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1.  Living in Low-Cost Housing Settlements in Cape Town, South Africa—The Epidemiological Characteristics Associated with Increased Health Vulnerability 
The aim of this study was to assess the epidemiological characteristics of a representative sample of subsidized low-cost housing communities in the City of Cape Town in relation to their living conditions and their health status. Four subsidized low-cost housing communities were selected within the City of Cape Town in this cross-sectional survey. Structured interviews were administered in 336 dwellings on 173 plots. Data was obtained from 1,080 persons with a response rate of 100%. Almost all of the state-subsidized houses had one or more shacks in the backyard, increasing the occupation density and putting the municipal sanitation infrastructure under pressure. In 40% of main houses, one or more cases of diarrhea were reported during the two weeks preceding the survey, in contrast to 23% of shacks (p < 0.0007). Of the total group, 1.7% willingly disclosed that they were HIV positive, while 3.5% reported being tuberculosis (TB) positive. One of them reported having multiple drug-resistant TB. None of the HIV positive or TB positive persons was on any treatment. A reported 6.3% of the families admitted regularly eating only one meal per day, whereas 18.5% reported having only two meals per day. The shack dwellers had significantly higher education and employment status (p < 0.01), since they had to pay rent. Improvements in health intended by the rehousing process did not materialize for the recipients of low-cost housing in this study. The health vulnerability of individuals in these communities had considerable implications for the curative health services. Sanitation failures, infectious disease pressure, and environmental pollution in these communities represent a serious public health risk. The densification caused by backyard shacks, in addition, has municipal service implications and needs to be better managed. Urgent intervention is needed to allow the state-funded housing schemes to deliver the improved health that was envisaged at its inception.
PMCID: PMC3005088  PMID: 21108010
Low-cost housing; Backyard dwelling; Health vulnerability; Community health; Epidemiology
2.  Social and Structural Barriers to Housing Among Street-Involved Youth Who Use Illicit Drugs 
In Canada, approximately 150,000 youth live on the street. Street-involvement and homelessness have been associated with various health risks, including increased substance use, blood-borne infections, and sexually transmitted diseases. We undertook a qualitative study to better understand the social and structural barriers street-involved youth who use illicit drugs encounter when seeking housing. We conducted 38 semi-structured interviews with street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada from May to October 2008. Interviewees were recruited from the At-risk Youth Study (ARYS) cohort, which follows youth aged 14 to 26 who have experience with illicit drug use. All interviews were thematically analyzed, with particular emphasis on participants' perspectives regarding their housing situation and their experiences seeking housing. Many street-involved youth reported feeling unsupported in their efforts to find housing. For the majority of youth, existing abstinence-focused shelters did not constitute a viable option and, as a result, many felt excluded from these facilities. Many youth identified inflexible shelter rules and a lack of privacy as outweighing the benefits of sleeping indoors. Single-room occupancy hotels (SROs) were reported to be the only affordable housing options, since many landlords would not to rent to youth on welfare. Many youth reported resisting moving to SROs as they viewed them as unsafe and as giving up hope for a return to mainstream society. The findings of the present study shed light on the social and structural barriers street-involved youth face in attaining housing and challenge the popular view of youth homelessness constituting a life-style choice. Our findings point to the need for housing strategies that include safe, low threshold, harm reduction focused housing options for youth who engage in illicit substance use.
PMCID: PMC2883636  PMID: 20102394
homelessness; youth; housing; service accessibility; substance use; qualitative methods
3.  Housing Circumstances are Associated with Household Food Access among Low-Income Urban Families 
Household food insecurity is a pervasive problem in North America with serious health consequences. While affordable housing has been cited as a potential policy approach to improve food insecurity, the relationship between conventional notions of housing affordability and household food security is not well understood. Furthermore, the influence of housing subsidies, a key policy intervention aimed at improving housing affordability in Western countries, on food insecurity is unclear. We undertook a cross-sectional survey of 473 families in market rental (n = 222) and subsidized (n = 251) housing in high-poverty urban neighborhoods to examine the influence of housing circumstances on household food security. Food insecurity, evident among two thirds of families, was inversely associated with income and after-shelter income. Food insecurity prevalence did not differ between families in market and subsidized housing, but families in subsidized housing had lower odds of food insecurity than those on a waiting list for such housing. Market families with housing costs that consumed more than 30% of their income had increased odds of food insecurity. Rent arrears were also positively associated with food insecurity. Compromises in housing quality were evident, perhaps reflecting the impact of financial constraints on multiple basic needs as well as conscious efforts to contain housing costs to free up resources for food and other needs. Our findings raise questions about current housing affordability norms and highlight the need for a review of housing interventions to ensure that they enable families to maintain adequate housing and obtain their other basic needs.
PMCID: PMC3079041  PMID: 21286826
Household food insecurity; Food access; Housing affordability; Social housing; Housing subsidy; Poverty; Urban; Families
4.  Impact of housing improvement and the socio-physical environment on the mental health of children’s carers: a cohort study in Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:472.
The mental health of carers is an important proximate factor in the causal web linking housing conditions to child health, as well as being important in its own right. Improved understanding of the nature of the relationships between housing conditions, carer mental health and child health outcomes is therefore important for informing the development of housing programs. This paper examines the relationship between the mental health of the carers of young children, housing conditions, and other key factors in the socio-physical environment.
This analysis is part of a broader prospective cohort study of children living in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia at the time of major new community housing programs. Carer’s mental health was assessed using two validated scales: the Affect Balance scale and the Brief Screen for Depression. The quality of housing infrastructure was assessed through detailed surveys. Secondary explanatory variables included a range of socio-environmental factors, including validated measures of stressful life events. Hierarchical regression modelling was used to assess associations between outcome and explanatory variables at baseline, and associations between change in housing conditions and change in outcomes between baseline and follow-up.
There was no clear or consistent evidence of a causal relationship between the functional state of household infrastructure and the mental health of carers of young children. The strongest and most consistent associations with carer mental health were the measures of negative life events, with a dose–response relationship, and adjusted odds ratio of over 6 for carers in the highest stress exposure category at baseline, and consistent associations in the follow up analysis.
The findings highlight the need for housing programs to be supported by social, behavioral and community-wide environmental programs if potential health gains are to be more fully realized, and for rigorous evaluation of such programs for the purpose of informing future housing initiatives.
PMCID: PMC4060879  PMID: 24885617
Housing; Mental health; Depression; Affect; Cohort; Child health; Indigenous; Negative life events; Stress
Ethnicity & disease  2011;21(1):85-90.
To estimate trends in the prevalence of fatigue among elders living in public housing or in the community; to compare health status of elders living in public housing to their community-dwelling counterparts.
Cross-sectional study.
Community-dwelling elders who reported ever residing in public housing were compared to those living in other community settings.
Participants of the Health and Retirement Study (seven waves of interviews conducted from 1995 through 2006) interviewed in 2006 with complete data on housing status, self-report measures of health status and measures of functioning (n=16,191).
