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1.  The Effectiveness of Community Action in Reducing Risky Alcohol Consumption and Harm: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001617.
In a cluster randomized controlled trial, Anthony Shakeshaft and colleagues measure the effectiveness of a multi-component community-based intervention for reducing alcohol-related harm.
The World Health Organization, governments, and communities agree that community action is likely to reduce risky alcohol consumption and harm. Despite this agreement, there is little rigorous evidence that community action is effective: of the six randomised trials of community action published to date, all were US-based and focused on young people (rather than the whole community), and their outcomes were limited to self-report or alcohol purchase attempts. The objective of this study was to conduct the first non-US randomised controlled trial (RCT) of community action to quantify the effectiveness of this approach in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms measured using both self-report and routinely collected data.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster RCT comprising 20 communities in Australia that had populations of 5,000–20,000, were at least 100 km from an urban centre (population ≥ 100,000), and were not involved in another community alcohol project. Communities were pair-matched, and one member of each pair was randomly allocated to the experimental group. Thirteen interventions were implemented in the experimental communities from 2005 to 2009: community engagement; general practitioner training in alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI); feedback to key stakeholders; media campaign; workplace policies/practices training; school-based intervention; general practitioner feedback on their prescribing of alcohol medications; community pharmacy-based SBI; web-based SBI; Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services support for SBI; Good Sports program for sports clubs; identifying and targeting high-risk weekends; and hospital emergency department–based SBI. Primary outcomes based on routinely collected data were alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions. Routinely collected data for the entire study period (2001–2009) were obtained in 2010. Secondary outcomes based on pre- and post-intervention surveys (n = 2,977 and 2,255, respectively) were the following: long-term risky drinking, short-term high-risk drinking, short-term risky drinking, weekly consumption, hazardous/harmful alcohol use, and experience of alcohol harm. At the 5% level of statistical significance, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the interventions were effective in the experimental, relative to control, communities for alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions, and for rates of risky alcohol consumption and hazardous/harmful alcohol use. Although respondents in the experimental communities reported statistically significantly lower average weekly consumption (1.90 fewer standard drinks per week, 95% CI = −3.37 to −0.43, p = 0.01) and less alcohol-related verbal abuse (odds ratio = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.35 to 0.96, p = 0.04) post-intervention, the low survey response rates (40% and 24% for the pre- and post-intervention surveys, respectively) require conservative interpretation. The main limitations of this study are as follows: (1) that the study may have been under-powered to detect differences in routinely collected data outcomes as statistically significant, and (2) the low survey response rates.
This RCT provides little evidence that community action significantly reduces risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms, other than potential reductions in self-reported average weekly consumption and experience of alcohol-related verbal abuse. Complementary legislative action may be required to more effectively reduce alcohol harms.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12607000123448
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
People have consumed alcoholic beverages throughout history, but alcohol use is now an increasing global public health problem. According to the World Health Organization's 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, alcohol use is the fifth leading risk factor (after high blood pressure and smoking) for disease and is responsible for 3.9% of the global disease burden. Alcohol use contributes to heart disease, liver disease, depression, some cancers, and many other health conditions. Alcohol also affects the well-being and health of people around those who drink, through alcohol-related crimes and road traffic crashes. The impact of alcohol use on disease and injury depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking. Most guidelines define long-term risky drinking as more than four drinks per day on average for men or more than two drinks per day for women (a “drink” is, roughly speaking, a can of beer or a small glass of wine), and short-term risky drinking (also called binge drinking) as seven or more drinks on a single occasion for men or five or more drinks on a single occasion for women. However, recent changes to the Australian guidelines acknowledge that a lower level of alcohol consumption is considered risky (with lifetime risky drinking defined as more than two drinks a day and binge drinking defined as more than four drinks on one occasion).
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. This strategy emphasizes the importance of community action–a process in which a community defines its own needs and determines the actions that are required to meet these needs. Although community action is highly acceptable to community members, few studies have looked at the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. Here, the researchers undertake a cluster randomized controlled trial (the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities [AARC] project) to quantify the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms in rural communities in Australia. A cluster randomized trial compares outcomes in clusters of people (here, communities) who receive alternative interventions assigned through the play of chance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pair-matched 20 rural Australian communities according to the proportion of their population that was Aboriginal (rates of alcohol-related harm are disproportionately higher among Aboriginal individuals than among non-Aboriginal individuals in Australia; they are also higher among young people and males, but the proportions of these two groups across communities was comparable). They randomly assigned one member of each pair to the experimental group and implemented 13 interventions in these communities by negotiating with key individuals in each community to define and implement each intervention. Examples of interventions included general practitioner training in screening for alcohol use disorders and in implementing a brief intervention, and a school-based interactive session designed to reduce alcohol harm among young people. The researchers quantified the effectiveness of the interventions using routinely collected data on alcohol-related crime and road traffic crashes, and on hospital inpatient admissions for alcohol dependence or abuse (which were expected to increase in the experimental group if the intervention was effective because of more people seeking or being referred for treatment). They also examined drinking habits and experiences of alcohol-related harm, such as verbal abuse, among community members using pre- and post-intervention surveys. After implementation of the interventions, the rates of alcohol-related crime, road traffic crashes, and hospital admissions, and of risky and hazardous/harmful alcohol consumption (measured using a validated tool called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) were not statistically significantly different in the experimental and control communities (a difference in outcomes that is not statistically significantly different can occur by chance). However, the reported average weekly consumption of alcohol was 20% lower in the experimental communities after the intervention than in the control communities (equivalent to 1.9 fewer standard drinks per week per respondent) and there was less alcohol-related verbal abuse post-intervention in the experimental communities than in the control communities.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide little evidence that community action reduced risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms in rural Australian communities. Although there was some evidence of significant reductions in self-reported weekly alcohol consumption and in experiences of alcohol-related verbal abuse, these findings must be interpreted cautiously because they are based on surveys with very low response rates. A larger or differently designed study might provide statistically significant evidence for the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption. However, given their findings, the researchers suggest that legislative approaches that are beyond the control of individual communities, such as alcohol taxation and restrictions on alcohol availability, may be required to effectively reduce alcohol harms. In other words, community action alone may not be the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides detailed information about alcohol; its fact sheet on alcohol includes information about the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol; the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health provides further information about alcohol, including information on control policies around the world
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, tools for calculating alcohol consumption, and personal stories about alcohol use problems
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
More information about the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities project is available
PMCID: PMC3949675  PMID: 24618831
2.  Eurocan plus report: feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities 
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project, called for by the European Parliament, was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities in Europe. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people, the largest Europe–wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research.
Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
It is essential to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community is evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form), leading to the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventive strategies. Translational research ranges from bench–to–bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project recommends the creation of a small, permanent and independent European Cancer Initiative (ECI). This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The ECI should assume responsibility for stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes, becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ organizations, European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), putting into practice solutions aimed at alleviating barriers to collaboration and coordination of cancer research activities in the European Union, and dealing with legal and regulatory issues. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this entity should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co–operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe and (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level.
The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control in Europe, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
Executive Summary
Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century—one for which Europe is currently not prepared nor preparing itself. Cancer is a major cause of death in Europe with two million casualties and three million new cases diagnosed annually, and the situation is set to worsen as the population ages.
These facts led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, to call for initiatives for better coordination of cancer research efforts in the European Union. The EUROCAN+PLUS Project was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people. In this respect, the Project became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research, implicating researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, healthcare professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients’ organizations and patients.
The Project first identified barriers impeding research and collaboration in research in Europe. Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
In addition, there is a shortage of leadership, a multiplicity of institutions each focusing on its own agenda, sub–optimal contact with industry, inadequate training, non–existent career paths, low personnel mobility in research especially among clinicians and inefficient funding—all conspiring against efficient collaboration in cancer care and research. European cancer research today does not have a functional translational research continuum, that is the process that exploits biomedical research innovations and converts them into prevention methods, diagnostic tools and therapies. Moreover, epidemiological research is not integrated with other types of cancer research, and the implementation of the European Directives on Clinical Trials 1 and on Personal Data Protection 2 has further slowed the innovation process in Europe. Furthermore, large inequalities in health and research exist between the EU–15 and the New Member States.
