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1.  Mental Health Service Use by Older Adults: The Role of Chronic Pain 
Objective
Mental health disorders commonly co-occur in patients with chronic pain, but little is known about the role of chronic pain in mental health service use. In this study, we explored the role of chronic pain in mental health service use by adults according to age group.
Design
Cross-sectional analysis of survey data from the second wave of the Healthcare for Communities telephone survey, collected in 2000 to 2001.
Setting
Randomly selected U.S. households.
Participants
U.S. civilian adults (N=6629)
Measurements
Common mental disorders were assessed using the short-form versions of the World Health Organization's Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI-SF). Chronic pain conditions and mental health services received were identified by self report. Physical and mental functioning were assessed using the Short Form-12.
Results
Adults older than age 60 had higher rates of chronic pain and lower rates of mental health service use compared to those age 18 to 60 years. In multiple logistic regression models, an interaction effect was found between age and chronic pain (OR 3.0 [1.1-8.0]), with chronic pain significantly increasing the odds of any mental health care in the past year in adults older than 60 years of age.
Conclusions
Chronic pain increases the likelihood of mental health service use among older adults. Chronic pain may facilitate the presentation of distress in medical settings for these adults.
doi:10.1097/JGP.0b013e31815a3ea9
PMCID: PMC2749707  PMID: 18192496
pain; mental health; health services; geriatrics
2.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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]).
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317.
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)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
3.  The Effectiveness of Mobile-Health Technology-Based Health Behaviour Change or Disease Management Interventions for Health Care Consumers: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001362.
Caroline Free and colleagues systematically review a fast-moving field, that of the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions delivered to healthcare consumers, and conclude that high-quality, adequately powered trials of optimized interventions are required to evaluate effects on objective outcomes.
Background
Mobile technologies could be a powerful media for providing individual level support to health care consumers. We conducted a systematic review to assess the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions delivered to health care consumers.
Methods and Findings
We searched for all controlled trials of mobile technology-based health interventions delivered to health care consumers using MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Global Health, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, UK NHS HTA (Jan 1990–Sept 2010). Two authors extracted data on allocation concealment, allocation sequence, blinding, completeness of follow-up, and measures of effect. We calculated effect estimates and used random effects meta-analysis. We identified 75 trials. Fifty-nine trials investigated the use of mobile technologies to improve disease management and 26 trials investigated their use to change health behaviours. Nearly all trials were conducted in high-income countries. Four trials had a low risk of bias. Two trials of disease management had low risk of bias; in one, antiretroviral (ART) adherence, use of text messages reduced high viral load (>400 copies), with a relative risk (RR) of 0.85 (95% CI 0.72–0.99), but no statistically significant benefit on mortality (RR 0.79 [95% CI 0.47–1.32]). In a second, a PDA based intervention increased scores for perceived self care agency in lung transplant patients. Two trials of health behaviour management had low risk of bias. The pooled effect of text messaging smoking cessation support on biochemically verified smoking cessation was (RR 2.16 [95% CI 1.77–2.62]). Interventions for other conditions showed suggestive benefits in some cases, but the results were not consistent. No evidence of publication bias was demonstrated on visual or statistical examination of the funnel plots for either disease management or health behaviours. To address the limitation of the older search, we also reviewed more recent literature.
Conclusions
Text messaging interventions increased adherence to ART and smoking cessation and should be considered for inclusion in services. Although there is suggestive evidence of benefit in some other areas, high quality adequately powered trials of optimised interventions are required to evaluate effects on objective outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people die from cardiovascular diseases (diseases of the heart and circulation), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a long-term lung disease), lung cancer, HIV infection, and diabetes. These diseases are increasingly important causes of mortality (death) in low- and middle-income countries and are responsible for nearly 40% of deaths in high-income countries. For all these diseases, individuals can adopt healthy behaviors that help prevent disease onset. For example, people can lower their risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by maintaining a healthy body weight, and, if they are smokers, they can reduce their risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease by giving up cigarettes. In addition, optimal treatment of existing diseases can reduce mortality and morbidity (illness). Thus, in people who are infected with HIV, antiretroviral therapy delays the progression of HIV infection and the onset of AIDS, and in people who have diabetes, good blood sugar control can prevent retinopathy (a type of blindness) and other serious complications of diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Health-care providers need effective ways to encourage "health-care consumers" to make healthy lifestyle choices and to self-manage chronic diseases. The amount of information, encouragement and support that can be conveyed to individuals during face-to-face consultations or through traditional media such as leaflets is limited, but mobile technologies such as mobile phones and portable computers have the potential to transform the delivery of health messages. These increasingly popular technologies—more than two-thirds of the world's population now owns a mobile phone—can be used to deliver health messages to people anywhere and at the most relevant times. For example, smokers trying to quit smoking can be sent regular text messages to sustain their motivation, but can also use text messaging to request extra support when it is needed. But is "mHealth," the provision of health-related services using mobile communication technology, an effective way to deliver health messages to health-care consumers? In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of mobile technology-based health behavior change interventions and disease management interventions delivered to health-care consumers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 75 controlled trials (studies that compare the outcomes of people who do and do not receive an intervention) of mobile technology-based health interventions delivered to health-care consumers that met their predefined criteria. Twenty-six trials investigated the use of mobile technologies to change health behaviors, 59 investigated their use in disease management, most were of low quality, and nearly all were undertaken in high-income countries. In one high-quality trial that used text messages to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy among HIV-positive patients in Kenya, the intervention significantly reduced the patients’ viral load but did not significantly reduce mortality (the observed reduction in deaths may have happened by chance). In two high-quality UK trials, a smoking intervention based on text messaging (txt2stop) more than doubled biochemically verified smoking cessation. Other lower-quality trials