Self-reported fatigue, functioning, and other health conditions. We also evaluated four functional indices: overall mobility, large muscle functioning, gross motor functioning, and fine motor functioning.
Those reporting having lived in public housing were twice as likely to rate their health as fair or poor relative to those with no public housing experience (57.3% vs 26.9%, respectively). Cardiac conditions, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and psychiatric problems were all more prevalent in those living in public housing relative to community-dwelling elders not living in public housing. Fatigue was more prevalent in persons residing in public housing (26.7%) as compared to other community-dwelling elders (17.8%).
The health status of persons residing in public housing is poor. Fatigue and comorbid conditions are highly prevalent and more common in those living in public housing. Developing care models that meet the needs of this oft-neglected population is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3111957  PMID: 21462736
Elderly; Public Housing; Fatigue
6.  Epilepsy Care in Ontario: An Economic Analysis of Increasing Access to Epilepsy Surgery 
In August 2011 a proposed epilepsy care model was presented to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC) by an Expert Panel on a Provincial Strategy for Epilepsy Care in Ontario. The Expert Panel recommended leveraging existing infrastructure in the province to provide enhanced capacity for epilepsy care. The point of entry for epilepsy care and the diagnostic evaluation for surgery candidacy and the epilepsy surgery would occur at regional and district epilepsy centres in London, Hamilton, Toronto, and Ottawa and at new centres recommended for northern and eastern Ontario.
This economic analysis report was requested by OHTAC to provide information about the estimated budgetary impact on the Ontario health care system of increasing access to epilepsy surgery and to examine the cost-effectiveness of epilepsy surgery in both children and adults.
A prevalence-based “top-down” health care system budgetary impact model from the perspective of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care was developed to estimate the potential costs associated with expanding health care services to increase access to epilepsy care in general and epilepsy surgery in particular. A 5-year period (i.e., 2012–2016) was used to project annual costs associated with incremental epilepsy care services. Ontario Health Survey estimates of epilepsy prevalence, published epilepsy incidence data, and Canadian Census results for Ontario were used to approximate the number of individuals with epilepsy in the province. Applying these population estimates to data obtained from a recent field evaluation study that examined patterns of care and costs associated with epilepsy surgery in children, a health care system budget impact was calculated and the total costs and incremental costs associated with increasing access to surgery was estimated.
In order to examine the cost-effectiveness of epilepsy surgery in children, a decision analysis compared epilepsy surgery to continued medical management in children with medically intractable epilepsy. Data from the field evaluation were combined with various published data to estimate the costs and outcomes for children with drug-refractory epilepsy over a 20-year period. Outcomes were defined as the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) accumulated over 20 years following epilepsy surgery.
There are about 20,981 individuals with medically intractable epilepsy in Ontario. Of these, 9,619 (1,441 children and 8,178 adults) could potentially be further assessed at regional epilepsy centres for suitability for epilepsy surgery, following initial evaluation at a district epilepsy care centre. The health care system impact analysis related to increasing access to epilepsy surgery in the Ontario through the addition of epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) beds with video electroencephalography (vEEG) monitoring (total capacity of 15 pediatric EMU beds and 35 adult EMU beds distributed across the province) and the associated clinical resources is estimated to require an incremental $18.1 million (Cdn) annually over the next 5 years from 2012 to 2016. This would allow for about 675 children and 1050 adults to be evaluated each year for suitability for epilepsy surgery representing a 150% increase in pediatric epilepsy surgery evaluation and a 170% increase in adult epilepsy surgery evaluation.
Epilepsy surgery was found to be cost-effective compared to continued medical management in children with drug-refractory epilepsy with the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $25,020 (Cdn) to $69,451 (Cdn) per QALY for 2 of the scenarios examined. In the case of choosing epilepsy surgery versus continued medical management in children known to be suitable for surgery, the epilepsy surgery was found to be less costly and provided greater clinical benefit, that is, it was the dominant strategy.
Epilepsy surgery for medically intractable epilepsy in suitable candidates has consistently been found to provide favourable clinical outcomes and has been demonstrated to be cost-effective in both adult and child patient populations. The first step to increasing access to epilepsy surgery is to provide access to evidence-based care for all patients with epilepsy, both adults and children, through the provision of resources to expand EMU bed capacity and associated clinical personnel across the province of Ontario.
Plain Language Summary
Epilepsy, characterized by recurrent, unpredictable, and spontaneous seizures, affects approximately 70,000 people in Ontario. About 30% continue to suffer from seizures despite using 2 or more anti-seizure medications. For these individuals epilepsy surgery is a treatment option to stop the seizures or at least reduce their frequency. Awareness of this treatment option is not widespread and people are not commonly referred to those hospitals in Ontario where this surgery is available. A proposal to increase access to epilepsy care and surgery has been made by an expert committee that provided a report to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee (OHTAC). In order to address the lack of access of patients with medically intractable epilepsy to the possibility of curative surgical treatment, it is necessary to design a system that provides equal availability of evidence-based treatment for all epilepsy patients in Ontario, both adults and children. To this end, the establishment of district epilepsy care centres and the further development of the existing regional epilepsy care centres in the province have been proposed. This report outlines the estimated additional funds that will be required to implement the proposal. It also examines the cost-effectiveness of referral to these centres and epilepsy surgery.
For the 21,000 people in the province with drug-refractory epilepsy, referral to an epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) located at one of the epilepsy care centres is the first step to determining if epilepsy surgery is an option for them. The expert committee proposal suggests that the number of EMU beds be increased from the current 19 to 50 to allow for the assessment of those individuals with drug-refractory epilepsy. The health care system budget impact model presented in this report estimates that it would cost approximately $18 million (Cdn) each year over the next 5 years to increase the number of EMU beds and expand associated epilepsy care centres to permit the systematic evidence-based care of all Ontarians with epilepsy and evaluate more people for surgery candidacy. This amount would provide appropriate care for patients with epilepsy and ensure that about 675 children and 1050 adults could be assessed each year for suitability for epilepsy surgery. Surgery could then be made available to just over 300 people per year.
Epilepsy surgery over the long term is a less expensive treatment alternative for adults and children with medically refractory epilepsy compared with continued drug treatment. In addition, drug treatment does not always work for some patients; nor does it necessarily provide improved quality of life.
This report includes a cost-effectiveness analysis comparing referral for assessment for epilepsy surgery with continuing medical management in children with drug-refractory epilepsy. In all the cases examined epilepsy surgery provides good value for money over a 20-year period. Similar studies have found that the benefits from epilepsy surgery outweigh those of continuing medical management in adult patients with medically refractory epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC3428718  PMID: 23074428
7.  Oh Canada! Too many children in poverty for too long 
Paediatrics & Child Health  2007;12(8):661-665.
