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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Horrible Diagram of the Month

Above is a horrible diagram. The purpose of the diagram is to say that we should be able to spend more money researching Lyme, as compared to Zika.

I'm sure you have that one friend who is attuned to a specific disease, which may have stricken a friend or family member. About half of what they post on Facebook is somehow related to that disease. It is fine to draw attention to a cause that you care about, but please don't post graphics like this.

  • On the left, they are showing that a lot more people have Lyme than Zika. The graph loses all credibility here, since the 388 bar appears to be about 10% the size of the 329,000 bar. Of course, neither axis is labeled so your guess is as good as mine.
  • On the right, they are saying that $24 million is spent in research funding on Lyme and $1.9 billion on Zika. No sources are cited. Again the scale is way off. Is that figure per year? Past? Future? What country? Why are dollars being shown on the same axis as people? I find it hard to believe that there is 100 times the funding for Zika as for Lyme. I believe this chart came out right after the government announced that they would be spending $1.9 billion on Zika research. There is likely a lot of money that is spent by the CDC on Lyme and related diseases, that is not specifically earmarked for Lyme.
  • Most importantly - shouldn't the experts decide how to allocate our spending on disease? It does not seem that number of cases is the best way to allocate research. There are a lot more cases of twisted ankles than there are of Cervical Cancer, for example. Although there are not that many Zika cases reported to date, unlike Lyme it can be spread by human contact. So I can see where we might want to do some research up front to prevent an outbreak that could dwarf the number of Lyme cases within just a few years. There is also legitimate debate as to whether Chronic Lyme Disease is even a real medical condition. It is not clear whether the graphic above includes the imaginary Chronic Lyme Disease, or just Lyme Disease (an actual condition).

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