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Adjusting for spatial variation when assessing individual-level risk: A case-study in the epidemiology of snake-bite in Sri Lanka

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Ali, Mohammad, Ediriweera, Dileepa Senajith, Kasthuriratne, Anuradhani, Pathmeswaran, Arunasalam, Gunawardene, Nipul Kithsiri, Jayamanne, Shaluka Francis, Murray, Kris, Iwamura, Takuya, Lalloo, David ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7680-2200, de Silva, Hithanadura Janaka and Diggle, Peter John (2019) 'Adjusting for spatial variation when assessing individual-level risk: A case-study in the epidemiology of snake-bite in Sri Lanka'. PLoS ONE, Vol 14, Issue 10, e0223021.

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Abstract

Background
Health outcomes and causality are usually assessed with individual level sociodemographic variables. Studies that consider only individual-level variables can suffer from residual confounding. This can result in individual variables that are unrelated to risk behaving as proxies for uncaptured information. There is a scarcity of literature on risk factors for snakebite. In this study, we evaluate the individual-level risk factors of snakebite in Sri Lanka and highlight the impact of spatial confounding on determining the individual-level risk effects.

Methods
Data was obtained from the National Snakebite Survey of Sri Lanka. This was an Island-wide community-based survey. The survey sampled 165,665 individuals from all 25 districts of the country. We used generalized linear models to identify individual-level factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of experiencing a snakebite event. We fitted separate models to assess risk factors with and without considering spatial variation in snakebite incidence in the country.

Results
Both spatially adjusted and non-adjusted models revealed that middle-aged people, males, field workers and individuals with low level of education have high risk of snakebites. The model without spatial adjustment showed an interaction between ethnicity and income levels. When the model included a spatial adjustment for the overall snakebite incidence, this interaction disappeared and income level appeared as an independent risk factor. Both models showed similar effect sizes for gender and age. HEmployment and education showed lower effect sizes in the spatially adjusted model.

Conclusions
Both individual-level characteristics and local snakebite incidence are important to determine snakebite risk at a given location. Individual level variables could act as proxies for underling residual spatial variation when environmental information is not considered. This can lead to misinterpretation of risk factors and biased estimates of effect sizes. Both individual-level and environmental variables are important in assessing causality in epidemiological studies.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
WA Public Health > Statistics. Surveys > WA 900 Public health statistics
WA Public Health > Statistics. Surveys > WA 950 Theory or methods of medical statistics. Epidemiologic methods
WD Disorders of Systemic, Metabolic or Environmental Origin, etc > Animal Poisons > WD 400 General works
WD Disorders of Systemic, Metabolic or Environmental Origin, etc > Animal Poisons > WD 410 Reptiles
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223021
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2019 14:58
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2019 14:58
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/12707

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