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Imprecise Prior for Imprecise Inference on Poisson Sampling Model



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Prevalence is a valuable epidemiological measure about the burden of disease in a community for planning health services; however, true prevalence is typically underestimated and there exists no reliable method of confirming the estimate of this prevalence in question. This thesis studies imprecise priors for the development of a statistical reasoning framework regarding this epidemiological decision making problem. The concept of imprecise probabilities introduced by Walley (1991) is adopted for the construction of this inferential framework in order to model prior ignorance and quantify the degree of imprecision associated with the inferential process. The study is restricted to the standard and zero-truncated Poisson sampling models that give an exponential family with a canonical log-link function because of the mechanism involved with the estimation of population size. A three-parameter exponential family of posteriors which includes the normal and log-gamma as limiting cases is introduced by applying normal priors on the canonical parameter of the Poisson sampling models. The canonical parameters simplify dealing with families of priors as Bayesian updating corresponds to a translation of the family in the canonical hyperparameter space. The canonical link function creates a linear relationship between regression coefficients of explanatory variables and the canonical parameters of the sampling distribution. Thus, normal priors on the regression coefficients induce normal priors on the canonical parameters leading to a higher-dimensional exponential family of posteriors whose limiting cases are again normal or log-gamma. All of these implementations are synthesized to build the ipeglim package (Lee, 2013) that provides a convenient method for characterizing imprecise probabilities and visualizing their translation, soft-linearity, and focusing behaviours. A characterization strategy for imprecise priors is introduced for instances when there exists a state of complete ignorance. The learning process of an individual intentional unit, the agreement process between several intentional units, and situations concerning prior-data conflict are graphically illustrated. Finally, the methodology is applied for re-analyzing the data collected from the epidemiological disease surveillance of three specific cases – Cholera epidemic (Dahiya, 1973), Down’s syndrome (Zelterman, 1988), and the female users of methamphetamine and heroin (B ̈ ohning, 2009).



imprecise probabilities, zero-truncated Poisson regression



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


School of Public Health




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