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Social epidemiology, intra-neighbourhood correlation, and generalised estimating equations
  1. K R Petronis1,
  2. J C Anthony2
  1. 1US DHHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  2. 2The John Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K R Petronis, US DHHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, 16-105 Rockville, MD, 20857, USA;

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The recent editorial by Merlo1 offers an interesting critique of the generalised estimating equations (GEE) analysis of a paper published in the same issue of the journal. In the editorial, the author notes that the paper’s GEE analysis treats “the intra-neighbourhood correlation as a ‘nuisance’ that needs to be adjusted in the analysis but not explicity investigated” (page 550).

The editorial then becomes a call for an alternative, more innovative approach in social epidemiology: “Estimation of the extent to which individuals within a given neighbourhood are correlated with one another in relation to health (that is, the concept of intra-neighbourhood correlation) has value in the context of ideas about the efficacy of focusing intervention on places instead of people” (page 551 …

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