Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen


Hans Rosling is a medical doctor and statistician. He is co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system.


Hans taught ‘Global Development’ to Swedish undergraduates, finding they had preconceived ideas about statistics of Child Mortality after failing to predict which of 2 countries had worse child mortality. He talked through some common myths about the third world

  1. Developed world has long lives with small families, while developing world is the opposite: Hand showed this was true in 1962, but since then (until 2003) most countries have moved towards a trend of smaller families and increasing life expectancy. The African countries were one area lagging in life expectancy, due to a HIV epidemic in the 90s.
  2. Income distribution: there is no ‘gap’ between rich and poor (in that people earn incomes at all possible rates from $1 to $100 per day). The riches 20% take 74% of income, while the poorest 20% have 2%, and the middle 60% have 26% of money. There is some overlap in income rates between OECD and Africa (in that some Africans earn more than some OECD).
  3. Child mortality vs GDP: there is a clear linear trend between Child survival and GDP.
  • However within regions such as sub-Sahara Africa, there is tremendous variation – with Mauritius having OECD level high GDP and child health, but Sierra Leonne being much lower than average. He credits Mauritius’ success with breaking down trade barriers.
  • Taking China as an example, Hans showed Mao Ze-Dong’s period as bringing health to China (with decreased child mortality on one axis), and the Deng Xiao-Ping bringing money to China (moving across the GDP per capita axis).
  • UAE is an example of a country that started with high GDP but poor child mortality. Over time it has improved, but it is evidence that money alone is not enough to guarantee health, you need time to train doctors and build infrastructure.
  • Within countries, there is tremendous variation in income – eg over 3 countries in Africa there is the full spectrum of income levels. This makes it deceptive to talk of health issues in ‘Africa’, since the management strategies for the richest would be very different to those of the poorest.

These data will increase everyone’s understanding of the world, but is hidden away with separate organisations, making is difficult to access. Hans linked up some of the key databases using ‘GapMinder’ organisation. Gapminder has provided animation, search functions and design features to make it accessible and usable for all.


The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans: Daniel Amen


Daniel Gregory Amen is an American psychiatrist, a brain disorder specialist, director of the Amen Clinics, and a New York Times bestselling author.


Dr. Daniel Amen speaks about the intersection of medical imaging and psychiatry. He and his colleagues have been using brain SPECT imaging: A tool used to help psychiatrists understand more about imaging. For the past 22 years they’ve built the largest database of brain scans related to behavior. Shockingly, psychiatrists are the only medical specialists that don’t look at the organ they treat. Consider head trauma, which can have the symptoms like insomnia and temper problems, but show different brain activity. These patients often get misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated. Basing treatment on clusters of symptoms instead of individual brains is simply dangerous.

When Daniel scanned the brains of over 500 convicted felons, he discovered that people who do bad things, often have troubled brains. But more surprisingly, he learned that these brains can be rehabilitated. What would happen if we treated these brains instead of warehousing them in a toxic environment? Instead of just crime and punishment, we should be thinking about crime, evaluation, and treatment.

The most important Daniel has learned is that you can literally change people’s brains and when you do, you change their lives. On a study on NFL players, players showing poor brain function were put on a Brain Smart program. After the program 80% of the players improved their memory, mood, and blood flow. It is possible to reverse brain damage. He mentions several other studies including Andrew, a 9 year old boy, who was extremely violent and would draw pictures of himself shooting other kids. He was a tragedy waiting to happen, but instead of blindly medicating him Daniel used brain scans to identify a golf ball sized cyst in his brain. After the cyst was removed, all of his behavioral problems went away. Daniel reveals that Andrew is his own nephew and ends his talk with a picture of Andrew at 18 years.