indicated that using text messages to encourage physical activity improved diabetes control but had no effect on body weight. Combined diet and physical activity text messaging interventions also had no effect on weight, whereas interventions for other conditions showed suggestive benefits in some but not all cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide mixed evidence for the effectiveness of health intervention delivery to health-care consumers using mobile technologies. Moreover, they highlight the need for additional high-quality controlled trials of this mHealth application, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Specifically, the demonstration that text messaging interventions increased adherence to antiretroviral therapy in a low-income setting and increased smoking cessation in a high-income setting provides some support for the inclusion of these two interventions in health-care services in similar settings. However, the effects of these two interventions need to be established in other settings and their cost-effectiveness needs to be measured before they are widely implemented. Finally, for other mobile technology–based interventions designed to change health behaviors or to improve self-management of chronic diseases, the results of this systematic review suggest that the interventions need to be optimized before further trials are undertaken to establish their clinical benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by Free et al. investigates the ability of mHealth technologies to improve health-care service delivery processes
Wikipedia has a page on mHealth (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies is a global survey of mHealth prepared by the World Health Organization’s Global Observatory for eHealth (eHealth is health-care practice supported by electronic processes and communication)
The mHealth in Low-Resource Settings website, which is maintained by the Netherlands Royal Tropical Institute, provides information on the current use, potential, and limitations of mHealth in low-resource settings
More information about Txt2stop is available, the UK National Health Service Choices website provides an analysis of the Txt2stop trial and what its results mean, and the UK National Health Service Smokefree website provides a link to a Quit App for the iPhone
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a text messaging service that delivers regular health tips and alerts to mobile phones
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362
PMCID: PMC3548655  PMID: 23349621
4.  Explorations into the Synergy Between Faith, Health, and Health-Care Among Black Baptists 
Background
U.S. health disparities are documented by race/ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and geographic demographics. Since federal health record keeping began, regardless of other demographic factors, Black people continue to record statistical significant disparities. The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) domain of mind-body medicine provides a method and language to assess the metaphysical constructs of faith, spirituality and religion and their influence on health and healthcare practices. Explorations into the synergy between faith, health and healthcare among a convenient sample of Black Baptist conventioneers provides an opportunity to better understand if and how faith can be used to enhance the health and wellbeing of Black people.
Methodology
In 2005 a convenience sample of 2,500 Black persons among 10,000 Joint Baptist conventioneers participated in the study; 1,827 completed and returned an 80 item questionnaire. 500 surveys were lost due to computer malfunctions. Survey results covered: demographic, health/safety, health care, and faith/religion/health.
Results
58.6% of respondents were women; 61% were married. Most (66.2%) reported good health and few were told by their physician they had a chronic disease. 33.5% never talk to their pastor about health problems or (42.7%) physician visits. Mental health responses: (98.7%) get along well with others; (93.6%) were satisfied with life; (92.8%) feel good about themselves; and (97.6%) were in good spirits most times. Many were in social organizations (40.6%). 96.1% felt religion was very important in their life; 91% thought religion affects physical/mental health; and 89.1% believed faith affects mental/physical health. 95.7% believe faith can change a health crisis. Most described religion and faith differently.
Discussion
The Black Church has history in social justice connected to community health. Responses to religion/faith affirm the interconnectedness of the synergy between faith-health. Empowered by religious fervor to interpret their health status as positive; they must also balance perceptions with evidence-based health decision-making, health practices, and sustained healthcare utilization.
Conclusion
A thoughtful scrutiny of the constructs of health and healthcare enable a new paradigm – Optimal Health – to emerge2 The Black Church has and must forever be the institution that helps Black people to continue to grow and develop in journeying to reach their best possible emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and socioeconomic greatest state of aliveness, which is Optimal Health.3 In order to maximize the synergy between faith, health and health care; individuals, groups, and communities must harmonize physical, social, psychological, and spiritual well-being.4 The spiritual component can serve as the foundation on which the other three components rest.5 Considering many in this study who attended church or religious services three (3) or more times within the past 30 days and they rarely talked to their pastor concerning health problems or what their physician told them; the religious/church service through sermons, Sunday school, Bible class and various ministries can serve as a platform for health promotion in the Black Church and the larger Black community.
PMCID: PMC4046858  PMID: 24910479
5.  Effect of Depression Treatment on Chronic Pain Outcomes 
Psychosomatic medicine  2009;72(1):61-67.
Objective
People with chronic pain and depression have worse health outcomes than those with chronic pain alone. Little is known about the effectiveness of depression treatment for this population. We examined the effect of depression treatment on medical and social outcomes for individuals with chronic pain and depression
Methods
Propensity score weighted analyses using both waves (1997-1998 and 2000-2001) of the National Survey of Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Problems were used to examine the effect of (1) any depression treatment and (2) minimally adequate depression treatment on persistence of depression symptoms, depression severity, pain severity, overall health, mental health status, physical health status, social functioning, employment status, and number of work days missed. Analyses were limited to those who met CIDI-SF criteria for major depressive disorder, reported having at least one chronic pain condition, and completed both interviews (n=553).
Results
Receiving any depression treatment was associated with higher scores on the mental component summary of the MOS SF-12, indicating better mental health (difference = 2.65 points, p=0.002) and less interference of pain on work (OR=0.57, p=0.02). Among those receiving treatment, minimal adequacy of treatment was not significantly associated with better outcomes.
Conclusions
Depression treatment improves mental health and reduces the effects of pain on work among those with chronic pain and depression. Understanding the effect of depression treatment on outcomes for this population is important for employers, healthcare providers treating this population, and policymakers working in this Decade of Pain Control and Research to improve care for chronic pain sufferers.
doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181c2a7a8
PMCID: PMC3171143  PMID: 19875633
pain; depression; quality assessment; outcomes
6.  Experiences of hospital care and treatment-seeking behavior for pain from sickle cell disease: qualitative study 
Western Journal of Medicine  1999;171(5-6):306-313.