Despite continued economic growth, Canada’s record on child poverty is worse than it was in 1989, when the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty by the year 2000. Most recent data indicate that nearly 1.2 million children – almost one of every six children – live in low-income households. Campaign 2000 contends that poverty and income inequality are major barriers to the healthy development of children, the cohesion of our communities and, ultimately, to the social and economic well-being of Canada. Canada needs to adopt a poverty-reduction strategy that responds to the UNICEF challenge to establish credible targets and timetables to bring the child poverty rate well below 10%, as other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations have done. Campaign 2000 calls on the federal government to develop a cross-Canada poverty-reduction strategy in conjunction with the provinces, territories and First Nations, and in consultation with low-income people. This strategy needs to include good jobs at living wages that ensure that full-time work is a pathway out of poverty; an effective child benefit of $5,100 that is indexed; a system of affordable, universally accessible early learning and child care services available to all families irrespective of employment status; an affordable housing program that creates more affordable housing and helps to sustain existing stock; and affordable and accessible postsecondary education and training programs that prepare youth and adults for employment leading to economic independence.
PMCID: PMC2528808  PMID: 19030443
Child poverty; Inequality; Poverty; Poverty reduction
8.  A cross-sectional study of the individual, social, and built environmental correlates of pedometer-based physical activity among elementary school children 
Children who participate in regular physical activity obtain health benefits. Preliminary pedometer-based cut-points representing sufficient levels of physical activity among youth have been established; however limited evidence regarding correlates of achieving these cut-points exists. The purpose of this study was to identify correlates of pedometer-based cut-points among elementary school-aged children.
A cross-section of children in grades 5-7 (10-12 years of age) were randomly selected from the most (n = 13) and least (n = 12) 'walkable' public elementary schools (Perth, Western Australia), stratified by socioeconomic status. Children (n = 1480; response rate = 56.6%) and parents (n = 1332; response rate = 88.8%) completed a survey, and steps were collected from children using pedometers. Pedometer data were categorized to reflect the sex-specific pedometer-based cut-points of ≥15000 steps/day for boys and ≥12000 steps/day for girls. Associations between socio-demographic characteristics, sedentary and active leisure-time behavior, independent mobility, active transportation and built environmental variables - collected from the child and parent surveys - and meeting pedometer-based cut-points were estimated (odds ratios: OR) using generalized estimating equations.
Overall 927 children participated in all components of the study and provided complete data. On average, children took 11407 ± 3136 steps/day (boys: 12270 ± 3350 vs. girls: 10681 ± 2745 steps/day; p < 0.001) and 25.9% (boys: 19.1 vs. girls: 31.6%; p < 0.001) achieved the pedometer-based cut-points.
After adjusting for all other variables and school clustering, meeting the pedometer-based cut-points was negatively associated (p < 0.05) with being male (OR = 0.42), parent self-reported number of different destinations in the neighborhood (OR 0.93), and a friend's (OR 0.62) or relative's (OR 0.44, boys only) house being at least a 10-minute walk from home. Achieving the pedometer-based cut-points was positively associated with participating in screen-time < 2 hours/day (OR 1.88), not being driven to school (OR 1.48), attending a school located in a high SES neighborhood (OR 1.33), the average number of steps among children within the respondent's grade (for each 500 step/day increase: OR 1.29), and living further than a 10-minute walk from a relative's house (OR 1.69, girls only).
Comprehensive multi-level interventions that reduce screen-time, encourage active travel to/from school and foster a physically active classroom culture might encourage more physical activity among children.
PMCID: PMC3083320  PMID: 21486475
walkability; youth; obesity; socioeconomic status; environment
9.  Supported housing programs for persons with serious mental illness in rural northern communities: A mixed method evaluation 
During the past two decades, consumers, providers and policy makers have recognized the role of supported housing intervention for persons diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI) to be able to live independently in the community. Much of supported housing research to date, however, has been conducted in large urban centers rather than northern and rural communities. Northern conditional and contextual issues such as rural poverty, lack of accessible mental health services, small or non-existing housing markets, lack of a continuum of support or housing services, and in some communities, a poor quality of housing challenge the viability of effective supported housing services. The current research proposal aims to describe and evaluate the processes and outcomes of supported housing programs for persons living with SMI in northern and rural communities from the perspective of clients, their families, and community providers.
This research will use a mixed method design guided by participatory action research. The study will be conducted over two years, in four stages. Stage I will involve setting up the research in each of the four northern sites. In Stage II a descriptive cross-sectional survey will be used to obtain information about the three client outcomes: housing history, quality of life and housing preference. In Stage III two participatory action strategies, focus groups and photo-voice, will be used to explore perceptions of supported housing services. In the last stage findings from the study will be re-presented to the participants, as well as other key community individuals in order to translate them into policy.
Supported housing intervention is a core feature of mental health care, and it requires evaluation. The lack of research in northern and rural SMI populations heightens the relevance of research findings for health service planning. The inclusion of multiple stakeholder groups, using a variety of data collection approaches, contributes to a comprehensive, systems-level examination of supported housing in smaller communities. It is anticipated that the study's findings will not only have utility across Ontario, but also Canada.
PMCID: PMC2527314  PMID: 18652689
10.  Housing and inequalities in health: a study of socioeconomic dimensions of housing and self reported health from a survey of Vancouver residents 
Study objective: To investigate the relation between housing, socioeconomic status, and self reported general and mental health. This study is an empirical investigation of social and economic dimensions of housing, specifically, demand, control, and material (affordability, dwelling type) and meaningful (pride in dwelling, home as a refuge) dimensions of everyday life as they occur in the domestic environment.
Design: A cross sectional telephone survey was administered to a random sample of households. Survey items included measures of demand, control, and meaningfulness of the domestic environment, as well as standard measures of socioeconomic status and social support. Main outcome measures were self reported health (excellent, very good, good, fair, poor) and self reported frequency of feeling "downhearted and blue" in the two weeks before interview (from the Rand Mental Health Index).
Setting: Households (n=650) from 12 neighbourhood areas in the city of Vancouver, Canada.
Participants: One randomly selected adult from each of 650 households completed the interview and constitute the sample for this study.
Main results: In bivariate analyses, measures of housing demand, control and meaningfulness exhibited strong and significantly graded relations with self reported health and somewhat less strong relations with mental health. In logistic regression analyses housing demand and control variables made significant contributions to health both general and mental health. Respondents were more likely to report fair/poor health if they: reported that they couldn't stand to be at home sometimes (OR=2.29, p<0.05); rated their domestic housework as somewhat or quite a strain (OR=5.71, p<0.001); were somewhat or very dissatisfied with their social activities (OR=3.41, p<0.001); and reported that they were constantly under stress a good bit of the time or more (OR=3.56, p<0.05). In terms of mental health, respondents were more likely to report poorer mental health if they: lived longer in their neighbourhood (OR=1.05, p<0.05); reported their housework duties to be somewhat or quite a strain (OR=5.55, p<0.001); reported that they did not have somebody that could help them if they needed it (OR=9.28, p<0.001); and reported that they were constantly under stress a good bit of the time or more in the two weeks before the interview (OR=5.26, p<0.001). One of the main hypotheses investigated—that meaningful dimensions of housing are associated with health status—found support in bivariate analyses without controls, but did not contribute to multivariable models.
