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Making sense of data
  1. J Damián
  1. National Centre for Epidemiology and National School of Public Health, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid

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    J H Abramson, Z H Abramson. Oxford University Press, 2001. (Pp 384; £50.00 (hardback), £29.50 (paperback). ISBN (hardback) 0-19-514524-0; (paperback): 0-19-514525-9

    This is a book for learning epidemiology. It is oriented to understand what data tell us (and what data do not tell us). It seems that the authors’ intentions are directed to change the way of thinking, in order to adequately comprehend scientific approaches to public health issues and to develop a critical mind. This is especially important in the first steps taken in this field because basic concepts are easy but minds are not naturally qualified for appraising certain types of (abstract) problems. But for this training a personal effort is unavoidable and authors make it explicit by emphasising that it is a workbook. But the investment is worthwhile.

    The book is structured in sections containing short exercises, comments on previous questions, and explanatory text. Each section ends with a self test. The seven sections are adequately ordered (this is not trivial) and cover all the relevant issues of most textbooks of epidemiology. The book goes beyond the introductory level; it includes stratification and concepts on the interpretation of multivariate methods most commonly used in epidemiological studies, like logistic regression and proportional hazards models. One section deals with meta-analysis and the last one covers important and complex aspects related to what to do with the findings of epidemiological studies, with published data, information from the media, etc, before a decision is to be made.

    Making sense of data is an excellent book. It is perfect for those determined to learn epidemiology and also for those determined to teach epidemiology and are comfortable with the proposed orientation. I would like to underline the authors’ suggestion that working in collaboration with others will be helpful in some cases. Although it is not practical as a textbook (authors recognise this) because of its structure, there is no doubt that thoughtful, sound concepts and methods are in there.