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Latent Conditional Individual-Level Models and Related Topics in Infectious Disease Modeling

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Title: Latent Conditional Individual-Level Models and Related Topics in Infectious Disease Modeling
Author: Deeth, Lorna E.
Department: Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Program: Mathematics and Statistics
Advisor: Deardon, Rob
Abstract: Individual-level models are a class of complex statistical models, often fitted within a Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo framework, that have been effectively used to model the spread of infectious diseases. The ability of these models to incorporate individual-level covariate information allows them to be highly flexible, and to account for such characteristics as population heterogeneity. However, these models can be subject to inherent uncertainties often found in infectious disease data. As well, their complex nature can lead to a significant computational expense when fitting these models to epidemic data, particularly for large populations. An individual-level model that incorporates a latent grouping structure into the modeling procedure, based on some heterogeneous population characteristics, is investigated. The dependence of this latent conditional individual-level model on a discrete latent grouping variable alleviates the need for explicit, although possibly unreliable, covariate information. A simulation study is used to assess the posterior predictive ability of this model, in comparison to individual-level models that utilize the full covariate information, or that assume population homogeneity. These models are also applied to data from the 2001 UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic. When attempting to compare complex models fitted within the Bayesian framework, the identification of appropriate model selection tools would be beneficial. The use of deviance information criterion (DIC) as model comparison tool, particularly for the latent conditional individual-level models, is investigated. A simulation study is used to compare five variants of the DIC, and the ability of each DIC variant to select the true model is determined. Finally, an investigation into methods to reduce the computational burden associated with individual-level models is carried out, based on an individual-level model that also incorporates population heterogeneity through a discrete grouping variable. A simulation study is used to determine the effect of reducing the overall population size by aggregating the data into spatial clusters. Reparameterized individual-level models, accounting for the aggregation effect, are fitted to the aggregated data. The effect of data aggregation on the ability of two reparameterized individual-level models to identify a covariate effect, as well as on the computational expense of the model fitting procedure, is explored.
Date: 2012-10

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