Public lecture on risk factor estimation for NCDs held

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health, UP Manila

U.P. MANILA –The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the College of Public Health (CPH), University of the Philippines Manila, held a public lecture last 29 November 2018 entitled "Non-communicable Risk Factor Estimation and Projections: A WHO Global Tobacco Use Bayesian Analysis," at the College of Public Health Auditorium, UP Manila campus, Pedro Gil St., Manila. The lecture was given by Dr. Ver Bilano, junior research fellow at the Imperial College London and newly-appointed visiting faculty of the Department.

Kicking off the event was an opening message from CPH College Secretary Dr Vivian Fe Fadrilan-Camacho, representing Dean Romeo Quizon. She emphasized the increasing global burden of non-communicable disease and indicated that this lecture was a step towards greater understanding of its threat to public health.

Following her statement was a message from the office of UP Manila Chancellor, delivered by Dr Armando Crisostomo, Vice Chancellor for Research. He highlighted the importance of strengthening research initiatives within the University, and hoped that the public lecture would inspire young researchers to follow the footsteps of Dr Bilano, a young alumna who was able to participate in global research collaborations.

Dr Ma. Carmen Tolabing, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, introduced Dr. Ver Bilano to the audience by reading her accomplishments: graduating from the UP Manila with BS Pharmacy (magna cum laude) and MS Public Health (Biostatistics) degrees, finishing a PhD at the University of Tokyo under the Monbukagakusho Scholarship, publishing in high-impact journals, and influencing global health policies on risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

Dr Bilano then gave her lecture on her risk factor estimation and projection approach, which she summed up as an effort to describe recent trends and make projection for specific tobacco use indicators, and estimate probabilities for tobacco use reduction. She used analytic country groupings in making her estimates, which are influenced by contextual factors that affect tobacco use within countries.

Moreover, she reported that her estimates were done through Bayesian modeling -- building up insights from observed data with those from previous data and other well-fitting probability distributions. She also described the use of open source data science software in computing her estimates, such as Python and Dismod MR. Finally, she also made use of models such as Markov chains and Monte Carlo transformations, which provided estimates based on the probable number of people affected by tobacco based on probability and density functions.

After the lecture, Dr Herdie Hizon, representing the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau, served as reactor, during which he said that the methods described by Dr Bilano were not those he is used to, instead citing a frequentist approach that is typical of health surveys. As a practicing epidemiologist for communicable diseases, he also shared a realization that Dr Bilano's methods may be useful in his line of work, and hoped that more units within the Department of Health would be open to collaborations.

Capping the lecture was an open forum, moderated by assistant professor Dr. Amiel Bermudez, which elicited questions regarding the applicability of the method in the health information systems currently available in the country, and how the approach may also help improve data gathering and analysis, especially in cases where there are insufficient data.

In his closing message, Dr Jaifred Christian F Lopez, chair of the public lecture committee of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, underlined the purpose of the approach: as a way to help policymakers better understand the health problems being faced by the world, through reliable data, grounded context, and improved collaboration.