•Objective
To investigate how sociocultural factors influence the management of pain from sickle cell disease by comparing the experiences of those who usually manage their pain at home with the experiences of those who are more frequently admitted to hospital for management of their pain.
•Design
Qualitative analysis of semistructured individual interviews and focus group discussions.
•Participants
57 participants with genotype SS or S/β-thal (44 participants) or SC (9 participants); the status of 4 participants was unknown. 40 participants took part in focus groups, 6 took part in both focus groups and interviews, and 9 were interviewed only. Participants were allocated to focus groups according to ethnic origin, sex, and the number of times that they had been admitted to the hospital for the management of painful crises during the previous year.
•Results
The relation between patients with sickle cell disease and hospital services is one of several major, nonclinical dimensions that shape experiences of pain management and behavior for seeking health care. Participants' experiences of hospital care show a range of interrelated themes that are common to most participants across variables of sex, ethnicity, and which hospital was attended. Themes identified included the mistrust of patients with sickle cell disease, stigmatization, excessive control (including both overtreatment and undertreatment of pain) and neglect. Individuals responded to the challenge of negotiating care with various strategies. Patients with sickle cell disease who are frequently admitted to hospital may try to develop long-term relationships with their caregivers, become passive or aggressive in their interactions with health professionals, or regularly attend different hospitals. Those who usually manage their pain at home expressed a strong sense of responsibility for the management of their pain and advocated self-education, assertiveness, and resistance as strategies toward hospital services.
•Conclusions
The organization and delivery of management for the pain of a sickle cell crisis discourages self-reliance and encourages hospital dependence. Models of care should recognize the chronic nature of sickle cell disorders and give priority to patients' involvement in their care.
PMCID: PMC1308742  PMID: 18751193
7.  Estimating the burden of musculoskeletal disorders in the community: the comparative prevalence of symptoms at different anatomical sites, and the relation to social deprivation 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1998;57(11):649-655.
BACKGROUND—Epidemiologically-based rheumatology healthcare needs assessment requires an understanding of the incidence and prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in the community, of the reasons why people consult in primary care, and of the proportion of people who would benefit from referral to secondary care and paramedical services. This paper reports the first phase of such a needs assessment exercise.
SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE—To estimate the relative frequency of musculoskeletal pain in different, and multiple, anatomical sites in the adult population.
SETTING—Three general practices in the former Tameside and Glossop Health Authority, Greater Manchester, UK, a predominantly urban area.
DESIGN—Population survey.
METHODS—An age and sex stratified sample of 6000 adults from the three practices was mailed a questionnaire that sought data on demographic factors, musculoskeletal symptoms (pain in the past month lasting for more than a week), and physical disability (using the modified Health Assessment Questionnaire- mHAQ). The areas of pain covered were neck, back, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, and multiple joints. The Carstairs index was used as a measure of social deprivation of the postcode sector in which the person lived.
RESULTS—The response rate after two reminders was 78.5%. Non-responders were more likely to live in areas of high social deprivation. People who lived in more deprived areas were also more likely to report musculoskeletal pain, especially backpain. After adjusting for social deprivation the rates of musculoskeletal pain did not differ between the practices and so their results were combined. After adjustment for social deprivation, the most common site of pain was back (23%; 95% CI 21, 25) followed by knee (19%; 95% CI 18, 21), and shoulder (16%; 95% CI 14, 17). The majority of subjects who reported pain had pain in more than one site. The prevalence of physical disability in the community rose with age. It was highest in those with multiple joint problems but was also high in those with isolated back or knee pain.
CONCLUSION—Musculoskeletal pain is common in the community. People who live in socially deprived areas have more musculoskeletal symptoms. Estimates of the overall burden of musculoskeletal pain that combine the results of site specific surveys will be too high, those that do not adjust for socioeconomic factors will be too low.

 Keywords: prevalence; pain; social deprivation
PMCID: PMC1752494  PMID: 9924205
8.  Experiences of hospital care and treatment seeking for pain from sickle cell disease: qualitative study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;318(7198):1585-1590.
Objective
To investigate how sociocultural factors influence management of pain from sickle cell disease by comparing the experiences of those who usually manage their pain at home with those who are more frequently admitted to hospital for management of their pain.
Design
Qualitative analysis of semistructured individual interviews and focus group discussions.
Participants
57 participants with genotype SS or S/β-thal (44 subjects) or SC (9) (4 were unknown). 40 participants took part in focus groups, six took part in both focus groups and interviews, and nine were interviewed only. Participants were allocated to focus groups according to number of hospital admissions for painful crisis management during the previous year, ethnic origin, and sex.
Results
The relation between patients with sickle cell disease and hospital services is one of several major non-clinical dimensions shaping experiences of pain management and behaviour for seeking health care. Experiences of hospital care show a range of interrelated themes, which are common to most participants across variables of sex, ethnicity, and hospital attended: mistrust of patients with sickle cell disease; stigmatisation; excessive control (including both over- and undertreatment of pain); and neglect. Individuals respond to the challenge of negotiating care with various strategies. Patients with sickle cell disease who are frequently admitted to hospital may try to develop long term relationships with their carers, may become passive or aggressive in their interactions with health professionals, or may regularly attend different hospitals. Those individuals who usually manage their pain at home express a strong sense of self responsibility for their management of pain and advocate self education, assertiveness, and resistance as strategies towards hospital services.
Conclusions
The current organisation and delivery of management of pain for sickle cell crisis discourage self reliance and encourage hospital dependence. Models of care should recognise the chronic nature of sickle cell disorders and prioritise patients’ involvement in their care.