The picture is not entirely bleak, however, as the European cancer research scene presents several strengths, such as excellent basic research and clinical research and innovative etiological research that should be better exploited.
When considering recommendations, several priority dimensions had to be retained. It is essential that proposals include actions and recommendations that can benefit all Member States of the European Union and not just States with the elite centres. It is also essential to have a broader patient orientation to help provide the knowledge to establish cancer control possibilities when we exhaust what can be achieved by the implementation of current knowledge. It is vital that the actions proposed can contribute to the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.
The Project participants identified six areas for which consensus solutions should be implemented in order to obtain better coordination of cancer research activities. The required solutions are as follows. The proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community.The establishment of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers.The provision of guidance for translational and clinical research including the establishment of a translational research platform involving comprehensive cancer centres and cancer research centres.The coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects.The construction of a ‘one–stop shop’ as a contact interface between the industry, small and medium enterprises, scientists and other stakeholders.The support of greater involvement of healthcare professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.
In the course of the EUROCAN+PLUS consultative process, several key collaborative projects emerged between the various groups and institutes engaged in the consultation. There was a collaboration network established with Europe’s leading Comprehensive Cancer Centres; funding was awarded for a closer collaboration of Owners of Cancer Registries in Europe (EUROCOURSE); there was funding received from FP7 for an extensive network of leading Biological Resource Centres in Europe (BBMRI); a Working Group identified the special needs of Central, Eastern and South–eastern Europe and proposed a remedy (‘Warsaw Declaration’), and the concept of developing a one–stop shop for dealing with academia and industry including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was discussed in detail.
Several other dimensions currently lacking were identified. There is an absolute necessity to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. It was a salutary lesson when it was recognized that all that is known about the quality of life of the cancer patient comes from the experience of a tiny proportion of cancer patients included in a few clinical trials. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community was evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form) and the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventative strategies in the European Union. Translational research ranges from bench-to-bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
Having taken note of the barriers and the solutions and having examined relevant examples of existing European organizations in the field, it was agreed during the General Assembly of 19 November 2007 that the EUROCAN+PLUS Project had to recommend the creation of a small, permanent and neutral ECI. This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The proposal is based on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and its principal aims include providing a forum where researchers from all backgrounds and from all countries can meet with members of other specialities including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.
The ECI should assume responsibility for: stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes;becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ and organizations;European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises;putting into practice the aforementioned solutions aimed at alleviating barriers and coordinating cancer research activities in the EU;dealing with legal and regulatory issues.
Solutions implemented through the ECI will lead to better coordination and collaboration throughout Europe, more efficient use of resources, an increase in Europe’s attractiveness to the biomedical industry and better quality of cancer research and education of health professionals.
The Project considered that European legal instruments currently available were inadequate for addressing many aspects of the barriers identified and for the implementation of effective, lasting solutions. Therefore, the legal environment that could shelter an idea like the ECI remains to be defined but should be done so as a priority. In this context, the initiative of the European Commission for a new legal entity for research infrastructure might be a step in this direction. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass: (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co-operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe; (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level. Another topic deserving immediate attention is the creation of a European database on cancer research projects and cancer research facilities.
Despite enormous progress in cancer control in Europe during the past two decades, there was an increase of 300,000 in the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
PMCID: PMC3234055  PMID: 22274749
3.  Engaging a Chemical Disaster Community: Lessons from Graniteville 
Community engagement remains a primary objective of public health practice. While this approach has been adopted with success in response to many community health issues, it is rarely adopted in chemical disaster response. Empirical research suggests that management of chemical disasters focuses on the emergency response with almost no community engagement for long-term recovery. Graniteville, an unincorporated and medically underserved community in South Carolina was the site of one of the largest chlorine exposures by a general US population. Following the immediate response, we sought community participation and partnered with community stakeholders and representatives in order to address community-identified health and environmental concerns. Subsequently, we engaged the community through regular town hall meetings, harnessing community capacity, forming coalitions with existing local assets like churches, schools, health centers, and businesses, and hosting community-wide events like health picnics and screenings. Information obtained from these events through discussions, interviews, and surveys facilitated focused public health service which eventually transitioned to community-driven public health research. Specific outcomes of the community engagement efforts and steps taken to ensure sustainability of these efforts and outcomes will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4078542  PMID: 24871259
community engagement; community health partnerships; chemical disasters; community-based participatory service; community-based participatory research; environmental health; sustainability
4.  Moving research into practice: lessons from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's IDSRN program 
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Integrated Delivery Systems Research Network (IDSRN) program was established to foster public-private collaboration between health services researchers and health care delivery systems. Its broad goal was to link researchers and delivery systems to encourage implementation of research into practice. We evaluated the program to address two primary questions: 1) How successful was IDSRN in generating research findings that could be applied in practice? and 2) What factors facilitate or impede such success?
We conducted in-person and telephone interviews with AHRQ staff and nine IDSRN partner organizations and their collaborators, reviewed program documents, analyzed projects funded through the program, and developed case studies of four IDSRN projects judged promising in supporting research implementation.
Participants reported that the IDSRN structure was valuable in creating closer ties between researchers and participating health systems. Of the 50 completed projects studied, 30 had an operational effect or use. Some kinds of projects were more successful than others in influencing operations. If certain conditions were met, a variety of partnership models successfully supported implementation. An internal champion was necessary for partnerships involving researchers based outside the delivery system. Case studies identified several factors important to success: responsiveness of project work to delivery system needs, ongoing funding to support multiple project phases, and development of applied products or tools that helped users see their operational relevance. Factors limiting success included limited project funding, competing demands on potential research users, and failure to reach the appropriate audience.
Forging stronger partnerships between researchers and delivery systems has the potential to make research more relevant to users, but these benefits require clear goals and appropriate targeting of resources. Trade-offs are inevitable. The health services research community can best consider such trade-offs and set priorities if there is more dialogue to identify areas and approaches where such partnerships may have the most promise. Though it has unique features, the IDSRN experience is relevant to research implementation in diverse settings.
PMCID: PMC1851710  PMID: 17394644
5.  Developing a Community Action Plan to Eliminate Cancer Disparities: Lessons Learned 
African Americans bear an unequal burden of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. The Deep South Network for Cancer Control (DSN) is a community–academic partnership operating in Alabama and Mississippi that was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to address cancer disparities using community-based participatory research approaches.
In addition to reporting on the plans of this work in progress, we describe the participatory process that local residents and the DSN used to identify needs and priorities, and elaborate on lessons learned from applying a participatory approach to the development of a community action plan.
We conducted 24 community discussion groups involving health care professionals, government officials, faith-based leaders, and other stakeholders to identify cancer health disparity needs, community resources/assets, and county priorities to eliminate cancer health disparities. To develop a community action plan, four working groups explored the themes that emerged from the discussion groups, taking into consideration evidence-based strategies and promising community practices.
The DSN formulated a community action plan focusing on (1) increasing physical activity by implementing a campaign for individual-level focused activity; (2) increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables by implementing NCI’s Body and Soul Program in local churches; (3) increasing cancer screening by raising awareness through individual, system, and provider agents of change; and (4) training community partners to become effective advocates.
A community–academic partnership must involve trust, respect, and an appreciation of partners’ strengths and differences. The DSN applied these guiding principles and learned pivotal lessons.
PMCID: PMC3600640  PMID: 21623018
6.  Risk communication and human biomonitoring: which practical lessons from the Belgian experience are of use for the EU perspective? 
Environmental Health  2008;7(Suppl 1):S11.
In order to investigate and monitor environmental health in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), the Flemish government funded the Centre of Expertise for Environment and Health, which started a human biomonitoring campaign in 2001. In addition to environmental health experts measuring environmental pollutants and health effects in human beings, social scientific experts at the Centre focus on risk communication associated with the human biomonitoring campaign.
