilbert's examination of relying on your gut to make decisions.