Key messagesThe chronic nature of sickle cell disorders has been insufficiently recognised, with policy and services oriented towards the acute management of a minority of those affectedExperiences of pain and patterns of hospital admission for sickle cell crisis may be influenced by sociocultural and psychological factors as well as disease severityThe experiences of patients with sickle cell disease of hospital care are characterised by mistrust, stigmatisation, control, and neglectIndividuals who usually manage their pain at home show different attitudes and strategies towards hospital services from those who are frequently admitted to hospitalModels of care should acknowledge the diversity of the population with sickle cell disorders and prioritise the involvement and empowerment of patients
PMCID: PMC28137  PMID: 10364116
9.  Determinants of maternal health services utilization in urban settings of the Democratic Republic of Congo – A Case study of Lubumbashi City 
Background
The use of maternal health services, known as an indirect indicator of perinatal death, is still unknown in Lubumbashi. The present study was therefore undertaken in order to determine the factors that influence the use of mother and child healthcare services in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Methods
This was transversal study of women residing in Lubumbashi who had delivered between January and December 2009. In total, 1762 women were sampled from households using indicator cluster surveys in all health zones. Antenatal consultations (ANC), delivery assisted by qualified healthcare personnel (and delivery in a healthcare facility) as well as postnatal consultations (PNC) were dependent variables of study. The factors determining non-use of maternal healthcare services were researched via logistic regression with a 5% materiality threshold.
Results
The use of maternal healthcare services was variable; 92.6% of women had attended ANC at least once, 93.8% of women had delivered at a healthcare facility, 97.2% had delivered in the presence of qualified healthcare personnel, while the rate of caesarean section was 4.5%. Only 34.6% postnatal women had attended PNC by 42 days after delivery. During these ANC visits, only 60.6% received at least one dose of vaccine, while 38.1% received Mebendazole, 35.6% iron, 32.7% at least one dose of SulfadoxinePyrimethamine, 29.2% folic acid, 15.5% screening for HIV and 12.8% an insecticide treated net.
In comparison to women that had had two or three deliveries before, primiparous and grand multiparous women were twice as likely not to use ANC during their pregnancy. Women who had unplanned pregnancies were also more likely not to use ANC or PNC than those who had planned pregnancies alone or with their partner. The women who had not used ANC were also more likely not to use PNC. The women who had had a trouble-free delivery were more likely not to use PNC than those who had complications when delivering.
Conclusion
In Lubumbashi, a significant proportion of women continue not to make use of healthcare services during pregnancy, as well as during and after childbirth. Women giving birth for the first time, those who have already given birth many times, and women with an unwanted pregnancy, made less use of ANC. Moreover, women who had not gone for ANC rarely came back for postnatal consultations, even if they had given birth at a healthcare facility. Similarly, those who gave birth without complications, less frequently made use of postnatal consultations. As with ANCs, women with unwanted pregnancies rarely went for postnatal visits.
In addition to measures aimed at reinforcing women’s autonomy, efforts are also needed to reinforce and improve the information given to women of childbearing age, as well as communication between the healthcare system and the community, and participation from the community, since this will contribute to raising awareness of safe motherhood and the use of such services, including family planning.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-66
PMCID: PMC3449182  PMID: 22780957
10.  Analysis of changes in the association of income and the utilization of curative health services in Mexico between 2000 and 2006 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:771.
Background
A common characteristic of health systems in most developing countries is unequal access to health services. As a result, members of the poorest population groups often do not receive formal attention for health services, because they cannot afford it. In 2001 in Mexico, to address income-related differences in the use of health services, the government launched a major healthcare reform, which includes a health insurance program called Seguro Popular, aimed at improving healthcare access among poor, uninsured residents. This paper analyzes the before and after changes in the demand for curative ambulatory health services focusing on the association of income-related characteristics and the utilization of formal healthcare providers vs. no healthcare service utilization.
Methods
By using two nationally representative health surveys (ENSA-2000 and ENSANUT-2006), we modeled an individual's decision when experiencing an illness to use services provided by the (1) Ministry of Health (MoH), (2) social security, (3) private entities, or (4) to not use formal services (no healthcare service utilization).
Results
Poorer individuals were more likely in 2006 than in 2000 to respond to an illness by using formal healthcare providers. Trends in provider selection differed, however. The probability of using public services from the MoH increased among the poorest population, while the findings indicated an increase in utilization of private health services among members of low- and middle-income groups. No significant change was seen among formal workers -covered by social security services-, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Conclusions
Overall, for 2006 the Mexican population appears less differentiated in using healthcare across economic groups than in 2000. This may be related, in part, to the implementation of Seguro Popular, which seems to be stimulating healthcare demand among the poorest and previously uninsured segment of the population. Still, public health authorities need to address the remaining income-related healthcare utilization differences, the differences in quality between public and private health services, and the general perception that MoH facilities offer inferior services.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-771
PMCID: PMC3203078  PMID: 21978183
11.  PROSpER: PReferences for the Organisation of acute health Services for oldER people: protocol for a mixed methods study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e001081.
Background
Organisation of acute care services for people living in residential aged care facilities (RACF) is a complex area of health policy. For people living in RACF, the emergency department is often used to provide acute care; needs of RACF residents, however, are not always well met. Alternative models of delivering care must be acceptable to a variety of stakeholders; however, little is known about the values and preferences that people attach to aspects of how and where care is delivered.
Methods/design
The PROSpER Study examines people's preferences for the organisation of acute healthcare services for older people in RACF. The authors aim to (1) determine which factors influence preferences of residents, carers and providers for how and where acute care is delivered and (2) determine the relative importance of these factors and the acceptable trade-offs between them. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used. One-on-one interviews will be conducted with RACF residents, their families, staff of RACF and emergency department staff. A discrete choice study will then be designed to quantitatively assess preferences for alternative models of care delivery. Approximately 600 respondents from three respondent groups will be surveyed: older people living in RACF, family members of aged care residents and staff of RACF. A mixed logit model will be used; results will be expressed as parameter estimates (β) and odds of choosing one option over an alternative. Trade-offs between attributes will also be calculated.
