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Tony Cox


About the topic





Tony is President of Cox Associates, an independent research and consulting company based in Denver, Colorado that specializes in operations research modeling and health risk analysis. Since 1986, Cox Associates scientists and mathematicians have helped dozens of chemical companies, telecommunications companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other private and public sector clients to better understand various types of risks and to make measurably better business and engineering risk management decisions. Cox Associates was recently selected by the Institute of Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) as one of six finalists for the prestigious Edelman Award competition for 2006, recognizing outstanding examples of innovative operations research that improves organizations and often changse people's lives (

Tony is also Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Honorary Full Professor of Mathematics at the University of Colorado at Denver, where he has taught courses in Bayesian computational statistics, causal analysis, and decision analysis.

Tony is the world's first Ph.D. in risk analysis (MIT, 1986). He is a lifetime Fellow of the Society for Risk Analysis, is an Officer of the society, and a member of the Editorial Board of Risk Analysis: An International Journal. He is also Area Editor (for Real-World Applications) for the Journal of Heuristics, which he helped to found in the mid nineties.

Tony is the author of over 100 journal articles and book chapters on risk analysis, artificial intelligence, and operations research theory and applications. (He also holds thirteen patents on applications of these methods in telecommunications.) His most recent books are Risk Analysis: Foundations, Models and Methods (Kluwer, 2001) and Quantitative Health Risk Analysis Methods: Modeling the Human Health Impacts of Antibiotics Used in Food Animals (Springer, 2005.)

About the topic

What is risk analysis, and what difference does (and should) it make in the lives of ordinary citizens? This talk discusses some of the main ideas of modern public health risk analysis, using a current example -- whether the US should ban animal antibiotics used to promote growth and reduce illnesses in food animals such as chickens, cattle, and pigs.

Thirty six years ago, the Joint Committee on the Use of Antibiotics in Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine (the Swann Report) in the United Kingdom warned that uncontrolled use of similar antibiotics in humans and food animals might increase resistant strains of foodborne bacteria that could endanger human health. Since then, many countries have banned use of popular antibiotics in food animals. Despite intense political and activist pressure, other countries, including the United States, have not yet done so, but have instead implemented measures to reduce total bacterial counts in food, rather than focusing exclusively on antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In retrospect, the strategy of banning or restricting animal antibiotic uses appears to have had limited success, being followed in many cases by deteriorating animal health and increases in human illnesses and antibiotic r esistance rates. On the other hand, in the United States, both animals and people appear to have significantly lower bacterial risks now than they had decades ago. Modern risk analysis methods explain and predict this difference in outcomes.

This talk discusses policy and risk analysis issues in the history of animal antibiotic use and the roles of conflicting concepts for risk management, such as "rational" (cause and consequence-driven) risk analysis, concern-driven risk management, and the "Precautionary Principle" as approaches to societal decision-making about uncertain risks. Experience has shown that well-intended policies for promoting public health may often backfire -- an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences -- unless they are informed by realistic cause-and-effect understanding. Risk analysis provides a framework for turning such understanding into wise risk management policy.

Tony's new book is destined to be the bible on risk analysis, especially as it deals with the issue of antibiotics in animal feed as a risk to human health.

Cox LA Jr. Potential human health benefits of antibiotics used in food animals: a case study of virginiamycin. Environ Int. 2005 May;31(4):549-63.

Cox LA Jr, Babayev D, Huber W. Some limitations of qualitative risk rating systems. Risk Anal. 2005 Jun;25(3):651-62.

Cox LA Jr, Ricci PF. Causation in risk assessment and management: models, inference, biases, and a microbial risk-benefit case study. Environ Int. 2005 Apr;31(3):377-97.

Cox LA Jr, Popken DA. Bayesian Monte Carlo uncertainty analysis of human health risks from animal antimicrobial use in a dynamic model of emerging resistance. Risk Anal. 2004 Oct;24(5):1153-64.

Cox LA Jr, Popken DA. Quantifying human health risks from virginiamycin used in chickens. Risk Anal. 2004 Feb;24(1):271-88.


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