Heather Whitaker

Senior Lecturer

Self-controlled case series method

Since October 2003 I have been working on the self-controlled case series method. This method can be used to study the association between a transient exposure and an acute adverse event using only data on cases. It is becoming more used widely used, particularly in studies of vaccine safety. To find out more about the self-controlled case series method, visit our self-controlled case series method website.

Selected papers:

  • Whitaker H.J., Farrington C.P., Spiessens B. and Musonda P. Tutorial in biostatistics: the self-controlled case series method. Statistics in Medicine 2006, 25(10): 1768-1797.
  • Farrington C.P. and Whitaker H.J. Semi-parametric analysis of case series data (with discussion). Applied Statistics 2006, 55(5): 553-594.
  • Whitaker HJ. The self-controlled case series method: A way to study the relation between antipsychotics and stroke (Editorial). British Medical Journal, 2008, 337(7670): 586-587.
  • Farrington CP, Whitaker HJ and Hocine MN. Case series analysis for censored, perturbed or curtailed post-event exposures. Biostatistics, 2009, 10(1): 3-16.
  • Farrington CP, Anaya K, Whitaker HJ, Hocine MN, Douglas I, Smeeth L. Self-Controlled Case Series Analysis with Event-Dependent Observation Periods. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 2011, 106(494): 417–426.
  • Weldeselassie YG, Whitaker HJ, Farrington CP. Self-Controlled Case Series Method with Smooth Age Effect. Statistics in Medicine, 2014, 33(4): 639-649.

Infectious disease epidemiology

I first came to the Open University in 2001 to work with Paddy Farrington on estimating key parameters for infectious diseases from serological survey data (antibodies in blood samples). Since then I have also worked with contact survey data. I am currently working on a project looking at frailty models.
Selected papers:

  • Farrington C.P. and Whitaker H.J. Estimation of effective reproduction numbers for infectious diseases using serological survey data. Biostatistics 2003, 4(4): 621-632.
  • Whitaker H.J. and Farrington C.P. Estimation of infectious disease parameters from serological survey data: the impact of regular epidemics. Statistics in Medicine 2004, 23(15): 2429-2443.
  • Whitaker H.J. and Farrington C.P. Infections with varying contact rates: application to varicella. Biometrics 2004, 60(3): 615-623.
  • Farrington C.P. and Whitaker H.J. Contact surface models for infectious diseases: estimation from serologic survey data. Journal of the American Statistical Association 2005, 100(470): 370-379.
  • Farrington CP, Whitaker HJ, Unkel S, Pebody R. Correlated infections: quantifying individual heterogeneity in the spread of infectious diseases. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2013, 177(5): 474-86.

Environmental epidemiology

I completed my PhD supervised by Nicky Best and Mark Nieuwenhuijsen at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Imperial College London in 2002. The PhD was on the assessment of exposure to by-products of the disinfection process in drinking water for an epidemiological study on the association between chlorination by-products in drinking water and adverse birth effects. I also spent a little time looking at the applying self-controlled case series methods to studies of health effects and environmental pollutants, but concluded it was unsuitable.

Selected papers:

  • Whitaker H., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J. and Best N. The relationship between water concentrations and individual uptake of chloroform: a simulation study. Environmental Health Perspectives 2003, 111(5): 688-694. view article
  • Whitaker H., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J., Best N., Fawell J., Gowers A. and Elliott P. Description of trihalomethane levels in three UK water suppliers. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 2003, 13(1): 17-23. view article
  • Toledano M.B., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J., Best N., Whitaker H., Hambley P., DeHoogh C., Fawell J., Jarup L. and Elliott P. Relation of trihalomethane concentrations in public water supplies to stillbirth and birth weight in three water regions in England. Environmental Health Perspectives 2005, 113(2): 255-232. view article
  • Whitaker H., Best N., Nieuwenhuijsen M.J., Wakefield J., Fawell J. and Elliott P. Modelling exposure to disinfection by–products in drinking water for an epidemiological study of adverse birth outcomes. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 2005, 15(2): 138-146.
  • Whitaker H.J., Hocine M. and Farrington C.P. On case-crossover methods for environmental time series data. Environmetrics 2006, 18: 157-171.

After several years working as a research fellow, I became a lecturer in October 2006. For modules in presentation, I have chaired M346 and been a member of the team for M249 and M140. I have worked on the production on M140, producing all the ICMAs and practice quizzes, authoring Unit 11 on Licencing drugs, and producing screencasts. I also produced the screencasts for M248 and M347. 

Associated with:


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