Holding our breath for this diabetes risk

A recent study exemplifies the leverage that can be obtained from mining existing, public data sets to further our national healthcare agenda. As described by the NY Times, our colleague John Brownstein obtained data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and found a consistent relationship between the amount of air pollution (particulate matter in the air) and population risk for diabetes (after correcting for the usual suspects such as income and ethnicity). This and other large-scale populations studies such as the one we recently reported by Atul Butte suggest that we might be insufficiently including the larger environment in our study of the diabetic plague that has afflicted us.

It also suggests that we have insufficiently taken advantage of freely available public data to pursue relevant and timely medical research.