Conclusions: The influence of housing demand and control variables superseded a well known correlate of health status, educational attainment, attesting to their importance. The findings of this paper lend support to the hypothesis that features of the domestic environment, especially as they pertain to the exercise of control and the experience of demand, are significant predictors of self reported general and mental health status. Housing is a concrete manifestation of socioeconomic status, which has an important part to play in the development of explanations of the social production of health inequalities.
PMCID: PMC1732232  PMID: 12177083
11.  Association of Housing Disrepair Indicators with Cockroach and Rodent Infestations in a Cohort of Pregnant Latina Women and Their Children 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2005;113(12):1795-1801.
Health burdens associated with poor housing and indoor pest infestations are likely to affect young children in particular, who spend most of their time indoors at home. We completed environmental assessments in 644 homes of pregnant Latina women and their children living in the Salinas Valley, California. High residential densities were common, with 39% of homes housing > 1.5 persons per room. Housing disrepair was also common: 58% of homes had peeling paint, 43% had mold, 25% had water damage, and 11% had rotting wood. Evidence of cockroaches and rodents was present in 60% and 32% of homes, respectively. Compared with representative national survey data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homes in our sample were more likely to have rodents, peeling paint, leaks under sinks, and much higher residential densities. The odds of rodent infestations in homes increased in the presence of peeling paint [odds ratio (OR) 2.1; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.5–3.1], water damage (OR 1.9; 95% CI, 1.2–2.7), and mold (OR 1.5; 95% CI, 1.0–2.1). The odds of cockroach infestation increased in the presence of peeling paint (OR 3.8; 95% CI, 2.7–5.6), water damage (OR 1.9; 95% CI, 1.2–2.9), or high residential density (OR 2.1; 95% CI, 1.2–3.8). Homes that were less clean than average were more prone to both types of infestations. Pesticides were stored or used in 51% of households, partly to control roach and rodent infestations. These data indicate that adverse housing conditions are common in this community and increase the likelihood of pest infestations and home pesticide use. Interventions to improve housing and promote children’s health and safety in this population are needed.
PMCID: PMC1314924  PMID: 16330367
children; cockroaches; environment; exposure; Hispanic; home inspections; housing quality; Latino; pesticides; pregnant; rodents; women
12.  Use of Automated External Defibrillators in Cardiac Arrest 
Executive Summary
The objectives were to identify the components of a program to deliver early defibrillation that optimizes the effectiveness of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in out-of-hospital and hospital settings, to determine whether AEDs are cost-effective, and if cost-effectiveness was determined, to advise on how they should be distributed in Ontario.
Clinical Need
Survival in people who have had a cardiac arrest is low, especially in out-of-hospital settings. With each minute delay in defibrillation from the onset of cardiac arrest, the probability of survival decreases by 10%. (1) Early defibrillation (within 8 minutes of a cardiac arrest) has been shown to improve survival outcomes in these patients. However, in out-of-hospital settings and in certain areas within a hospital, trained personnel and their equipment may not be available within 8 minutes. This implies that “first responders” should take up the responsibility of delivering shock. The first responders in out-of-hospital settings are usually bystanders, firefighters, police, and community volunteers. In hospital settings, they are usually nurses. These first responders are not trained in reading electrocardiograms and identifying abnormal heart rhythms restorable by defibrillation.
The Technology
An AED is a device that can analyze a heart rhythm and deliver a shock if needed. Thus, AEDs can be used by first responders to deliver early defibrillation in out-of-hospital and hospital settings. However, simply providing an AED would not likely improve survival outcomes. Rather, AEDs have a role in strengthening the “chain of survival,” which includes prompt activation of the 911 telephone system, early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), rapid defibrillation, and timely advanced life support.
In the chain of survival, the first step for a witness of a cardiac arrest in an out-of-hospital setting is to call 911. Second, the witness initiates CPR (if she or he is trained in CPR). If the witness cannot initiate CPR, or the first responders of the 911 system (e.g., firefighters/police) have arrived, the first responders initiate CPR. Third, the witness or first responders apply an AED to the patient. The device reads the patient’s heart rhythm and prompts for shock when indicated. Fourth, the patient is handed over to the advanced life-support team with subsequent admission to an intensive care unit in a hospital.
The use of AEDs requires developing and implementing a program at sites where the cardiac arrest rate is high, where a number of potential first responders are trained and retained, and where patients are transferred to an advanced care facility after initiating resuscitation. Obviously, placing an AED at a site where no cardiac arrests are likely to occur would be futile, as would placing an AED at a site where no one knows how to use it. Moreover, abandoning patients after initial resuscitation by not transferring them to an advanced care facility would negate all earlier efforts. Thus, it is important to identify the essential components of an AED program that might also optimize the effectiveness of AED use.
There is a large body of literature on the use of AEDs in various settings ranging from closed environments such as hospitals, airlines, and casinos to open places such as sports fields and highways. There is little doubt regarding the effectiveness and safety of AEDs to treat people in cardiac arrest. It is intuitive that these devices should be provided in hospitals in areas that are not readily accessible to the traditional responders, the “code blue team.” Similarly, it is intuitive to provide AEDs in out-of-hospital settings where the risk of cardiac arrest is high and a response plan involving trained first responders in the use of AEDs is in place.
Thus, the Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed the literature and focused on the components of an AED program in out-of-hospital settings that maximize the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the program in the management of cardiac arrest. Search engines included MEDLINE, EMBASE, EconLit and Web sites of other agencies that assess health technologies. Any study that reported results of an AED program in an out-of-hospital setting was included. Studies that did not use AEDs, had a physician-assisted emergency response plan, did not have a program for the use of AEDs, or did not include cardiac arrest as an outcome were excluded.
Summary of Findings
A total of 133 articles were identified; 62 were excluded after reviewing titles and abstracts. Of the 71 articles reviewed, 8 reported findings of 2 large studies, the Ontario Prehospital Advanced Life Support (OPALS) study and the Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) trial. These studies examined the effect of a community program to respond to cardiac arrest with and without the use of AEDs. Their authors had reported a significant reduction in overall mortality from cardiac arrest with the use of AEDs.
Factors That Improve the Effectiveness of an AED Program
The PAD trial investigators reported a significant improvement in survival (P = .03) after providing AEDs in public access areas and training volunteers in CPR compared with training volunteers in CPR only. The OPALS study investigators reported odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for significant predictors of survival, which were age (OR [age per 10 year], 0.8; CI, 0.8–0.9), arrest witnessed by bystander (OR, 3.9; CI, 2.7–5.5), CPR initiated by bystander (OR, 3.7; CI, 2.6–5.1), CPR initiated by first responder (OR, 1.6; CI, 1.1–2.3), and emergency medical service response within 8 minutes (OR, 3.0; CI, 1.8–5.1). The last 3 variables are modifiable and thus may improve the effectiveness of an AED program. For example, the rate of bystander-initiated CPR was only 14% in the OPALS study, but it was 100% in the PAD trial. This was because PAD trial investigators trained community volunteers whereas the OPALS study investigators did not.