In the literature about risk communication an evolution can be traced from traditional, one-way communication, restricted to the dissemination of information from experts to the public, to more modern, two-way risk communication, with a focus on participation and cooperation between scientists, policy-makers and the public.
Within the Centre of Expertise for Environment and Health this discourse was first translated into some general principles and guidelines for external communication, at a 'Ten Commandments level'. These principles needed to be incorporated in the day-to-day practice of human biomonitoring research.
The social scientific experts at the Centre developed a combined risk communication strategy. On the one hand the strategy consists of traditional risk communication for external communication purposes, for example information meetings and digital newsletters. On the other hand it consists of a step by step approach of incorporating more modern risk communication, for example a risk perception questionnaire, dialogical experiments for involving local stakeholders, and an action-plan for interpreting results for policy making.
With a parallel strategy of traditional and modern communication, of external and internal reflection, and through different social scientific projects, the Flemish Centre of Expertise of Environment and Health incorporates risk communication in the day-to-day practice of human biomonitoring research. A direct and continuous involvement of the social scientist, an openness between all colleagues involved, and the awareness of a fine balance between quality and practicability are important success factors. These lessons may be helpful and inspirational for a European human biomonitoring project.
PMCID: PMC2423461  PMID: 18541065
7.  Integrated community case management of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea across three African countries: A qualitative study exploring lessons learnt and implications for further scale up 
Journal of Global Health  2014;4(2):020404.
Numerous studies highlight the effectiveness of an integrated approach for the management of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea at the community level. There has however been little study on lessons learnt from implementation in practice and stakeholder experiences which could inform future programmatic planning and evaluation frameworks. A participatory, qualitative evaluation was conducted in the three varied settings of South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia, which have seen the scale up of integrated community case management (iCCM) over the last five years. All key in–country stakeholders were consulted on study design, with a particular focus on scope and methodology. Data collection methods included stakeholder consultations (key informant interviews, focus group discussions), and a review of project and Ministry of Health documentation. Data analysis followed the Framework Approach. Results suggest that iCCM implementation generally followed national pre–agreed guidelines. Overarching key programmatic recommendations included: collaboration with implementing partners in planning stages to positively impact on community acceptance and ownership; adoption of participatory training methods adapted to low literacy populations; development of alternative support supervision methods such as peer support groups; full integration of community level data into the health management information system and emphasizing data analysis, use and feedback at all levels; strengthened supply chains through improved quantification and procurement of commodities in conjunction with the national distribution network; community engagement to establish a support system for community health workers to increase their motivation; enhanced sensitisation and behaviour change communication to raise awareness and usage of appropriate health services; and advocacy at the national level for funding and logistical support for the continuation and integration of iCCM. This qualitative study is a valuable contribution in understanding the ‘hows’ of iCCM implementation with key insights for improved feasibility and acceptability. Main findings show how community support to iCCM and community health workers is necessary for sustained health benefits coupled with a focus on strengthening and ‘enabling’ the public health system. The participatory study design and methodologies used enabled the scope of the research enquiry to effectively capture various stakeholder perspectives.
PMCID: PMC4267083  PMID: 25520794
8.  Disease Surveillance and Achieving Synergy In Public Health Quality Improvement 
To examine disease surveillance in the context of a new national framework for public health quality and to solicit input from practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify potential metrics, pivotal research questions, and actions for achieving synergy between surveillance practice and public health quality.
National efforts to improve quality in public health are closely tied to advancing capabilities in disease surveillance. Measures of public health quality provide data to demonstrate how public health programs, services, policies, and research achieve desired health outcomes and impact population health. They also reveal opportunities for innovations and improvements. Similar quality improvement efforts in the health care system are beginning to bear fruit. There has been a need, however, for a framework for assessing public health quality that provides a standard, yet is flexible and relevant to agencies at all levels.
The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, working with stakeholders, recently developed and released a Consensus Statement on Quality in the Public Health System that introduces a novel evaluation framework. They identified nine aims that are fundamental to public health quality improvement efforts and six cross-cutting priority areas for improvement, including population health metrics and information technology; workforce development; and evidence-based practices (1).
Applying the HHS framework to surveillance expands measures for surveillance quality beyond typical variables (e.g., data quality and analytic capabilities) to desired characteristics of a quality public health system. The question becomes: How can disease surveillance help public health services to be more population centered, equitable, proactive, health-promoting, risk-reducing, vigilant, transparent, effective, and efficient—the desired features of a quality public health system?
Any agency with a public health mission, or even a partial public health mission (e.g., tax-exempt hospitals), can use these measures to develop strategies that improve both the quality of the surveillance enterprise and public health systems, overall. At this time, input from stakeholders is needed to identify valid and feasible ways to measure how surveillance systems and practices advance public health quality. What exists now and where are the gaps?
Improving public health by applying quality measures to disease surveillance will require innovation and collaboration among stakeholders. This roundtable will begin a community dialogue to spark this process. The first goal will be to achieve a common focus by defining the nine quality aims identified in the HHS Consensus Statement. Attendees will draw from their experience to discuss how surveillance practice advances the public health aims and improves public health. We will also identify key research questions needed to provide evidence to inform decision-making.
The roundtable will discuss how the current state of surveillance practice addresses each of the aims described in the Consensus Statement to create a snapshot of how surveillance contributes to public health quality and begin to articulate practical measures for assessing quality improvements. Sample questions to catalyze discussion include: —How is surveillance used to identify and address health disparities and, thereby, make public health more equitable? What are the data sources? Are there targets? How can research and evaluation help to enhance this surveillance capability and direct action?—How do we identify and address factors that inhibit quality improvement in surveillance? What are the gaps in knowledge, skills, systems, and resources?—Where can standardization play a positive role in the evaluation of quality in public health surveillance?—How can we leverage resources by aligning national, state, and local goals? —What are the key research questions and the quality improvement projects that can be implemented using recognized models for improvement?—How can syndromic surveillance, specifically, advance the priority aims?
The roundtable will conclude with a list of next steps to develop metrics that resonate with the business practices of public health at all levels.
PMCID: PMC3692848
public health quality; metrics; framework
9.  The characteristics, implementation and effects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health promotion tools: a systematic literature search 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:712.
Health promotion by and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter Indigenous) Australians is critically important given a wide gap in health parity compared to other Australians. The development and implementation of step-by-step guides, instruments, packages, frameworks or resources has provided a feasible and low-resource strategy for strengthening evidence-informed health promotion practice. Yet there has been little assessment of where and how these tools are implemented or their effectiveness. This paper reviews the characteristics, implementation and effects of Indigenous health promotion tools.
Indigenous health promotion tools were identified through a systematic literature search including a prior scoping study, eight databases, references of other reviews and the authors’ knowledge (n = 1494). Documents in the peer reviewed and grey literature were included if they described or evaluated tools designed, recommended or used for strengthening Indigenous Australian health promotion. Eligible publications were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and documented tools classified according to their characteristics, implementation and effects. Quality was appraised using the Dictionary for Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) and Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) tools for quantitative and qualitative studies respectively.
The review found that Indigenous health promotion tools were widely available. Of 74 publications that met inclusion criteria, sixty (81%) documented tools developed specifically for the Indigenous Australian population. All tools had been developed in reference to evidence; but only 22/74 (30%) publications specified intended or actual implementation, and only 11/74 (15%) publications evaluated impacts of the implemented tools. Impacts included health, environmental, community, organisational and health care improvements. The quality of impact evaluations was strong for only five (7%) studies.
The small number and generally moderate quality of implementation and evaluation studies means that little is known about how tools work to strengthen Indigenous health promotion practice. The findings suggest that rather than continuing to invest in tool development, practitioners, policy makers and researchers could evaluate the implementation and effects of existing tools and publish the results. There is a need for long-term investment in research to review the current use of health promotion tools and the factors that are likely to enhance their implementation.
