“Dead Souls” of Russian Statistics

Manipulate statistics to show progress in the fight for public health? Easily! Health officials know how to do things to achieve the planned and monitored goals of programs to improve the health of Russia’s residents.

An eloquent example of manipulation with statistics is given in the article by RBC. This is exactly the case when the data is “pulled” so carelessly that it looks like an ordinary deception.

What does the analytics show?

As RBC writes in its publication, the government found cases of “incorrect coding” of the causes of death. Under such a lengthy formulation, there is, in fact, an impure game with statistical data. Regional officials of the Ministry of Health change one cause of death for another to show a picture that is consistent with the objectives of the target program. The source notes that over the past 10 years, according to the statistics of the causes of death, people have begun to die more often from nervous, endocrine and other diseases, but mortality from vascular and oncological diseases has sharply decreased.

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The dynamics of the causes of death began to change dramatically during the years of the state program – from 2008 to 2012. One of the goals of the program was to reduce mortality from cardiovascular diseases. And yes, heart deaths have dropped, at least on paper. And in order to compensate for the “failure” and reach the required indicators, mortality rates from old age increased (up to 5.25%), as well as mortality from diseases of the nervous system (up to 6.6%) and from other diseases (+ 4.3%) …

Thus, the program is already considered successful, because the money has been allocated and used, statistical indicators indicate the achievement of the set goals, which means that you can repeat the successful experience. And now, there is already another program, the goal of which is to reduce mortality from cardiovascular diseases by 24, and from cancer by 8% by 2024. We are waiting for a new surge in mortality from old age. And then it will be possible, using the “successful” scheme, to reduce mortality from the sharply more frequent endocrine diseases.

What should be understood by such analytics

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It is sad that the presented data is not the result of real changes in the health care system and not an improvement in the health of the population, but the result of the work of the so-called “administrative resource”. And when doctors’ salaries are contingent on meeting targets, they use “unfamiliar” coding in their cause of death reports instead of adequate conclusions.

Statistics, like experience, are never negative.

This situation tells us once again – statistics must be impartial! It should represent actual results, and not serve the achievement of targets in any way.

About the Author

Alexander Gruzdev is an extraordinarily experienced consultant in business analytics. Since he was 14, Mr. Gruzdev was working in the market research industry and started several businesses including gambling organizations, retail shops, and real estate.

Since his first entrepreneurial endeavors began, he never quit market research – in fact, during the last 15 years Mr. Gruzdev held the positions of general manager and shareholder in this segment. His experience in global market intelligence spans over 20 countries including Europe, Russia, Asia, and the MENA region, for more than 100 different customers.