A systematic review of the literature suggests that cost-effectiveness varies from setting to setting. Most of the studies have estimated cost-effectiveness in American settings from a societal perspective; therefore, the results are not applicable to this report. However, results from this review suggest that the incidence of cardiac arrest in out-of-hospital setting in Ontario is 59 per 100,000 people. The mean age of cardiac arrest patients is 69 years. Eighty-five percent of these cardiac arrests occur in homes. Of all the cardiac arrests, 37% have heart rhythm abnormalities (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) that are correctable by delivering shock through an AED. Thus, in an out-of-hospital setting, general use of AEDs by laypersons would not be cost-effective. Special programs are needed in the out-of-hospital setting for cost-effective use of AEDs.
One model for the use of AEDs in out-of-hospital settings was examined in the OPALS study. Firefighters and police were trained and provided with AEDs. The total initial cost (in US dollars) of this program was estimated to be $980,000. The survival rate was 3.9% before implementing the AED program and 5.2% after its implementation (OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.03–1.7; P = .03). Applying these estimates to cardiac arrest rates in Ontario in 2002, one would expect 54 patients of the total 1,395 cardiac arrests to survive without AEDs compared with 73 patients with AEDs; thus, 19 additional lives might be saved each year with an AED program. It would initially cost $51,579 to save each additional life. In subsequent years, however, total cost would be lower (about $50,000 per year), when it would cost $2,632 to save each additional life per year. One limitation of the OPALS study was that the authors combined emergency medical service response time and application of an AED into a single variable. Thus, it was not possible to tease out the independent effects of reduction in response time and application of an AED on the small improvement in survival. Nevertheless, the PAD study found that when response time was fixed, the application of AED improved survival.
There are other delivery models for AEDs in casinos, sports arenas, and airports. The proportion of cardiac arrest at these sites out of the total cardiac arrests in Ontario is between 0.05% and 0.4%. Thus, an AED placed at these sites would likely not be used at all.
Of the 85% cardiac arrests that occur in homes, 56% occur in single residential dwellings (houses), 23% occur in multi-residential dwellings (apartments/condominiums), and 6% occur in nursing homes. There is no program in place except the 911 system to reach these patients.
Accordingly, the Medical Advisory Secretariat examined the cost-effectiveness of providing AEDs in hospitals, office buildings, apartments/condominiums, and houses. The results suggested that deployment of AEDs in hospitals would be cost-effective in terms of cost per quality adjusted life year gained. Conversely, deployment of AEDs in office buildings, apartments, and houses was not cost-effective. An exception, however, was noted for people at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest; these were patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction less than or equal to 0.35.
The OPALS study model appears cost-effective, and effectiveness can be further enhanced by training community volunteers to improve the bystander-initiated CPR rates. Deployment of AEDs in all public access areas and in houses and apartments is not cost-effective. Further research is needed to examine the benefit of in-home use of AEDs in patients at high risk of cardiac arrest.
PMCID: PMC3382296  PMID: 23074470
13.  Sri Lankan tsunami refugees: a cross sectional study of the relationships between housing conditions and self-reported health 
On the 26th December 2004 the Asian tsunami devastated the Sri Lankan coastline. More than two years later, over 14,500 families were still living in transitional shelters. This study compares the health of the internally displaced people (IDP), living in transitional camps with those in permanent housing projects provided by government and non-government organisations in Sri Lanka.
This study was conducted in seven transitional camps and five permanent housing projects in the south west of Sri Lanka. Using an interviewer-led questionnaire, data on the IDPs' self-reported health and housing conditions were collected from 154 participants from transitional camps and 147 participants from permanent housing projects. Simple tabulation with non-parametric tests and logistic regression were used to identify and analyse relationships between housing conditions and the reported prevalence of specific symptoms.
Analysis showed that living conditions were significantly worse in transitional camps than in permanent housing projects for all factors investigated, except 'having a leaking roof'. Transitional camp participants scored significantly lower on self-perceived overall health scores than those living in housing projects. After controlling for gender, age and marital status, living in a transitional camp compared to a housing project was found to be a significant risk factor for the following symptoms; coughs OR: 3.53 (CI: 2.11–5.89), stomach ache 4.82 (2.19–10.82), headache 5.20 (3.09–8.76), general aches and pains 6.44 (3.67–11.33) and feeling generally unwell 2.28 (2.51–7.29). Within transitional camp data, the only condition shown to be a significant risk factor for any symptom was household population density, which increased the risk of stomach aches 1.40 (1.09–1.79) and headaches 1.33 (1.01–1.77).
Internally displaced people living in transitional camps are a vulnerable population and specific interventions need to be targeted at this population to address the health inequalities that they report to be experiencing. Further studies need to be conducted to establish which aspects of their housing environment predispose them to poorer health.
PMCID: PMC2729729  PMID: 19653917
14.  Indoor Residual Spraying in Combination with Insecticide-Treated Nets Compared to Insecticide-Treated Nets Alone for Protection against Malaria: A Cluster Randomised Trial in Tanzania 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001630.
Philippa West and colleagues compare Plasmodium falciparum infection prevalence in children, anemia in young children, and entomological inoculation rate between study arms.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) of houses provide effective malaria transmission control. There is conflicting evidence about whether it is more beneficial to provide both interventions in combination. A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted to investigate whether the combination provides added protection compared to ITNs alone.
Methods and Findings
In northwest Tanzania, 50 clusters (village areas) were randomly allocated to ITNs only or ITNs and IRS. Dwellings in the ITN+IRS arm were sprayed with two rounds of bendiocarb in 2012. Plasmodium falciparum prevalence rate (PfPR) in children 0.5–14 y old (primary outcome) and anaemia in children <5 y old (secondary outcome) were compared between study arms using three cross-sectional household surveys in 2012. Entomological inoculation rate (secondary outcome) was compared between study arms.
IRS coverage was approximately 90%. ITN use ranged from 36% to 50%. In intention-to-treat analysis, mean PfPR was 13% in the ITN+IRS arm and 26% in the ITN only arm, odds ratio = 0.43 (95% CI 0.19–0.97, n = 13,146). The strongest effect was observed in the peak transmission season, 6 mo after the first IRS. Subgroup analysis showed that ITN users were additionally protected if their houses were sprayed. Mean monthly entomological inoculation rate was non-significantly lower in the ITN+IRS arm than in the ITN only arm, rate ratio = 0.17 (95% CI 0.03–1.08).
This is the first randomised trial to our knowledge that reports significant added protection from combining IRS and ITNs compared to ITNs alone. The effect is likely to be attributable to IRS providing added protection to ITN users as well as compensating for inadequate ITN use. Policy makers should consider deploying IRS in combination with ITNs to control transmission if local ITN strategies on their own are insufficiently effective. Given the uncertain generalisability of these findings, it would be prudent for malaria control programmes to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of deploying the combination.