PMCID: PMC4227054  PMID: 25012401
Health promotion; Indigenous; Tools; Guides; Instruments; Packages; Frameworks; Resources; Implementation; Evaluation
10.  Public Health Surveillance in Pilot Drinking Water Contamination Warning Systems 
This paper describes the lessons learned from operation and maintenance of the public health surveillance (PHS) component of five pilot city drinking water contamination warning systems (CWS) including: Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed a program to pilot multi-component contamination warning systems (CWSs), known as the “Water Security initiative (WSi).” The Cincinnati pilot has been fully operational since January 2008, and an additional four pilot utilities will have their own, custom CWSs by the end of 2012. A workshop amongst the pilot cities was conducted in May 2012 to discuss lessons learned from the design, implementation, operation, maintenance, and evaluation of each city’s PHS component.
When evaluating potential surveillance tools to integrate into a drinking water contamination warning system, it is important to consider design decisions, dual use applications/considerations, and the unique capabilities of each tool. The pilot cities integrated unique surveillance tools, which included a combination of automated event detection tools and communication and coordination procedures into their respective PHS components. The five pilots performed a thorough, technical evaluation of each component of their CWS, including PHS.
Four key lessons learned were identified from implementation of the PHS component in the five pilot cities. First, improved communication and coordination between public health and water utilities was emphasized as an essential goal even if it were not feasible to implement automated surveillance systems. The WSi pilot project has helped to strengthen this communication pathway through the process of collaborating to develop the component, and through the need to investigate PHS alerts.
Second, the approximate location of specific cases associated with PHS alerts was found to be an essential feature that allowed a cross-comparison to water pressure zones when attempting to locate the source of possible contamination. More specific location data (e.g., latitude and longitude) leads to a more efficient investigation, however, just narrowing the case location down to a specific hydraulic region within the water distribution system is extremely useful.
Third, the ability to quickly visualize spatial distribution of cases via a visual interface was reported to be valuable to investigators during alert investigations. Most pilots implemented a CWS dashboard, in the form of a central graphical display, which presents the alerts and was used by the water utility and public health to obtain an understanding of geospatial relationships between cases, alerts and water pressure zones.
Finally, public health and water utility representatives from several of the WSi pilots acknowledged that their automated surveillance tools currently have limited capabilities for detection of chemical contaminants (which may result in a sudden onset of symptoms), with the main deficiency being the timeliness of the alerts relative to the window of opportunity to respond in a meaningful and effective manner. While they currently focus on detection of traditional waterborne diseases, these tools could potentially be adapted to also detect chemical contaminants.
The results of the pilots have demonstrated that it is important to construct and formalize standard operating procedures, so that public health personnel and water utilities have a standard communication protocol. As a basic step to a PHS component, it is important to establish a relationship between utilities and public health. In addition to the efforts of the WSi pilots, research is currently being conducted by the U.S. EPA to analyze health seeking behavior of symptomatic individuals, because all PHS tools rely on data generated from behavior pursued by the affected population during a public health incident. Results from analysis of both emergency department data and poison control center follow-up phone data are currently underway.
PMCID: PMC3692943
Evaluation; Public Health Surveillance; Lessons Learned; Contamination Warning System; Drinking Water
11.  An informatics model for tissue banks – Lessons learned from the Cooperative Prostate Cancer Tissue Resource 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:120.
Advances in molecular biology and growing requirements from biomarker validation studies have generated a need for tissue banks to provide quality-controlled tissue samples with standardized clinical annotation. The NCI Cooperative Prostate Cancer Tissue Resource (CPCTR) is a distributed tissue bank that comprises four academic centers and provides thousands of clinically annotated prostate cancer specimens to researchers. Here we describe the CPCTR information management system architecture, common data element (CDE) development, query interfaces, data curation, and quality control.
Data managers review the medical records to collect and continuously update information for the 145 clinical, pathological and inventorial CDEs that the Resource maintains for each case. An Access-based data entry tool provides de-identification and a standard communication mechanism between each group and a central CPCTR database. Standardized automated quality control audits have been implemented. Centrally, an Oracle database has web interfaces allowing multiple user-types, including the general public, to mine de-identified information from all of the sites with three levels of specificity and granularity as well as to request tissues through a formal letter of intent.
Since July 2003, CPCTR has offered over 6,000 cases (38,000 blocks) of highly characterized prostate cancer biospecimens, including several tissue microarrays (TMA). The Resource developed a website with interfaces for the general public as well as researchers and internal members. These user groups have utilized the web-tools for public query of summary data on the cases that were available, to prepare requests, and to receive tissues. As of December 2005, the Resource received over 130 tissue requests, of which 45 have been reviewed, approved and filled. Additionally, the Resource implemented the TMA Data Exchange Specification in its TMA program and created a computer program for calculating PSA recurrence.
Building a biorepository infrastructure that meets today's research needs involves time and input of many individuals from diverse disciplines. The CPCTR can provide large volumes of carefully annotated prostate tissue for research initiatives such as Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) and for biomarker validation studies and its experience can help development of collaborative, large scale, virtual tissue banks in other organ systems.
PMCID: PMC1484486  PMID: 16677389
12.  A Novel Cross-Disciplinary Multi-Institute Approach to Translational Cancer Research: Lessons Learned from Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance Bioinformatics Consortium (PCABC) 
Cancer Informatics  2007;3:255-274.
The Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance Bioinformatics Consortium (PCABC, is one of the first major project-based initiatives stemming from the Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance that was funded for four years by the Department of Health of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The objective of this was to initiate a prototype biorepository and bioinformatics infrastructure with a robust data warehouse by developing a statewide data model (1) for bioinformatics and a repository of serum and tissue samples; (2) a data model for biomarker data storage; and (3) a public access website for disseminating research results and bioinformatics tools. The members of the Consortium cooperate closely, exploring the opportunity for sharing clinical, genomic and other bioinformatics data on patient samples in oncology, for the purpose of developing collaborative research programs across cancer research institutions in Pennsylvania. The Consortium’s intention was to establish a virtual repository of many clinical specimens residing in various centers across the state, in order to make them available for research. One of our primary goals was to facilitate the identification of cancer-specific biomarkers and encourage collaborative research efforts among the participating centers.
The PCABC has developed unique partnerships so that every region of the state can effectively contribute and participate. It includes over 80 individuals from 14 organizations, and plans to expand to partners outside the State. This has created a network of researchers, clinicians, bioinformaticians, cancer registrars, program directors, and executives from academic and community health systems, as well as external corporate partners - all working together to accomplish a common mission.
The various sub-committees have developed a common IRB protocol template, common data elements for standardizing data collections for three organ sites, intellectual property/tech transfer agreements, and material transfer agreements that have been approved by each of the member institutions. This was the foundational work that has led to the development of a centralized data warehouse that has met each of the institutions’ IRB/HIPAA standards.
Currently, this “virtual biorepository” has over 58,000 annotated samples from 11,467 cancer patients available for research purposes. The clinical annotation of tissue samples is either done manually over the internet or semi-automated batch modes through mapping of local data elements with PCABC common data elements. The database currently holds information on 7188 cases (associated with 9278 specimens and 46,666 annotated blocks and blood samples) of prostate cancer, 2736 cases (associated with 3796 specimens and 9336 annotated blocks and blood samples) of breast cancer and 1543 cases (including 1334 specimens and 2671 annotated blocks and blood samples) of melanoma. These numbers continue to grow, and plans to integrate new tumor sites are in progress. Furthermore, the group has also developed a central web-based tool that allows investigators to share their translational (genomics/proteomics) experiment data on research evaluating potential biomarkers via a central location on the Consortium’s web site.
The technological achievements and the statewide informatics infrastructure that have been established by the Consortium will enable robust and efficient studies of biomarkers and their relevance to the clinical course of cancer. Studies resulting from the creation of the Consortium may allow for better classification of cancer types, more accurate assessment of disease prognosis, a better ability to identify the most appropriate individuals for clinical trial participation, and better surrogate markers of disease progression and/or response to therapy.