Ethics and dissemination
The PROSpER Study has been approved by the University of Sydney, Human Research Ethics Committee (Protocol numbers 10653 and 14382) and Royal Perth Hospital Ethics Committee (reference 2009/045). Results will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and via conference presentations; a newsletter will also be provided to study participants. A stakeholder roundtable will also be held to discuss the results.
Article summary
Article focus
To assess the preferences of older people living in residential aged care facilities (RACF), their families and staff in relation to the provision of acute health care services for older Australians in RACF.
To determine what factors most influence the preferences of these stakeholders for how and where acute care is delivered.
To determine the relative importance of these factors and the trade-offs between them.
Key messages
The organisation of acute healthcare services for older people living in RACF is a complex area of health policy involving considerations of clinical, economic, ethical and legal issues. For older people living in RACF, the emergency department is frequently used to provide acute care services. While emergency department generally works well if people have a short-term problem that can be resolved with a one-off intervention, the needs of people from RACF, often with chronic disease, multiple complex health problems and frailty are less well met.
Alternative models of delivering acute care need to be acceptable to the residents, family and RACF staff; however, little is known about the values and preferences that people attach to aspects of how and where care is delivered or the trade-offs between various aspects of care that people are willing to make.
This study will use best practice qualitative and quantitative methods for preference elicitation (a discrete choice experiment) to assess the preferences and acceptable trade-offs of RACF residents, their families and staff for alternative healthcare delivery models.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The strengths of the study are that it is the first study to use discrete choice methods to examine preferences for alternative models of acute healthcare service delivery in multiple stakeholder groups: residents of RACF, their families and RACF staff.
The limitation is that it is conducted in one country, Australia, and thus its generalisability may be limited by the prevailing model of acute healthcare service delivery.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001081
PMCID: PMC3317141  PMID: 22466038
12.  Is it feasible and effective to provide osteopathy and acupuncture for patients with musculoskeletal problems in a GP setting? A service evaluation 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:49.
Background
Spinal manipulation and acupuncture can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. Both approaches are currently recommended by NICE as treatment options for patients with persistent low back pain. However, there has been no previous evaluation of a GP service using them together for MSK pain. The purpose of this study was to evaluate acceptability and outcomes for an osteopathy and acupuncture service (delivered by complementary therapy practitioners) for patients with MSK problems provided within a General Practice.
Methods
Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire before and after their course of treatment. Outcome measures included the Bournemouth Questionnaire (measuring MSK problems), EuroQoL-5D (measuring quality of life), medication use, physical activity and general well-being. Non-parametric tests were used to compare pre- and post- treatment variables. Qualitative data, regarding participants' views on the service, were collected from patients via a service survey and healthcare professionals via interviews. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results
123 adults with MSK problems were referred into the service (79 female and 44 male, mean age 49 years). Complete patient questionnaire data sets (pre- and post- treatment) were available for 102 participants; 91 completed a service survey. All healthcare professionals involved in the service participated in interviews including all seven GPs and the administration manager at the practice, as well as the three acupuncture/osteopathy practitioners.
Patient outcomes: comparisons between pre and post-treatment revealed a statistically significant improvement in MSK pain (p < 0.0001) and quality of life (p < 0.0001), and a statistically significant reduction in medication use (p < 0.0001). Qualitative analysis found that patients reported improvements in their MSK pain, mobility, other physical health conditions, well-being and self-management of their MSK problem.
Acceptability of the service: overall patients and healthcare professionals were satisfied with the service and its provision within the Practice. Patients reported wanting increased appointment availability and flexibility, and more sessions. Complementary therapy practitioners reported finding the high number of referrals of chronic patients challenging, and wanting increased communication with GPs.
Conclusions
Provision of acupuncture and osteopathy for MSK pain is achievable in General Practice. A GP surgery can quickly adapt to incorporate complementary therapy provided key principles are followed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-49
PMCID: PMC3141509  PMID: 21668962
13.  Evaluating the health and economic impact of osteoarthritis pain in the workforce: results from the National Health and Wellness Survey 
Background
There has been increasing recognition that osteoarthritis (OA) affects younger individuals who are still participants in the workforce, but there are only limited data on the contribution of OA pain to work productivity and other outcomes in an employed population. This study evaluated the impact of OA pain on healthcare resource utilization, productivity and costs in employed individuals.
Methods
Data were derived from the 2009 National Health and Wellness Survey. Univariable and multivariable analyses were used to characterize employed individuals (full-time, part-time, or self-employed) ≥20 years of age who were diagnosed with OA and had arthritis pain in the past month relative to employed individuals not diagnosed with OA or not experiencing arthritis pain in the past month. Work productivity was assessed using the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI) questionnaire; health status was assessed using the physical (PCS) and mental component summary (MCS) scores from the SF-12v2 Health Survey and SF-6D health utilities; and healthcare utilization was evaluated by type and number of resources within the past 6 months. Direct and indirect costs were estimated and compared between the two cohorts.
Results
Individuals with OA pain were less likely to be employed. Relative to workers without OA pain (n = 37,599), the OA pain cohort (n = 2,173) was significantly older (mean age 52.1 ± 11.5 years vs 41.4 ± 13.2 years; P < 0.0001) and with a greater proportion of females (58.2% vs 45.9%; P < 0.0001). OA pain resulted in greater work impairment than among workers without OA pain (34.4% versus 17.8%; P < 0.0001), and was primarily due to presenteeism (impaired activity while at work). Health status, assessed both by the SF-12v2 and the SF-6D was significantly poorer among workers with OA pain (P < 0.0001), and healthcare resource utilization was significantly higher (P < 0.0001) than workers without OA pain. Total costs were higher in the OA pain cohort ($15,047 versus $8,175; P < 0.0001), driven by indirect costs that accounted for approximately 75% of total costs.