Trial registration NCT01697852
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and more than 600,000 people, mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die from this parasitic infection. Malaria parasites, which are transmitted to people through the bites of infected night-flying mosquitoes, cause a characteristic fever that needs to be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent anaemia (a reduction in red blood cell numbers) and organ damage. Prompt treatment also helps to reduce malaria transmission, but the mainstays of global malaria control efforts are the provision of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for people to sleep under to avoid mosquito bites, and indoor residual spraying (IRS) of houses with insecticides, which prevents mosquitoes from resting in houses. Both approaches have been scaled up in the past decade. About 54% of households in Africa now own at least one ITN, and 8% of at-risk populations are protected by IRS. As a result of the widespread deployment of these preventative tools and the increased availability of effective antimalarial drugs, malaria-related deaths in Africa fell by 45% between 2000 and 2012.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some countries have chosen to use ITNs and IRS in combination, reasoning that this will increase the proportion of individuals who are protected by at least one intervention and may provide additional protection to people using both interventions rather than one alone. However, providing both interventions is costly, so it is important to know whether this rationale is correct. In this cluster randomised controlled trial (a study that compares outcomes of groups of people randomly assigned to receive different interventions) undertaken in the Muleba District of Tanzania during 2012, the researchers investigate whether ITNs plus IRS provide more protection against malaria than ITNs alone. Malaria transmission occurs throughout the year in Muleba District but peaks after the October–December and March–May rains. Ninety-one percent of the district's households own at least one ITN, and 58% of households own enough ITNs to cover all their sleeping places. Annual rounds of IRS have been conducted in the region since 2007.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers allocated 50 communities to the ITN intervention or to the ITN+IRS intervention. Dwellings allocated to ITN+IRS were sprayed with insecticide just before each of the malaria transmission peaks in 2012. The researchers used household surveys to collect information about ITN coverage in the study population, the proportion of children aged 0.5–14 years infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum (the prevalence of infection), and the proportion of children under five years old with anaemia. IRS coverage in the ITN+IRS arm was approximately 90%, and 50% of the children in both intervention arms used ITNs at the start of the trial, declining to 36% at the end of the study. In an intention-to-treat analysis (which assumed that all study participants got the planned intervention), the average prevalence of infection was 13% in the ITN+IRS arm and 26% in the ITN arm. A per-protocol analysis (which considered data only from participants who received their allocated intervention) indicated that the combined intervention had a statistically significant protective effect on the prevalence of infection compared to ITNs alone (an effect that is unlikely to have arisen by chance). Finally, the proportion of young children with anaemia was lower in the ITN+IRS arm than in the ITN arm, but this effect was not statistically significant.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide evidence that IRS, when used in combination with ITNs, can provide better protection against malaria infection than ITNs used alone. This effect is likely to be the result of IRS providing added protection to ITN users as well as compensating for inadequate ITN use. The findings also suggest that the combination of interventions may reduce the prevalence of anaemia better than ITNs alone, but this result needs to be confirmed. Additional trials are also needed to investigate whether ITN+IRS compared to ITN reduces clinical cases of malaria, and whether similar effects are seen in other settings. Moreover, the cost-effectiveness of ITN+IRS and ITN alone needs to be compared. For now, though, these findings suggest that national malaria control programs should consider implementing IRS in combination with ITNs if local ITN strategies alone are insufficiently effective and cannot be improved.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages), including information on insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying; the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on malaria, on insecticide-treated bed nets, and on indoor residual spraying; it also provides a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes fact sheets about malaria in Africa and about nets and insecticides
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3988001  PMID: 24736370
Studies have shown that good antenatal care is associated with favorable outcome for both mothers and children. However, there are several factors that influence the utilization of such care even when available.
The objective of this paper is to examine maternal demographic variables that influence antenatal care and the desire of mothers to consult a physician when their children aged below two are ill.
This is a cross-sectional study of women living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From a map of residential areas, a multi-stage sampling approach was employed to select a random sample of houses. All women with children aged less than two years were included in a house- to- house survey. A structured questionnaire was used for data collection. Epi-Info was used for statistical analysis.
Results show that 96.6% of the mothers had at least one antenatal care visit, while 80.9% had had more than six visits. Delivery under medical supervision was reported by 97.8% of the sample. The use of antenatal care and the number of visits were statistically significantly associated with age, education and marital status. The last two variables were also statistically significantly associated with the place of delivery. Nearly 83% of the mothers reported one or two illnesses in their children within the last two weeks. About 90.5% of these mothers consulted a physician on the illness and there was a 12.4% severe morbidity rate as evidenced by hospital admission. Physician consultation was statistically significantly associated with nationality, education and the occupation of the mother p<0.05. Hospital admission was also statistically significantly associated with age, nationality and occupation of the mother p<0.05.
The commonest illness in the children in the last two weeks was diarrhea (34.3%) followed by fever (33.4%) and breathing difficulties (16%), although the highest frequency of episodes of illness was diarrhea and fever. Nevertheless, breathing difficulties followed closely by ear infection constituted the two highest prevalences among children who were brought for medical consultation (94.4% and 93.3% respectively).
The study shows a higher proportion of mothers attending antenatal care than has been previously reported for the country. The pattern of reported children's illnesses reflects what has been previously seen from hospital studies. It also shows a high rate of physician consultation. This is probably due to the extensive coverage of free government health services in Riyadh. It will be worthwhile to document other socio-demographic variables affecting health seeking behavior of mothers in other parts of the country. There is a need to educate young illiterate mothers in sound child rearing practices. This will help minimize the distress of childhood diseases.
PMCID: PMC3410101  PMID: 23012039
Antenatal care; Morbidity of children; Health seeking behaviors; Maternal variables
16.  Social determinants of health in the Mixtec and Zapotec community in Ventura County, California 
There are an estimated 165,000 indigenous Mexicans living in California, including Mixtec and Zapotec immigrant farm workers. Because many of these immigrants speak only their native non-written languages, there is little information about the needs of this community. An academic-community partnership research team developed a survey to assess basic needs that are known to be social determinants of health in the Mixtec and Zapotec community in Ventura County.
In summer 2013, Spanish-Mixteco and Spanish-Zapoteco bilingual promotoras conducted surveys in Spanish, Mixteco and Zapoteco in the greater Oxnard area in Ventura County, California to assess the following basic needs: ability of adults and children to obtain health services; household needs regarding work opportunities, food, housing, transportation, safety and education; and discrimination. Independent variables included respondent characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, living part of the year in another city, and household characteristics such as Spanish spoken in the household, number of household members and number of health care providers/agencies used. Several sets of analyses examined the relationship between basic needs and independent variables.
Respondents (N = 989) reported insufficient employment opportunities (74%), food for the family (59%) or housing (48%), lack of transportation (59%), and discrimination or bullying (34%). Most reported access to medical care for children (90%), but only 57% of respondents were able to get health care for themselves.
Many basic needs in the Mixtec and Zapotec community in Ventura County are unmet. It will require many different resources and services to address the needs of this community and to overcome longstanding inequities that are experienced by immigrant farm workers. Our findings will guide the development of future health programs and will serve as a baseline to evaluate the impact of services to improve the health conditions in this community.
