Saving statistical lives: contributions of statistics to public health

Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jul;19(1 Suppl):47-9. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(00)00175-6.


Prevention is about saving "statistical lives"-lives that society knows about only through the efforts of public health statisticians like Jack Smith. As Mr. Smith's lifework suggests, statistics in public health are critical for calling attention to problems, identifying risk factors, and suggesting solutions, and ultimately for taking credit for our successes. His work illustrates two important lessons about public health statistics today.First, it's important to get the facts straight. Mr. Smith's experience shows that a careful, thoughtful analysis is not only more convincing in the end, but also brings to light important subtleties not seen in the initial analysis. Second, it takes considerable time and attention to get the facts straight. Jack Smith's work illustrates the importance of partnerships with other federal agencies, state statistical organizations, and private-sector entities.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Biometry / history*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Public Health / history*
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • J C Smith