PMCID: PMC2675833  PMID: 19455246
13.  Understanding uptake of continuous quality improvement in Indigenous primary health care: lessons from a multi-site case study of the Audit and Best Practice for Chronic Disease project 
Experimentation with continuous quality improvement (CQI) processes is well underway in Indigenous Australian primary health care. To date, little research into how health organizations take up, support, and embed these complex innovations is available on which services can draw to inform implementation. In this paper, we examine the practices and processes in the policy and organisational contexts, and aim to explore the ways in which they interact to support and/or hinder services' participation in a large scale Indigenous primary health care CQI program.
We took a theory-driven approach, drawing on literature on the theory and effectiveness of CQI systems and the Greenhalgh diffusion of innovation framework. Data included routinely collected regional and service profile data; uptake of tools and progress through the first CQI cycle, and data collected quarterly from hub coordinators on their perceptions of barriers and enablers. A total of 48 interviews were also conducted with key people involved in the development, dissemination, and implementation of the Audit and Best Practice for Chronic Disease (ABCD) project. We compiled the various data, conducted thematic analyses, and developed an in-depth narrative account of the processes of uptake and diffusion into services.
Uptake of CQI was a complex and messy process that happened in fits and starts, was often characterised by conflicts and tensions, and was iterative, reactive, and transformational. Despite initial enthusiasm, the mixed successes during the first cycle were associated with the interaction of features of the environment, the service, the quality improvement process, and the stakeholders, which operated to produce a set of circumstances that either inhibited or enabled the process of change. Organisations had different levels of capacity to mobilize resources that could shift the balance toward supporting implementation. Different forms of leadership and organisational linkages were critical to success. The Greenhalgh framework provided a useful starting point for investigation, but we believe it is more a descriptive than explanatory model. As such, it has limitations in the extent to which it could assist us in understanding the interactions of the practices and processes that we observed at different levels of the system.
Taking up CQI involved engaging multiple stakeholders in new relationships that could support services to construct shared meaning and purpose, operationalise key concepts and tools, and develop and embed new practices into services systems and routines. Promoting quality improvement requires a system approach and organization-wide commitment. At the organization level, a formal high-level mandate, leadership at all levels, and resources to support implementation are needed. At the broader system level, governance arrangements that can fulfil a number of policy objectives related to articulating the linkages between CQI and other aspects of the regulatory, financing, and performance frameworks within the health system would help define a role and vision for quality improvement.
PMCID: PMC2847538  PMID: 20226066
14.  Engaging diverse underserved communities to bridge the mammography divide 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:47.
Breast cancer screening continues to be underutilized by the population in general, but is particularly underutilized by traditionally underserved minority populations. Two of the most at risk female minority groups are American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Latinas. American Indian women have the poorest recorded 5-year cancer survival rates of any ethnic group while breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer mortality among Latina women. Breast cancer screening rates for both minority groups are near or at the lowest among all racial/ethnic groups. As with other health screening behaviors, women may intend to get a mammogram but their intentions may not result in initiation or follow through of the examination process. An accumulating body of research, however, demonstrates the efficacy of developing 'implementation intentions' that define when, where, and how a specific behavior will be performed. The formulation of intended steps in addition to addressing potential barriers to test completion can increase a person's self-efficacy, operationalize and strengthen their intention to act, and close gaps between behavioral intention and completion. To date, an evaluation of the formulation of implementation intentions for breast cancer screening has not been conducted with minority populations.
In the proposed program, community health workers will meet with rural-dwelling Latina and American Indian women one-on-one to educate them about breast cancer and screening and guide them through a computerized and culturally tailored "implementation intentions" program, called Healthy Living Kansas - Breast Health, to promote breast cancer screening utilization. We will target Latina and AI/AN women from two distinct rural Kansas communities. Women attending community events will be invited by CHWs to participate and be randomized to either a mammography "implementation intentions" (MI2) intervention or a comparison general breast cancer prevention informational intervention (C). CHWs will be armed with notebook computers loaded with our Healthy Living Kansas - Breast Health program and guide their peers through the program. Women in the MI2 condition will receive assistance with operationalizing their screening intentions and identifying and addressing their stated screening barriers with the goal of guiding them toward accessing screening services near their community. Outcomes will be evaluated at 120-days post randomization via self-report and will include mammography utilization status, barriers, and movement along a behavioral stages of readiness to screen model.
This highly innovative project will be guided and initiated by AI/AN and Latina community members and will test the practical application of emerging behavioral theory among minority persons living in rural communities.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials (NCT): NCT01267110
PMCID: PMC3036625  PMID: 21255424
15.  A Health Department’s Collaborative Model for Disease Surveillance Capacity Building 
Highlight one academic health department’s unique approach to optimizing collaborative opportunities for capacity development and document the implications for chronic disease surveillance and population health.
Public Health departments are increasingly called upon to be innovative in quality service delivery under a dwindling resource climate as highlighted in several publications of the Institute of Medicine. Collaboration with other entities in the delivery of core public health services has emerged as a recurring theme. One model of this collaboration is an academic health department: a formal affiliation between a health professions school and a local health department. Initially targeted at workforce development, this model of collaboration has since yielded dividends in other core public health service areas including community assessment, program evaluation, community-based participatory research and data analysis.
The Duval County Health Department (DCHD), Florida, presents a unique community-centered model of the academic health department. Prominence in local informatics infrastructure capacity building and hosting a CDC-CSTE applied public health informatics fellowship (APHIF) in the Institute for Public Health Informatics and Research (IPHIR) in partnership with the Center for Health Equity Research, University of Florida & Shands medical center are direct dividends of this collaborative model.
We examined the collaborative efforts of the DCHD and present the unique advantages these have brought in the areas of entrenched data-driven public health service culture, community assessments, program evaluation, community-based participatory research and health informatics projects.
Advantages of the model include a data-driven culture with the balanced scorecard model in leadership and sub-departmental emphases on quality assurance in public health services. Activities in IPHIR include data-driven approaches to program planning and grant developments, program evaluations, data analyses and impact assessments for the DCHD and other community health stakeholders.
Reports developed by IPHIR have impacted policy formulation by highlighting the need for sub county level data differentiation to address health disparities. Unique community-based mapping of Duval County into health zones based on health risk factors correlating with health outcome measures have been published. Other reports highlight chronic disease surveillance data and health scorecards in special populations.
Partnerships with regional higher institutions (University of Florida, University of North Florida and Florida A&M University) increased public health service delivery and yielded rich community-based participatory research opportunities.
Cutting edge participation in health IT policy implementation led to the hosting of the fledgling community HIE, the Jacksonville Health Information Network, as well as leadership in shaping the landscape of the state HIE. This has immense implications for public health surveillance activities as chronic disease surveillance and public health service research take center stage under new healthcare payment models amidst increasing calls for quality assurance in public health services.
DCHD is currently hosting a CDC-funded fellowship in applied public health informatics. Some of the projects materializing from the fellowship are the mapping of the current public health informatics profile of the DCHD, a community based diabetes disease registry to aid population-based management and surveillance of diabetes, development of a proposal for a combined primary care/general preventive medicine residency in UF-Shands Medical Center, Jacksonville and mobilization of DCHD healthcare providers for the roll-out of the state-built electronic medical records system (Florida HMS-EHR).
Academic health centers provide a model of collaboration that directly impacts on their success in delivering core public health services. Disease surveillance is positively affected by the diverse community affiliations of an academic health department. The academic health department, as epitomized by DCHD, is also better positioned to seize up-coming opportunities for local public health capacity building.