PMCID: PMC4320817  PMID: 25643835
Household survey; Indigenous farm workers; Community-engaged research; Promotoras; Social determinants of health
17.  Perception of neighborhood environment and health risk behaviors in Prague’s teenagers: a pilot study in a post-communist city 
A youths’ neighborhood can play an important role in their physical, health, and emotional development. The prevalence of health risk behavior (HRB) in Czech youth such as smoking, drug and alcohol use is the highest in Europe.
To analyze differences in HRB in youth residents within different types of Prague’s neighborhoods in relation to the perception of the built environment, quality of their school and home environments.
Data and methods
The data is based on the on-line survey among elementary school students aged between 14–15 years, which was administered in19 selected schools in Prague, during the months of October 2013 to March 2014. Respondents were asked their opinions on various issues related to their HRB, about their indoor and outdoor housing and school environments. The questionnaire was completed by 407 students. Factor analysis with a principal components extraction was applied to determine the underlying structure in the variables. A consequent field research was conducted to map the opportunity hot spots and critical places around the elementary schools.
Binge drinking has been reported mainly by the students living in the housing estates with blocks of flats. The most frequent occurrence of daily smokers was found in the neighborhoods of old city apartment houses. High prevalence of risky marijuana use almost in all the surveyed types of neighborhoods. The respondents were more critical in their evaluation of school characteristics. The neighborhoods critically evaluated by the students as regards the school outdoor environments were the older apartment houses in the historical centre and inner city, the school indoor environment was worst assessed within the housing estate neighborhoods.
Our results suggest that perceptions of problems in both residential and school environment are associated with HRB. This fact makes this issue of a serious importance also from the policy point of view. Mainly the school surroundings have to be better managed by the local authorities responsible for the public space. This research thus forms part of the Sophie project aiming to find the most efficient policies that would tackle with the inequalities in the health and quality of life.
PMCID: PMC4201678  PMID: 25316603
18.  Housing Instability and Incident Hypertension in the CARDIA Cohort 
Housing instability, a growing public health problem, may be an independent environmental risk factor for hypertension, but limited prospective data exist. We sought to determine the independent association of housing instability in early adulthood (year 5, 1990–1991) and incident hypertension over the subsequent 15 years of follow-up (years 7, 10, 15, and 20) in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study (N = 5,115). Because causes of inadequate housing and its effects on health are thought to vary by race and sex, we hypothesized that housing instability would exert a differential effect on incident hypertension by race and sex. At year 5, all CARDIA participants were asked about housing and those free of hypertension were analyzed (N = 4,342). We defined housing instability as living in overcrowded housing, moving frequently, or living doubled up. Of the 4,342 participants, 8.5 % were living in unstable housing. Across all participants, housing instability was not associated with incident hypertension (incidence rate ratio (IRR), 1.1; 95 % CI, 0.9–1.5) after adjusting for demographics, socioeconomic status, substance use, social factors, body mass index, and study site. However, the association varied by race and sex (p value for interaction, <0.001). Unstably housed white women had a hypertension incidence rate 4.7 times (IRR, 4.7; 95 % CI, 2.4–9.2) that of stably housed white women in adjusted analysis. There was no association among white men, black women, or black men. These findings suggest that housing instability may be a more important risk factor among white women, and may act independently or as a marker for other psychosocial stressors (e.g., stress from intimate partner violence) leading to development of hypertension. Studies that examine the role of these psychosocial stressors in development of hypertension risk among unstably housed white women are needed.
PMCID: PMC3665966  PMID: 22752301
Housing instability; Hypertension; Access to care; Socioeconomic factors
19.  Community-Based Support among African American Public Housing Residents 
Recent shifts from federally owned public housing toward tenant-based housing assistance in the form of vouchers raise important questions about the health and wellbeing of rent-assisted households. In particular, little is known about how these shifts in housing policy will affect access to critical sources of community-based social support among those who receive rent assistance. Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we estimate the relationship between residence in a federally owned public housing project and the reported presence of social support among a nationally representative sample of blacks who receive rent assistance. We find that in comparison to other rent-assisted households, public housing residents are significantly more likely to report that people in their neighborhood count on each other, watch each other’s children, and have access to help from a family nearby. We also find that these measures of community-situated social support are associated with reduced odds of school expulsion among children and food insecurity among adults. In conclusion, we find evidence suggesting that public housing communities contain social resources that are important to the wellbeing of their residents and are less accessible to other rent-assisted households.
PMCID: PMC3042090  PMID: 21279452
Minorities; Public housing; Social support
20.  Development and Initial Testing of a New Socioeconomic Status Measure Based on Housing Data 
Socioeconomic status (SES) has been associated with many health outcomes. Commonly used datasets such as medical records often lack data on SES but do include address information. The authors sought to determine whether an SES measure derived from housing characteristics is associated with other SES measures and outcomes known to be associated with SES. The data come from a telephone survey of parents/guardians of children aged 1–17 years who resided in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and Jackson County, Missouri. Seven variables related to housing and six neighborhood characteristics obtained from local government assessor’s offices in Olmsted County, Minnesota, were appended to survey responses. An SES index derived from housing characteristics (hereafter, HOUSES) was constructed using principal components factor analysis. For criterion validity, we assessed Pearson’s correlation coefficients between HOUSES and other SES measures, including self-reported parents’ educational levels, income, Hollingshead Index, and Nakao–Treas Index. For construct validity, we determined the association between HOUSES and outcomes, risks of low birth weight, overweight, and smoking exposure at home. We applied HOUSES to subjects in another community by formulating HOUSES from housing data of subjects in Jackson County, Missouri, using the same statistical algorithm as HOUSES for subjects in Olmsted County, Minnesota. We found that HOUSES had modest to good correlation with other SES measures. Overall, as hypothesized, HOUSES was inversely associated with outcome measures assessed among subjects from both counties. HOUSES may be a useful surrogate measure of individual SES in epidemiologic research, especially when SES measures for individuals are not available.
PMCID: PMC3191204  PMID: 21499815
Housing; Socioeconomic status; Neighborhood; Health; Epidemiology
21.  Evaluation of an Australian indigenous housing programme: community level impact on crowding, infrastructure function and hygiene 
Background and Aim
Housing programmes in indigenous Australian communities have focused largely on achieving good standards of infrastructure function. The impact of this approach was assessed on three potentially important housing-related influences on child health at the community level: (1) crowding, (2) the functional state of the house infrastructure and (3) the hygienic condition of the houses.
A before-and-after study, including house infrastructure surveys and structured interviews with the main householder, was conducted in all homes of young children in 10 remote Australian indigenous communities.
Compared with baseline, follow-up surveys showed (1) a small non-significant decrease in the mean number of people per bedroom in the house on the night before the survey (3.4, 95% CI 3.1 to 3.6 at baseline vs 3.2, 95% CI 2.9 to 3.4 at follow-up; natural logarithm transformed t test, t=1.3, p=0.102); (2) a marginally significant overall improvement in infrastructure function scores (Kruskal–Wallis test, χ2=3.9, p=0.047); and (3) no clear overall improvement in hygiene (Kruskal–Wallis test, χ2=0.3, p=0.605).
