Public health application of predictive modeling: an example from farm vehicle crashes
The goal of predictive modelling is to identify the likelihood of future events, such as the predictive modelling used in climate science to forecast weather patterns and significant weather occurrences. In public health, increasingly sophisticated predictive models are used to predict health events in patients and to screen high risk individuals, such as for cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. Although causal modelling is frequently used in epidemiology to identify risk factors, predictive modelling provides highly useful information for individual risk prediction and for informing courses of treatment. Such predictive knowledge is often of great utility to physicians, counsellors, health education specialists, policymakers or other professionals, who may then advice course correction or interventions to prevent adverse health outcomes from occurring. In this manuscript, we use an example dataset that documents farm vehicle crashes and conventional statistical methods to forecast the risk of an injury or death in a farm vehicle crash for a specific individual or a scenario.
Using data from 7094 farm crashes that occurred between 2005 and 2010 in nine mid-western states, we demonstrate and discuss predictive model fitting approaches, model validation techniques using external datasets, and the calculation and interpretation of predicted probabilities. We then developed two automated risk prediction tools using readily available software packages. We discuss best practices and common limitations associated with predictive models built from observational datasets.
Predictive analysis offers tools that could aid the decision making of policymakers, physicians, and environmental health practitioners to improve public health.