Conclusions
A substantial proportion of workers suffer from OA pain. After controlling for confounders, the impact of OA pain was significant, resulting in lower productivity and higher costs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-83
PMCID: PMC3110556  PMID: 21527024
14.  Healthcare Costs Around the Time of Smoking Cessation 
Background
The Affordable Care Act mandates that new insurance plans cover smoking-cessation therapy without cost-sharing. Previous cost difference estimates, which show a spike around the time of cessation, suggest premiums might rise as a result of covering these services.
Purpose
The goal of the study was to test (1) whether individuals in an RCT of pharmacotherapy and counseling for smoking cessation differed in their healthcare costs around the cessation period, and (2) whether the healthcare costs of those in the trial who successfully quit were different from a matched sample of smokers in the community.
Methods
Generalized linear regression models were used to analyze healthcare cost data on individuals enrolled in a comparative effectiveness trial of cessation therapies between October 2005 and May 2007. Cost differences for the period preceding and subsequent to the cessation attempt were assessed by trial participants' 12-month sustained quit status. Healthcare cost differences between sustained quitters and a sample of community-dwelling smokers, matched to these quitters on the basis of health services use around the time trial participant enrolled and by demographics, were also examined. Data were analyzed in 2011.
Results
All three groups had a spike in cost associated with the index clinic visit. Regression results revealed little difference in healthcare costs by quit status for trial participants until the sixth quarter post-quit. By that quarter, continuous sustained quitters cost $541 (p<0.001) less than continuing smokers. Continuous sustained quitters cost less than their matched community-dwelling smokers in almost every quarter observed. The cost difference ranged from $270 (p=0.01) during the quarter of quit, to $490 (p<0.01) in the 6th quarter after quitting.
Conclusions
The inclusion of smoking-cessation therapy does not appear to raise short-term healthcare costs. By the sixth quarter post-quit, sustained quitters were less costly than trial participants who continued smoking.
Trial registration
This study is registered at clinicaltrials.gov NCT00296647.
doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.02.019
PMCID: PMC3358703  PMID: 22608375
15.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Background
Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. Reproductive and maternal health indicators have not been measured in this setting but are necessary as part of an evaluation of a multi-ethnic pilot project exploring strategies to increase access to essential maternal health interventions. The goal of this study is to estimate coverage of maternal health services prior to this project and associations between exposure to human rights violations and access to such services.
Methods and Findings
Selected communities in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma that were accessible to community-based organizations operating from Thailand were surveyed to estimate coverage of reproductive, maternal, and family planning services, and to assess exposure to household-level human rights violations within the pilot-project target population. Two-stage cluster sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) documented access to essential antenatal care interventions, skilled attendance at birth, postnatal care, and family planning services. Mid-upper arm circumference, hemoglobin by color scale, and Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by rapid diagnostic dipstick were measured. Exposure to human rights violations in the prior 12 mo was recorded. Between September 2006 and January 2007, 2,914 surveys were conducted. Eighty-eight percent of women reported a home delivery for their last pregnancy (within previous 5 y). Skilled attendance at birth (5.1%), any (39.3%) or ≥ 4 (16.7%) antenatal visits, use of an insecticide-treated bed net (21.6%), and receipt of iron supplements (11.8%) were low. At the time of the survey, more than 60% of women had hemoglobin level estimates ≤ 11.0 g/dl and 7.2% were Pf positive. Unmet need for contraceptives exceeded 60%. Violations of rights were widely reported: 32.1% of Karenni households reported forced labor and 10% of Karen households had been forced to move. Among Karen households, odds of anemia were 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–2.40) times higher among women reporting forced displacement, and 7.47 (95% CI 2.21–25.3) higher among those exposed to food security violations. The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were 5.94 (95% CI 2.23–15.8) times higher among those forcibly displaced.
Conclusions
Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region. Considerable political, financial, and human resources are necessary to improve access to maternal health care in these communities.
Luke Mullany and colleagues examine access to essential maternal health interventions and human rights violations within vulnerable communities in eastern Burma.
Editors' Summary
Background.
After decades of military rule, Burma has one of the world's worst health-care systems and high levels of ill health. For example, maternal mortality (deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes) is around 360 per 100,000 live births in Burma, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44 per 100,000 live births. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states in eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, maternal mortality is thought to be about 1000 per 100, 000 live births. In an effort to improve access to life-saving maternal health interventions in these states, Burmese community-based health organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Global Health Access Program in the USA, and the Mae Tao Clinic (a health-worker training center in Thailand) recently set up the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project. In this pilot project, local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, emergency obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), blood transfusion, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic. Back in Burma, these maternal health workers trained additional local health workers and traditional birth attendants. All these individuals now provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The effectiveness of the MOM project can only be evaluated if accurate baseline information on women's access to maternal health-care services is available. This information is also needed to ensure the wise use of scarce health-care resources. However, very little is known about reproductive and maternal health in eastern Burma. In this study, the researchers analyze the information on women's access to reproductive and maternal health-care services that was collected during the initial field implementation stage of the MOM project. In addition, they analyze whether exposure to enforced village relocations and other human rights violations affect access to maternal health-care services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained survey workers asked nearly 3000 ever-married women of reproductive age in the selected communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. They measured each woman's mid-upper arm circumference (an indicator of nutritional status) and tested them for anemia (iron deficiency) and infection with malaria parasites (a common cause of anemia in tropical countries). Finally, they asked the women about any recent violations of their human rights such as forced labour or relocation. Nearly 90% of the women reported a home delivery for their last baby. A skilled attendant was present at only one in 20 births and only one in three women had any antenatal care. One third of the women received postnatal care and only a third said they had access to effective contraceptives. Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites. Many women also showed signs of poor nutrition. Finally, human rights violations were widely reported by the women. In Karen, the region containing most of the study communities, forced relocation tripled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that access to maternal health-care interventions is extremely limited and that poor nutrition, anemia, and malaria, all of which increase the risk of pregnancy complications, are widespread in the communities in the MOM project. Because these communities had some basic health services and access to training in Thailand before the project started, these results probably underestimate the lack of access to maternal health-care services in eastern Burma. Nevertheless, it is clear that considerable political, financial, and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region. Finally, the findings also reveal a link between human rights violations and reduced access to maternal health-care services. Thus, the scale of human rights violations will need to be considered when evaluating programs designed to improve maternal health in Burma and in other places where there is ongoing conflict.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Macaya Douoguih
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
More information about the MOM project is available in a previous publication by the researchers
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and ongoing efforts to save mothers' lives around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
16.  The individual and societal burden of chronic pain in Europe: the case for strategic prioritisation and action to improve knowledge and availability of appropriate care 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1229.