Housing programmes of this scale that focus on the provision of infrastructure alone appear unlikely to lead to more hygienic general living environments, at least in this study context. A broader ecological approach to housing programmes delivered in these communities is needed if potential health benefits are to be maximised. This ecological approach would require a balanced programme of improving access to health hardware, hygiene promotion and creating a broader enabling environment in communities.
PMCID: PMC3071088  PMID: 20466712
Housing; Indigenous health; crowding; hygiene; child; housing infrastructure; health policy; ecological approach; aboriginal populations; environmental health; policy development; public health FQ
22.  Housing Quality, Housing Instability, and Maternal Mental Health 
Poor housing conditions and residential instability have been associated with distress among women; however, this association could be the result of other social factors related to housing, such as intimate partner violence (IPV) and economic hardship. We examined associations of housing conditions and instability with maternal depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) while accounting for IPV and economic hardship in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 2,104). In the third study wave, interviewers rated indoor housing quality, including housing deterioration (e.g., peeling paint and holes in floor) and housing disarray (e.g., dark, crowded, and noisy). Mothers reported whether they had moved more than twice in the past two years, an indicator of housing instability. A screening for depression and GAD was obtained from questions derived from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview-Short Form in the second and third study waves. IPV and economic hardship were assessed through questionnaire. In this sample, 16% of women were classified as having probable depression and 5% as having probable GAD. In adjusted analyses, mothers experiencing housing disarray (odds ratio [OR], 1.3 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.0, 1.7]) and instability (OR, 1.4 [95% CI, 1.2, 2.3]) were more likely to screen positive for depression. In addition, those experiencing housing instability were more likely to screen positive for GAD (OR 1.9 [95% CI, 1.2, 3.0]) even after adjusting for other social factors. No associations were noted between housing deterioration and maternal mental health. Similar associations were noted when incident cases of probable depression and GAD were examined. Housing instability and disarray, but not deterioration, are associated with screening positive for depression and generalized anxiety among women regardless of other social stressors present in their lives. Housing could potentially present a point of intervention to prevent mental health consequences among mothers and possibly their children.
PMCID: PMC3232414  PMID: 21647798
Housing; Depression; Anxiety; Residential instability; Stress; Housing quality
23.  Quality of life themes in Canadian adults and street youth who are homeless or hard-to-house: A multi-site focus group study 
The aim of this study was to identify what is most important to the quality of life (QoL) of those who experience homelessness by directly soliciting the views of homeless and hard-to-house Canadians themselves. These individuals live within a unique social context that differs considerably from that of the general population. To understand the life areas that are most important to them, it is critical to have direct input from target populations of homeless and hard-to-house persons.
Focus groups were conducted with 140 individuals aged 15 to 73 years who were homeless or hard-to-house to explore the circumstances in which they were living and to capture what they find to be important and relevant domains of QoL. Participants were recruited in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver. Content analysis was used to analyze the data.
Six major content themes emerged: Health/health care; Living conditions; Financial situation; Employment situation; Relationships; and Recreational and leisure activities. These themes were linked to broader concepts that included having choices, stability, respect, and the same rights as other members of society.
These findings not only aid our understanding of QoL in this group, but may be used to develop measures that capture QoL in this population and help programs and policies become more effective in improving the life situation for persons who are homeless and hard-to-house.
Quality of life themes in Canadian adults and street youth who are homeless or hard-to-house: A multi-site focus group study.
PMCID: PMC3462681  PMID: 22894551
Homeless; Quality of life; Hard-to-house
24.  Complementary and alternative medicine: a survey of its use in pediatric cardiology 
CMAJ Open  2014;2(4):E217-E224.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine is high among children and youth with chronic illnesses, including patients with cardiac conditions. Our goal was to assess the prevalence and patterns of such use among patients presenting to academic pediatric cardiology clinics in Canada.
A survey instrument was developed to inquire about current or previous use of complementary and alternative medicine products and practices, including indications, beliefs, sources of information and whether this use was discussed with physicians. Between February and July 2007, the survey was administered to patients (or their parents/guardians) presenting to 2 hospital-based cardiology clinics: the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Ontario.
At the Stollery Children’s Hospital, 64.1% of the 145 respondents had used complementary and alternative medicine compared with 35.5% of the 31 respondents at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (p = 0.003). Overall, the most common products in current use were multivitamins (70.6%), vitamin C (22.1%), calcium (13.2%), unspecified “cold remedies” (11.8%) and fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids (11.8%). The most common practices in current use were massage (37.5%), faith healing (25.0%), chiropractic (20.0%), aromatherapy (15.0%) and Aboriginal healing (7.5%). Many patients (44.9%) used complementary and alternative medicine products at the same time as conventional prescription drugs. Concurrent use was discussed with physicians or pharmacists by 64.3% and 31.3% of respondents, respectively.
Use of complementary and alternative medicine products and practices was high among patients seen in the pediatric cardiology clinics in our study. Most respondents believed that the use of these products and practices was helpful; few reported harms and many did not discuss this use with their physicians, increasing the potential for interactions with prescribed medications.
PMCID: PMC4251504  PMID: 25485246
25.  Exploring cross-sectional associations between common childhood illness, housing and social conditions in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:147.
There is limited epidemiological research that provides insight into the complex web of causative and moderating factors that links housing conditions to a variety of poor health outcomes. This study explores the relationship between housing conditions (with a primary focus on the functional state of infrastructure) and common childhood illness in remote Australian Aboriginal communities for the purpose of informing development of housing interventions to improve child health.
Hierarchical multi-level analysis of association between carer report of common childhood illnesses and functional and hygienic state of housing infrastructure, socio-economic, psychosocial and health related behaviours using baseline survey data from a housing intervention study.
Multivariate analysis showed a strong independent association between report of respiratory infection and overall functional condition of the house (Odds Ratio (OR) 3.00; 95%CI 1.36-6.63), but no significant association between report of other illnesses and the overall functional condition or the functional condition of infrastructure required for specific healthy living practices. Associations between report of child illness and secondary explanatory variables which showed an OR of 2 or more included: for skin infection - evidence of poor temperature control in the house (OR 3.25; 95%CI 1.06-9.94), evidence of pests and vermin in the house (OR 2.88; 95%CI 1.25-6.60); for respiratory infection - breastfeeding in infancy (OR 0.27; 95%CI 0.14-0.49); for diarrhoea/vomiting - hygienic state of food preparation and storage areas (OR 2.10; 95%CI 1.10-4.00); for ear infection - child care attendance (OR 2.25; 95%CI 1.26-3.99).
These findings add to other evidence that building programs need to be supported by a range of other social and behavioural interventions for potential health gains to be more fully realised.
PMCID: PMC2848201  PMID: 20302661

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