PMCID: PMC3692891
Academic Health Departments; collaborative model; health informatics projects
16.  Summary of the workshop on methodologies for environmental public health tracking of air pollution effects 
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) program to support state and local projects that characterize the impact of the environment on health. The projects involve compiling, linking, analyzing, and disseminating environmental and health surveillance information, thereby engaging stakeholders and guiding actions to improve public health. One of the EPHT objectives is to track the public health impact of ambient air pollution with analyses that are timely and relevant to state and local stakeholders. To address methodological issues relevant to this objective, in January 2008, government officials and researchers from the USA, Canada, and Europe gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for a 2-day workshop. Using commissioned papers and presentations on key methodological issues as well as examples of previous air pollution impact assessments, work group discussions produced a set of consensus recommendations for the EPHT program. These recommendations noted the need for data that will encourage local stakeholders to support continued progress in air pollution control. The limitations of using only local data for analyses were also noted. To improve local estimates of air pollution health impacts, methods were recommended that “borrow strength” from other evidence. An incremental approach to implementing such methods was recommended. The importance and difficulty of communicating uncertainties in local health impact assessments was emphasized, as was the need for coordination among different agencies conducting health impact assessments.
PMCID: PMC2805788  PMID: 20098504
Environmental exposure; Population surveillance; Public health; Air pollution
17.  Lessons Learned From a Community–Academic Partnership Addressing Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention in Filipino American Families 
Filipino Americans have more adolescent pregnancies than other Asian-Pacific Islanders (APIs). Few community–academic collaborations have addressed adolescent pregnancy prevention in this community.
We sought to describe the lessons learned from and impact of a community-based teen pregnancy prevention program for Filipino Americans implemented by a Filipina pediatrics resident.
We formed a community–academic partnership between the Filipino Youth Coalition, a community-based organization (CBO) in San Jose, California, and the Stanford School of Medicine’s Pediatric Advocacy Program. We developed a culturally tailored parent–teen conference addressing adolescent pregnancy prevention in Filipino Americans. We qualitatively and quantitatively evaluated this intervention by collecting both pre- and post-conference data using a convenience sample design.
Lessons Learned
Engaging particular aspects of Filipino culture (i.e., religion and intergenerational differences) helped to make this community–academic partnership successful. For physicians-in-training who are conducting community-based participatory research (CBPR), project challenges may include difficulties in building and maintaining academic–community relationships, struggles to promote sustainability, and conflicting goals of “community insiders” and “academic outsiders.” Authors offer insights and implications for residents interested in practicing CBPR.
CBPR is a key tool for exploring health issues in understudied populations. CBPR experiences can provide meaningful educational opportunities for physicians-in-training and can build sustained capacity in CBOs. They can also help residents to develop analytic skills, directly affect the health of the communities they serve, and, for minority physicians, give back to the communities they call home.
PMCID: PMC4189834  PMID: 21169708
Filipino American; health disparities; community capacity building; adolescent pregnancy; participatory research; medical education
18.  An Epidemiological Network Model for Disease Outbreak Detection 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e210.
Advanced disease-surveillance systems have been deployed worldwide to provide early detection of infectious disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks. New methods that improve the overall detection capabilities of these systems can have a broad practical impact. Furthermore, most current generation surveillance systems are vulnerable to dramatic and unpredictable shifts in the health-care data that they monitor. These shifts can occur during major public events, such as the Olympics, as a result of population surges and public closures. Shifts can also occur during epidemics and pandemics as a result of quarantines, the worried-well flooding emergency departments or, conversely, the public staying away from hospitals for fear of nosocomial infection. Most surveillance systems are not robust to such shifts in health-care utilization, either because they do not adjust baselines and alert-thresholds to new utilization levels, or because the utilization shifts themselves may trigger an alarm. As a result, public-health crises and major public events threaten to undermine health-surveillance systems at the very times they are needed most.
Methods and Findings
To address this challenge, we introduce a class of epidemiological network models that monitor the relationships among different health-care data streams instead of monitoring the data streams themselves. By extracting the extra information present in the relationships between the data streams, these models have the potential to improve the detection capabilities of a system. Furthermore, the models' relational nature has the potential to increase a system's robustness to unpredictable baseline shifts. We implemented these models and evaluated their effectiveness using historical emergency department data from five hospitals in a single metropolitan area, recorded over a period of 4.5 y by the Automated Epidemiological Geotemporal Integrated Surveillance real-time public health–surveillance system, developed by the Children's Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We performed experiments with semi-synthetic outbreaks of different magnitudes and simulated baseline shifts of different types and magnitudes. The results show that the network models provide better detection of localized outbreaks, and greater robustness to unpredictable shifts than a reference time-series modeling approach.
The integrated network models of epidemiological data streams and their interrelationships have the potential to improve current surveillance efforts, providing better localized outbreak detection under normal circumstances, as well as more robust performance in the face of shifts in health-care utilization during epidemics and major public events.
Most surveillance systems are not robust to shifts in health care utilization. Ben Reis and colleagues developed network models that detected localized outbreaks better and were more robust to unpredictable shifts.
Editors' Summary
The main task of public-health officials is to promote health in communities around the world. To do this, they need to monitor human health continually, so that any outbreaks (epidemics) of infectious diseases (particularly global epidemics or pandemics) or any bioterrorist attacks can be detected and dealt with quickly. In recent years, advanced disease-surveillance systems have been introduced that analyze data on hospital visits, purchases of drugs, and the use of laboratory tests to look for tell-tale signs of disease outbreaks. These surveillance systems work by comparing current data on the use of health-care resources with historical data or by identifying sudden increases in the use of these resources. So, for example, more doctors asking for tests for salmonella than in the past might presage an outbreak of food poisoning, and a sudden rise in people buying over-the-counter flu remedies might indicate the start of an influenza pandemic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Existing disease-surveillance systems don't always detect disease outbreaks, particularly in situations where there are shifts in the baseline patterns of health-care use. For example, during an epidemic, people might stay away from hospitals because of the fear of becoming infected, whereas after a suspected bioterrorist attack with an infectious agent, hospitals might be flooded with “worried well” (healthy people who think they have been exposed to the agent). Baseline shifts like these might prevent the detection of increased illness caused by the epidemic or the bioterrorist attack. Localized population surges associated with major public events (for example, the Olympics) are also likely to reduce the ability of existing surveillance systems to detect infectious disease outbreaks. In this study, the researchers developed a new class of surveillance systems called “epidemiological network models.” These systems aim to improve the detection of disease outbreaks by monitoring fluctuations in the relationships between information detailing the use of various health-care resources over time (data streams).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data collected over a 3-y period from five Boston hospitals on visits for respiratory (breathing) problems and for gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) problems, and on total visits (15 data streams in total), to construct a network model that included all the possible pair-wise comparisons between the data streams. They tested this model by comparing its ability to detect simulated disease outbreaks implanted into data collected over an additional year with that of a reference model based on individual data streams. The network approach, they report, was better at detecting localized outbreaks of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease than the reference approach. To investigate how well the network model dealt with baseline shifts in the use of health-care resources, the researchers then added in a large population surge. The detection performance of the reference model decreased in this test, but the performance of the complete network model and of models that included relationships between only some of the data streams remained stable. Finally, the researchers tested what would happen in a situation where there were large numbers of “worried well.” Again, the network models detected disease outbreaks consistently better than the reference model.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that epidemiological network systems that monitor the relationships between health-care resource-utilization data streams might detect disease outbreaks better than current systems under normal conditions and might be less affected by unpredictable shifts in the baseline data. However, because the tests of the new class of surveillance system reported here used simulated infectious disease outbreaks and baseline shifts, the network models may behave differently in real-life situations or if built using data from other hospitals. Nevertheless, these findings strongly suggest that public-health officials, provided they have sufficient computer power at their disposal, might improve their ability to detect disease outbreaks by using epidemiological network systems alongside their current disease-surveillance systems.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia pages on public health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and is available in several languages)
A brief description from the World Health Organization of public-health surveillance (in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
A detailed report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called “Framework for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems for the Early Detection of Outbreaks”
The International Society for Disease Surveillance Web site
PMCID: PMC1896205  PMID: 17593895
19.  Crisis Communication in the Area of Risk Management: The CriCoRM Project 
During the last H1N1 pandemic has emerged the importance of crisis communication as an essential part of health crisis management. The Project aims specifically to improve the understanding of crisis communication dynamics and effective tools and to allow public health institutions to communicate better with the public during health emergencies.
