Sunday, June 3, 2012

Using Statistics

Hans Rosling is professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute. He began his career as a physician, spending many years in Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Medecins sans Frontiers (Sweden), and has written a respected textbook (Global Health: An Introductory Textbook, Studentlitteratur AB, Sweden, 2006).

His work is grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), and he has developed interesting and innovative methods of displaying his data through which he is able to appeal even to the most hardened statistic-phobes. He is able to clearly show the importance of collecting and understanding real data (in the mathematical sense) in order to understand the current situation and properly plan for the future.

Much of his current work focuses on the developing world, which he shows is no longer worlds away from the west. In this TED talk he shows that the First and Third Worlds are on the same trajectory toward health, prosperity and longer life, and many countries are moving towards this goal twice as quickly as the west once did. He feels the obstacles to true understanding of the situation are merely problems of perception and our preconceived ideas.

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