Background
Chronic pain is common in Europe and elsewhere and its under treatment confers a substantial burden on individuals, employers, healthcare systems and society in general. Indeed, the personal and socioeconomic impact of chronic pain is as great as, or greater, than that of other established healthcare priorities. In light of review of recently published data confirming its clinical and socioeconomic impact, this paper argues that chronic pain should be ranked alongside other conditions of established priority in Europe. We outline strategies to help overcome barriers to effective pain care resulting in particular from deficiencies in education and access to interdisciplinary pain management services. We also address the confusion that exists between proper clinical and scientific uses of opioid medications and their potential for misuse and diversion, as reflected in international variations in the access to, and availability of, these agents.
Discussion
As the economic costs are driven in part by the costs of lost productivity, absenteeism and early retirement, pain management should aim to fully rehabilitate patients, rather than merely to relieve pain. Accredited education of physicians and allied health professionals regarding state-of-the-art pain management is crucial. Some progress has been made in this area, but further provision and incentivization is required. We support a tiered approach to pain management, whereby patients with pain uncontrolled by non-specialists are able to consult a physician with a pain competency or a specialist in pain medicine, who in turn can recruit the services of other professionals on a case-by-case basis. A fully integrated interdisciplinary pain service should ideally be available to patients with refractory pain. Governments and healthcare systems should ensure that their policies on controlled medications are balanced, safeguarding public health without undue restrictions that compromise patient care, and that physician education programmes support these aims.
Summary
Strategic prioritization and co-ordinated actions are required nationally and internationally to address the unacceptable and unnecessary burden of uncontrolled chronic pain that plagues European communities and economies. An appreciation of the ‘return on investment’ in pain management services will require policymakers to adopt a long-term, cross-budgetary approach.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1229
PMCID: PMC3878786  PMID: 24365383
Chronic pain; Quality of life; Cost of illness; Pain management; Opioids; Pain burden; Drug toxicity
17.  Integrating complementary and alternative medicine into mainstream healthcare services: the perspectives of health service managers 
Background
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly included within mainstream integrative healthcare (IHC) services. Health service managers are key stakeholders central to ensuring effective integrative health care services. Yet, little research has specifically investigated the role or perspective of health service managers with regards to integrative health care services under their management. In response, this paper reports findings from an exploratory study focusing exclusively on the perspectives of health service managers of integrative health care services in Australia regarding the role of CAM within their service and the health service managers rational for incorporating CAM into clinical care.
Methods
Health service managers from seven services were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the health service managers. The services addressed trauma and chronic conditions and comprised: five community-based programs including drug and alcohol rehabilitation, refugee mental health and women’s health; and two hospital-based specialist services. The CAM practices included in the services investigated included acupuncture, naturopathy, Western herbal medicine and massage.
Results
Findings reveal that the health service managers in this study understand CAM to enhance the holistic capacity of their service by: filling therapeutic gaps in existing healthcare practices; by treating the whole person; and by increasing healthcare choices. Health service managers also identified CAM as addressing therapeutic gaps through the provision of a mind-body approach in psychological trauma and in chronic disease management treatment. Health service managers describe the addition of CAM in their service as enabling patients who would otherwise not be able to afford CAM to gain access to these treatments thereby increasing healthcare choices. Some health service managers expressly align the notion of treating the whole person within a health promotion model and focus on the relevance of diet and lifestyle factors as central to a CAM approach.
Conclusions
From the perspectives of the health service managers, these findings contribute to our understanding around the rationale to include CAM within mainstream health services that deal with psychological trauma and chronic disease. The broader implications of this study can help assist in the development of health service policy on CAM integration in mainstream healthcare services.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-167
PMCID: PMC4048459  PMID: 24885066
Integrative healthcare; Integrative medicine; Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); Health services research; Chronic disease management; Psychological trauma management; Drug and alcohol rehabilitation
18.  Patterns and predictors of health service utilization in adolescents with pain: comparison between a community and a clinical pain sample 
There is limited research describing the patterns of healthcare utilization in adolescents with chronic pain. This study describes healthcare utilization in a clinical chronic pain sample, and compares the patterns of service use of this group to a community sample with intermittent pain complaints. We also investigated demographic and clinical factors that predicted healthcare visits and medication use in the clinical sample. Data on 117 adolescents (aged 12-18; n=59 clinical pain sample, n=58 community) were collected. Caregivers and adolescents reported on sociodemographics, medical visits, current medications, pain, activity limitations, and depression. As hypothesized, the clinical pain sample had higher rates of healthcare consultation on all types of medical visits (general, specialty care, complementary medicine, mental health, OT/PT), and higher medication use compared to the community sample. Regression analyses revealed that higher annual income, greater pain frequency, and higher levels of caregiver reported activity limitations were associated with a greater number of healthcare visits for the total sample. Within the clinical pain sample, higher pain frequency and greater activity limitations (caregiver-report) predicted more specialty care visits. Additionally, higher income and greater levels of depressive symptoms predicted a higher number of prescribed medications.
