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Epidemiology:
doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000005
Methods

An Organizational Schema for Epidemiologic Causal Effects

Gatto, Nicolle M.a,b; Campbell, Ulka B.a,b; Schwartz, Sharona

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Abstract

Epidemiologic textbooks and methodological papers define multiple causal effects. These causal effects can differ substantially; yet, the causal effect of interest is rarely specified in published epidemiologic studies perhaps because their distinctions are underappreciated. Here, we provide an organizational schema that distinguishes causal effects based on six characteristics. We use simple numeric examples to demonstrate the variability across effects and show why specifying the causal effect is necessary for an accurate intervention interpretation even under the simplest scenarios. The objective of our schema was to illuminate the distinguishing characteristics of various causal effects and clarify their interpretation, thus guiding epidemiologists in choosing an appropriate causal effect to estimate.

Copyright © 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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