Design and methods
The Project will perform different activities: i) state of the art review; ii) identification of key stakeholders; iii) communicational analysis performed using data collected on stakeholder communication activities and their outcomes considering the lessons learnt from the analysis of the reasons for differing public reactions during pandemics; iv) improvement of the existing guidelines; v) development of Web 2.0 tools as web-platform and feed service and implementation of impact assessment algorithms; vi) organization of exercises and training on this issues.
Expected impact of the study for public health
In the context of health security policies at an EU level, the project aims to find a common and innovative approach to health crisis communication that was displayed by differing reactions to the H1N1 pandemic policies. The focus on new social media tools aims to enhance the role of e-health, and the project aims to use these tools in the specific field of health institutions and citizens. The development of Web 2.0 tools for health crisis communication will allow an effective two-way exchange of information between public health institutions and citizens. An effective communication strategy will increase population compliance with public health recommendations.
Significance for public healthThe specific aim of the project is to develop a European strategy approach on how to communicate with the population and with different stakeholders groups involved in the crisis management process, based on an analysis of the communication process during the H1N1 pandemic (content analysis of press releases, press coverage and forum discussions) and on interviews with key stakeholders in health crisis communication. The development of web 2.0 tools, providing rapid responses will allow real-time verification of awareness of social trends and citizens’ response. Furthermore, the project would like to offer these resources to the EU Public Health Institutions and EU citizens to improve their interaction, and hence reinforce citizens’ right to patient-centred health care. The project proposal has been designed in accordance with the general principles of ethics and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights with regard to human rights, values, freedom, solidarity, and better protection of European citizens.
PMCID: PMC4147738  PMID: 25170491
20.  Recommendations for Syndromic Surveillance Using Inpatient and Ambulatory EHR Data 
To develop national Stage 2 Meaningful Use (MUse) recommendations for syndromic surveillance using hospital inpatient and ambulatory clinical care electronic health record (EHR) data.
MUse will make EHR data increasingly available for public health surveillance. For Stage 2, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations will require hospitals and offer an option for eligible professionals to provide electronic syndromic surveillance data to public health. Together, these data can strengthen public health surveillance capabilities and population health outcomes (Figure 1).
To facilitate the adoption and effective use of these data to advance population health, public health priorities and system capabilities must shape standards for data exchange. Input from all stakeholders is critical to ensure the feasibility, practicality, and, hence, adoption of any recommendations and data use guidelines.
ISDS, in collaboration with the Division of Informatics Solutions and Operations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and HLN Consulting, convened a multi-stakeholder Work-group of clinicians, technologists, epidemiologists, and public health officials with expertise in syndromic surveillance. Recommended MUse guidelines were developed by performing an environmental scan of current practice and by using an iterative, expert and community input-driven process. The Workgroup developed initial guidelines and then solicited and received feedback from the stakeholder community via interview, e-mail, and structured surveys. Stakeholder feedback was analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods and used to revise the recommendations.
The MUse Workgroup defined electronic syndromic surveillance (ESS) characteristics. Specifically, data are characterized by their timeliness, sensitivity rather than specificity, population focus, limited personally identifiable information, and inclusion of all patient encounters within a specific healthcare setting (e.g., emergency department, inpatient, outpatient). Based on stakeholder input (n=125) and Workgroup expertise, the guidelines identify priority syndromic surveillance uses that can assist with: Monitoring population health;Informing public health services; andInforming interventions, health education, and policy by characterizing the burden of chronic disease and health disparities.
Similarly, the Workgroup identified data elements to support these uses in the hospital inpatient setting and possibly in the ambulatory care setting. They were aligned to previously identified emergency department and urgent care center data elements and Stage 1–2 clinical MUse objectives. Core data elements (required for certification) cover treating facility; patient demographics; subjective and objective clinical findings, including chief complaint, body mass index, smoking history, diagnoses; and outcomes. Other data elements were designated as extended (not required for certification) or future (for future consideration). The data elements and their specifications are subject to change based on applicable state and local laws and practices.
Based on their findings and recommended guidelines detailed in the report, the Workgroup also identified community activities and additional investments that would best support public health agencies in using EHR technology with syndromic surveillance methodologies.
The widespread adoption of EHRs, catalyzed by MUse, has the potential to improve population health. By identifying and describing potential ESS uses of new sources of EHR data and associated data elements with the greatest utility for public health, the recommendations set forth by the ISDS MUse Workgroup will serve to facilitate the adoption of MUse policy by both healthcare and public health agencies.
PMCID: PMC3692899
EHR; syndromic surveillance; Meaningful Use; inpatient; ambulatory
21.  Establishing an implementation network: lessons learned from community-based participatory research 
Implementation of evidence-based mental health assessment and intervention in community public health practice is a high priority for multiple stakeholders. Academic-community partnerships can assist in the implementation of efficacious treatments in community settings; yet, little is known about the processes by which these collaborations are developed. In this paper, we discuss our application of community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to implementation, and we present six lessons we have learned from the establishment of an academic-community partnership.
With older adults with psychosis as a focus, we have developed a partnership between a university research center and a public mental health service system based on CBPR. The long-term goal of the partnership is to collaboratively establish an evidence-based implementation network that is sustainable within the public mental healthcare system.
In building a sustainable partnership, we found that the following lessons were instrumental: changing attitudes; sharing staff; expecting obstacles and formalizing solutions; monitoring and evaluating; adapting and adjusting; and taking advantage of emerging opportunities. Some of these lessons were previously known principles that were modified as the result of the CBPR process, while some lessons derived directly from the interactive process of forming the partnership.
The process of forming of academic-public partnerships is challenging and time consuming, yet crucial for the development and implementation of state-of-the-art approaches to assessment and interventions to improve the functioning and quality of life for persons with serious mental illnesses. These partnerships provide necessary organizational support to facilitate the implementation of clinical research findings in community practice benefiting consumers, researchers, and providers.
PMCID: PMC2670256  PMID: 19335915
22.  The population-based Occupational and Environmental Health Prospective Cohort Study (AMIGO) in the Netherlands 
BMJ Open  2014;4(11):e005858.
Occupational and environmental exposures remain important modifiable risk factors of public health. Existing cohort studies are often limited by the level of detail of data collected on these factors and health. It is also often assumed that the more healthy group is over-represented in cohort studies, which is of concern for their external validity. In this cohort profile, we describe how we set up the population-based Occupational and Environmental Health Cohort Study (AMIGO) to longitudinally study occupational and environmental determinants of diseases and well-being from a multidisciplinary and life course point of view. Reviewed by the Medical Ethics Research Committee of the University Medical Center Utrecht (protocol 10-268/C). All cohort members participate voluntarily and gave informed consent prior to their inclusion.
14 829 adult cohort members (16% of those invited) consented and filled in the online baseline questionnaire. Determinants include chemical, biological, physical (eg, electromagnetic fields), and psychosocial factors. Priority health outcomes include cancer, neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and non-specific symptoms. Owing to the recruitment strategy via general practitioners of an established network, we also collect longitudinal data registered in their electronic medical records including symptoms, diagnosis and treatments. Besides the advantage of health outcomes that cannot be easily captured longitudinally by other means, this created a unique opportunity to assess health-related participation bias by comparing general practitioner-registered prevalence rates in the cohort and its source population.
Findings to date
We found no indications of such a systematic bias. The major assets of the AMIGO approach are its detailed occupational and environmental determinants in combination with the longitudinal health data registered in general practice besides linkage to cancer and mortality registries and self-reported health.
Future plans
We are now in the phase of prospective follow-up, with the aim of continuing this for as long as possible (20+ years), pending future funding. Findings will be disseminated through scientific conferences and peer-reviewed journals, and through newsletters and the project website to participants, stakeholders and the wider public.
