An Examination of Five Statistical Software Packages for Epidemiology

Article excerpt

REVIEWED SOFTWARE

EPI INFO, Version 6.04 b

Available for download from the Internet (site:www.cdc.gov) or can be purchased with documentation from USD, Inc., 2075-A West Park Place, Stone Mountain, GA 30087; phone 770-469-4098. Released 1997. The software was developed and is supported by the Centers for Disease Control, and is in the public domain. The World Wide Web page is www.cdc.gov/epo/epi/epiinfo.htm.

EPICURE, Version 2.0

Available from Hirosoft International Corporation, 1463 East Republican, Suite 103, Seattle, WA 98112; phone 206328-5301. Released 1996. The World Wide Web page is www.hirosoft.com/hirosoft.

EPILOG PLUS, Version 3.07

Available from Epicenter Software, P.O. Box 90073, Pasadena, CA 91109; phone 626-304-9487. Released 1995. The World Wide Web page is icarus2.hsc.usc.edu/epicenter.

STATA, Version 5.0

Available from STATA Corporation, 702 University Drive East, College Station, TX 77840; phone 409-6964600 or 800-782-8272 (800-STATAPC). Released 1996. The World Wide Web page is www.stata.com.

TRUE EPISTAT, Version 5.3 a

Available from Epistat Services, 2011 Cap Rock Circle, Richardson, TX 75080-3417; phone 972-680-1376 or 800326-1488. Released 1997.

1. INTRODUCTION

As applications of statistics to various research fields have increased, and as the versatility of personal computers has increased, statistical software has become considerably more specialized and sophisticated. Statistical software packages are currently available for diverse areas such as medicine, business and marketing, engineering, and the social sciences, and contain a wide variety of statistical procedures and graphics capabilities.

In recent years, several statistical software packages have been developed for epidemiology and clinical trials. Most of these packages were DOS-based when they were released, and many of them are now available in a Windows version.

This article reviews five recently released statistical packages for DOS, and compares them with respect to several criteria. Because some of these packages remain DOS-based, and because all of them are still available in a DOS version, only DOS versions of the software are examined. Capabilities of available (and forthcoming) Windows versions of these packages are briefly discussed, and are compared to capabilities of the corresponding DOS versions.

2. IMPORTANT CRITERIA OF EPIDEMIOLOGISTS AND BIOSTATISTICIANS

I believe that several criteria are important to virtually all users of any statistical package. Potential users typically inquire about these criteria before purchasing a statistical package. These criteria include smoothness of the installation, simplicity of the interface, ease of use, completeness and statistical quality of the documentation, ease of data entry, completeness and appearance of statistical graphics, accuracy of statistical computations, and ability to add user-defined commands. Each of these items will be examined and then rated for each of the five statistical packages.

I also believe that several criteria pertaining to statistical procedures are of particular interest to epidemiologists and biostatisticians when analyzing and interpreting data obtained from medical, clinical, and public health studies. These criteria include completeness of descriptive measures, creating and updating epidemiological tables with ability to calculate and standardize rates, analysis of multilevel contingency tables, presence of survey sampling procedures, and capability to perform analysis of variance (ANOVA), analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), least-squares regression, repeated measures analysis, logistic regression, survival analysis, Poisson analysis, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis, meta-analysis, non-parametric tests, sample size estimation, and missing value imputation. Each of these items will also be examined and then rated for each of the five statistical packages. …