In public health management there is a need to produce subnational estimates of health outcomes. Often, however, funds are not available to collect samples large enough to produce traditional survey sample estimates for each subnational area. Although parametric hierarchical methods have been successfully used to derive estimates from small samples, there is a concern that the geographic diversity of the U.S. population may be oversimplified in these models. In this paper, a semi-parametric model is used to describe the geographic variability component of the model. Specifically, we assume Dirichlet process mixtures of normals for county-specific random effects. Results are compared to a parametric model based on the base measure of the Dirichlet process, using binary health outcomes related to mammogram usage.
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/074921708000000165