PMCID: PMC4248092  PMID: 25428630
23.  Impact of Community-Based Maternal Health Workers on Coverage of Essential Maternal Health Interventions among Internally Displaced Communities in Eastern Burma: The MOM Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000317.
Mullany and colleagues report outcomes from a project involving delivery of community-based maternal health services in eastern Burma, and report substantial increases in coverage of care.
Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.
Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.
Among 2,889 and 2,442 women of reproductive age in 2006 and 2008, respectively, population characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic distribution, literacy) were similar. Compared to baseline, women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period were substantially more likely to receive antenatal care (71.8% versus 39.3%, prevalence rate ratio [PRR] = 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.04]) and specific interventions such as urine testing (42.4% versus 15.7%, PRR = 2.69 [95% CI 2.69–3.54]), malaria screening (55.9% versus 21.9%, PRR = 2.88 [95% CI 2.15–3.85]), and deworming (58.2% versus 4.1%, PRR = 14.18 [95% CI 10.76–18.71]. Postnatal care visits within 7 d doubled. Use of modern methods to avoid pregnancy increased from 23.9% to 45.0% (PRR = 1.88 [95% CI 1.63–2.17]), and unmet need for contraception was reduced from 61.7% to 40.5%, a relative reduction of 35% (95% CI 28%–40%). Attendance at birth by those trained to deliver elements of emergency obstetric care increased almost 10-fold, from 5.1% to 48.7% (PRR = 9.55 [95% CI 7.21–12.64]).
Coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project's focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care (including family planning) is particularly bad in war-torn countries. In Burma, for example, where there have been decades of conflict between the military junta and ethnic minority resistance groups, the maternal mortality rate (the number of deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births) is around 380, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, the maternal mortality rate is around 1,200. In an effort to improve access to maternal health services in these regions, community-based organizations in Burma, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and the Global Health Access Program undertook an innovative pilot project—the Mobile Obstetric Medics (MOM) project—between 2005 and 2008. Local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), postnatal care, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. These “maternal health workers” then returned to Burma where they trained local health workers and traditional birth attendants to provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before the MOM project started, nearly 3,000 women living in the study communities were surveyed to evaluate the coverage of essential antenatal care interventions such as urine testing for infections during pregnancy, screening for malaria, and deworming; Urinary tract infections, malaria, and hookworm infections all increase the risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. The preproject survey also evaluated how many births were attended by people able to deal with complications, and the provision of postnatal care and family planning services. In this study, the researchers undertake a similar postproject survey to evaluate the impact of MOM on the coverage of essential maternal health interventions among internally displaced communities in eastern Burma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2008 and December 2008, trained survey workers asked nearly 2,500 ever-married women of reproductive age from the project's study communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. The results of the postproject survey were then compared with those of the “baseline,” preproject survey. The general characteristics (age, marital status, ethnicity, and literacy) of the women included in the two surveys were very similar. However, 71.8% of the women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period of the MOM project had received antenatal care compared to only 39.3% of women surveyed at baseline. Similarly, among the women questioned during the postproject survey, 42.4% had had their urine tested and 55.9% had been screened for malaria during pregnancy compared to only 15.7% and 21.9%, respectively, of the women questioned in the preproject survey. Deworming had increased from 4.1% to 58.2% during the project, postnatal care visits within 7 days had doubled, and attendance at birth by people trained to deal with obstetric emergencies had increased 10-fold from 5.1% to 48.7%. Finally, the use of modern contraception methods (slow-release contraceptives, oral contraceptives, and condoms) had increased from 23.9% to 45.0%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a substantial improvement in access to maternal and reproductive health care in the study communities during the MOM project. However, because the study compared two independent groups of women before and after implementation of the MOM project rather than concurrently comparing groups of women who did and did not receive the services provided by the MOM project, this study does not prove that the MOM approach was the cause of the changes in the coverage of essential maternal health care. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the type of approach used in the MOM project—the expansion of interventions (including components of emergency obstetric care) delivered outside healthcare facilities by community-based providers—might be an effective way to deliver maternal and reproductive health services in other parts of Burma and in other places where there are ongoing conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
More information about the MOM project is available in previous publications by the researchers in PLoS Medicine, in Reproductive Health Matters, and in Social Science and Medicine
Additional resources are also available on the MOM Project
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium provides information on how conflicts affect reproductive health
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations, including those that affect maternal health in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and maternal and reproductive health during conflicts and among refugees (in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
24.  Increasing community capacity to prevent childhood obesity: challenges, lessons learned and results from the Romp & Chomp intervention 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:522.
Obesity is a major public health issue; however, only limited evidence is available about effective ways to prevent obesity, particularly in early childhood. Romp & Chomp was a community-wide obesity prevention intervention conducted in Geelong Australia with a target group of 12,000 children aged 0-5 years. The intervention had an environmental and capacity building focus and we have recently demonstrated that the prevalence of overweight/obesity was lower in intervention children, post-intervention. Capacity building is defined as the development of knowledge, skills, commitment, structures, systems and leadership to enable effective health promotion and the aim of this study was to determine if the capacity of the Geelong community, represented by key stakeholder organisations, to support healthy eating and physical activity for young children was increased after Romp & Chomp.
A mixed methods evaluation with three data sources was utilised. 1) Document analysis comprised assessment of the documented formative and intervention activities against a capacity building framework (five domains: Partnerships, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Workforce Development, and Organisational Development); 2) Thematic analysis of key informant interviews (n = 16); and 3) the quantitative Community Capacity Index Survey.
Document analysis showed that the majority of the capacity building activities addressed the Partnerships, Resource Allocation and Organisational Development domains of capacity building, with a lack of activity in the Leadership and Workforce Development domains. The thematic analysis revealed the establishment of sustainable partnerships, use of specialist advice, and integration of activities into ongoing formal training for early childhood workers. Complex issues also emerged from the key informant interviews regarding the challenges of limited funding, high staff turnover, changing governance structures, lack of high level leadership and unclear communication strategies. The Community Capacity Index provided further evidence that the project implementation network achieved a moderate level of capacity.
Romp & Chomp increased the capacity of organisations, settings and services in the Geelong community to support healthy eating and physical activity for young children. Despite this success there are important learnings from this mixed methods evaluation that should inform current and future community-based public health and health promotion initiatives.
Trial Registration Number
PMCID: PMC2941686  PMID: 20807410
25.  Engaging Youth in Food Activism in New York City: Lessons Learned from a Youth Organization, Health Department, and University Partnership 
Research indicates that insufficient emphasis on community collaboration and partnership can thwart innovative community-driven work on the social determinants of health by local health departments. Appreciating the importance of enhancing community participation, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) helped lead the development of the Health Equity Project (HEP), an intervention aimed at increasing the capacity of urban youth to identify and take action to reduce food-related health disparities. DOHMH partnered with the City University of New York School of Public Health and several local youth organizations to design and implement the intervention. HEP was conducted with 373 young people in 17 cohorts at 14 unique sites: six in Brooklyn, six in the Bronx, and two in Harlem. Partnered youth organizations hosted three stages of work: interactive workshops on neighborhood health disparities, food environments, and health outcomes; food-focused research projects conducted by youth; and small-scale action projects designed to change local food environments. Through these activities, HEP appears to have been successful in introducing youth to the social, economic, and political factors that shape food environments and to the influence of food on health outcomes. The intervention was also somewhat successful in providing youth with community-based participatory research skills and engaging them in documenting and then acting to change their neighborhood food environments. In the short term, we are unable to assess how successful HEP has been in building young leaders who will continue to engage in this kind of activism, but we suspect that more extended interactions would be needed to achieve this more ambitious goal. Experiences at these sites suggest that youth organizations with a demonstrated capacity to engage youth in community service or activism and a commitment to improving food or other health-promoting community resources make the most suitable and successful partners for this kind of effort.
PMCID: PMC3462824  PMID: 22696174
Food environments; Youth; Activism; Community health; Local health department; Partnerships; Dialogue; Curriculum

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