Layman’s abstract for paper on modeling excess deaths after a natural disaster with application to Hurricane Maria

Every few days, we will be publishing layman’s abstracts of new articles from our prestigious portfolio of journals in statistics. The aim is to highlight the latest research to a broader audience in an accessible format.

The article featured today is from Statistics in Medicine and the full article, published in issue 38.23, is available to read online here.

Rivera, R, Rolke, W. Modeling excess deaths after a natural disaster with application to Hurricane Maria. Statistics in Medicine. 2019; 38: 4545– 4554. doi: 10.1002/sim.8314

Estimation of excess deaths due to a natural disaster is an important public health problem. The CDC provides guidelines to fill death certificates to help determine the death toll of such events. But, even when followed by medical examiners, the guidelines can not guarantee a precise calculation of excess deaths. We propose two methods to estimate excess deaths due to an emergency. The first method is simple, permitting excess death estimation with little data through a profile likelihood method. The second method is more flexible, incorporating: temporal variation, explanatory variables, and possible population displacement; while allowing inference on how the emergency’s effect changes with time. The methods are implemented to build confidence intervals estimating Hurricane Maria’s death toll.