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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Comparison of Bayesian and frequentist approaches in modelling risk of preterm birth near the Sydney Tar Ponds, Nova Scotia, Canada

Afisi S Ismaila1, Angelo Canty12 and Lehana Thabane13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, L8N 3Z5, Canada

2 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, L8S 4K1, Canada

3 Centre for Evaluation of Medicines, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, 50 Charlton Avenue East, Room H325, Hamilton, ON L8N 4A6, Canada

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2007, 7:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-7-39

Published: 10 September 2007



This study compares the Bayesian and frequentist (non-Bayesian) approaches in the modelling of the association between the risk of preterm birth and maternal proximity to hazardous waste and pollution from the Sydney Tar Pond site in Nova Scotia, Canada.


The data includes 1604 observed cases of preterm birth out of a total population of 17559 at risk of preterm birth from 144 enumeration districts in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Other covariates include the distance from the Tar Pond; the rate of unemployment to population; the proportion of persons who are separated, divorced or widowed; the proportion of persons who have no high school diploma; the proportion of persons living alone; the proportion of single parent families and average income. Bayesian hierarchical Poisson regression, quasi-likelihood Poisson regression and weighted linear regression models were fitted to the data.


The results of the analyses were compared together with their limitations.


The results of the weighted linear regression and the quasi-likelihood Poisson regression agrees with the result from the Bayesian hierarchical modelling which incorporates the spatial effects.