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How do you judge the risks and benefits of new medical treatments, or of lifestyle choices? With a finite health care budget, how do you decide which treatments should be made freely available on the NHS? Historically, decisions like these have been made on the basis of doctors' individual experiences with how these treatments perform, but over recent decades the approach to answering these questions has become increasingly rational. Statistics and maths are used not just to test new treatments, but also to measure such fuzzy terms as quality of life, and to figure out which treatments provide most "health for money".
While the decisions of health authorities affect all our lives, the underlying calculations are rarely discussed in the media. The articles listed below, together with the podcasts, explore how these difficult decisions are made, and point to some of the pitfalls. If you're a teacher, you might want to explore the role of maths in evidence-based medicine using our classroom activity, which accompanies the articles. And if you're a student thinking about your future career, have a look at our career interview with a medical statistician.