A dose of science disguised as news

Despite a question about smoking added to the state’s death certificate form in 2007, it’s wildly unclear just how many deaths can be attributed to smoking — or any disease — because of error in determining cause of death. Photo by Bill Lackey, used courtesy of the Springfield News-Sun.

I was told to find out how people are dying in Clark County, and whether it’s any different here than in the rest of the state or country. In particular, Springfield was once thought of as a “smoking town.” An even bigger, better question is “are we doing things to cause our own deaths more than nature is killing us?”

Unfortunately, the only solid answer the current data can give us is that Springfield doesn’t smoke any more than the rest of the state does. How people die is a HUGE mystery — not just here, but all across the country.

Here’s my story on the error rate of cause-of-death reporting, a factor that affects a lot more than the families of the dead: health and science funding often hinges on the biggest “problem spots,” but if we don’t know where they are, we’re blindly throwing money at stuff.

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