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I work every day to improve my ability to communicate statistical ideas to policy makers and other generally non-technical people. In my experience, a proportion like the one you are suggesting above is not as clearly understandable to many people as X deaths per day. And that changing the unit of measurement from days to years makes it more relatable to the average funder or policy maker. I am confused why you think the proportion is much more telling. Could you elaborate? I would like to learn. Thanks.


I agree with Heather. In my own work with seeking funding or volunteer support, I have found the single, annualized statistic to be much more persuasive than comparative statistics (X kids in the age-bracket of 0-5 getting polio every year). Even though the figure is the same, I think it dilutes the focus by allowing the listener's mind to think that because they haven't been given the "whole" picture (and the inverted commas are sarcastic, mind you), maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't so bad. Gives them a reason to think a little less of the statistic.


Let me explain this in a different way. If I'm told 10,000 people per day die of disease A, this statistic has no meaning to me unless I have a reference point. This reference point might be that 8,000 die per day from disease B, which is comparable in some way to disease A. But what this pair of death rates tell me is really that disease A causes 25% more deaths than disease B. The per-day part of the statistic cancels out and doesn't matter a bit.

A different reference point is the total number of deaths per day among the population being referenced. If 15,000 people die per day, then disease A is a killer disease. If 150,000 people die per day, it is probably not an important cause of death. Again, the per-day part of the statistic adds nothing to the conversation.

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