Perspective
This study contributes to the limited available data on health service and medication use in a clinical chronic pain sample versus a community sample of adolescents. We also identify clinical factors (pain frequency, parent-reported activity limitations, depressive symptoms) and demographic factors (gender, income) associated with healthcare utilization.
doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2010.12.011
PMCID: PMC3130816  PMID: 21481647
adolescent; chronic pain; health service use; activity limitations
19.  Validation of the Symptom Pattern Method for Analyzing Verbal Autopsy Data 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e327.
Background
Cause of death data are a critical input to formulating good public health policy. In the absence of reliable vital registration data, information collected after death from household members, called verbal autopsy (VA), is commonly used to study causes of death. VA data are usually analyzed by physician-coded verbal autopsy (PCVA). PCVA is expensive and its comparability across regions is questionable. Nearly all validation studies of PCVA have allowed physicians access to information collected from the household members' recall of medical records or contact with health services, thus exaggerating accuracy of PCVA in communities where few deaths had any interaction with the health system. In this study we develop and validate a statistical strategy for analyzing VA data that overcomes the limitations of PCVA.
Methods and Findings
We propose and validate a method that combines the advantages of methods proposed by King and Lu, and Byass, which we term the symptom pattern (SP) method. The SP method uses two sources of VA data. First, it requires a dataset for which we know the true cause of death, but which need not be representative of the population of interest; this dataset might come from deaths that occur in a hospital. The SP method can then be applied to a second VA sample that is representative of the population of interest. From the hospital data we compute the properties of each symptom; that is, the probability of responding yes to each symptom, given the true cause of death. These symptom properties allow us first to estimate the population-level cause-specific mortality fractions (CSMFs), and to then use the CSMFs as an input in assigning a cause of death to each individual VA response. Finally, we use our individual cause-of-death assignments to refine our population-level CSMF estimates. The results from applying our method to data collected in China are promising. At the population level, SP estimates the CSMFs with 16% average relative error and 0.7% average absolute error, while PCVA results in 27% average relative error and 1.1% average absolute error. At the individual level, SP assigns the correct cause of death in 83% of the cases, while PCVA does so for 69% of the cases. We also compare the results of SP and PCVA when both methods have restricted access to the information from the medical record recall section of the VA instrument. At the population level, without medical record recall, the SP method estimates the CSMFs with 14% average relative error and 0.6% average absolute error, while PCVA results in 70% average relative error and 3.2% average absolute error. For individual estimates without medical record recall, SP assigns the correct cause of death in 78% of cases, while PCVA does so for 38% of cases.
Conclusions
Our results from the data collected in China suggest that the SP method outperforms PCVA, both at the population and especially at the individual level. Further study is needed on additional VA datasets in order to continue validation of the method, and to understand how the symptom properties vary as a function of culture, language, and other factors. Our results also suggest that PCVA relies heavily on household recall of medical records and related information, limiting its applicability in low-resource settings. SP does not require that additional information to adequately estimate causes of death.
Chris Murray and colleagues propose and, using data from China, validate a new strategy for analyzing verbal autopsy data that combines the advantages of previous methods.
Editors' Summary
Background.
All countries need to know the leading causes of death among their people. Only with accurate cause-of-death data can their public-health officials and medical professionals develop relevant health policies and programs and monitor how they affect the nation's health. In developed countries, vital registration systems record specific causes of death that have been certified by doctors for most deaths. But, in developing countries, vital registration systems are rarely anywhere near complete, a situation that is unlikely to change in the near future. An approach that is being used increasingly to get information on the patterns of death in poor countries is “verbal autopsy” (VA). Trained personnel interview household members about the symptoms the deceased had before his/her death, and the circumstances surrounding the death, using a standard form. These forms are then reviewed by a doctor, who assigns a cause of death from a list of codes called the International Classification of Diseases. This process is called physician-coded verbal autopsy (PCVA).
Why Was This Study Done?
PCVA is a costly, time-consuming way of analyzing VA data and may not be comparable across regions, because it relies on the views of local doctors about the likely causes of death. In addition, although several studies have suggested that PCVA is reasonably accurate, such studies have usually included information collected from household members about medical records or contacts with health services. In regions where there is little contact with health services, PCVA may be much more inaccurate. Ideally what is needed is a method for assigning causes of death from VA data that does not involve physician review. In this study, the researchers have developed a statistical method—the symptom pattern (SP) method—for analyzing VA data and asked whether it can overcome the limitations of PCVA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The SP method uses VA data collected about a group of patients for whom the true cause of death is known to calculate the probability for each cause of death that a household member will answer yes when asked about various symptoms. These so-called “symptom properties” can be used to calculate population cause-specific mortality fractions (CSMFs—the proportion of the population that dies from each disease) from VA data and, using a type of statistical analysis called Bayesian statistics, can be used to assign causes of deaths to individuals. When used with data from a VA study done in China, the SP method estimated population CSMFs with an average relative error of 16% (this measure indicates how much the estimated and true CSMFs deviate), whereas PCVA estimated them with an average relative error of 27%. At the individual level, the SP method assigned the correct cause of death in 83% of cases; PCVA was right only 69% of the time. Removing the medical record recall section of the VA data had little effect on the accuracy with which the two methods estimated population CSMFs. However, whereas the SP method still assigned the correct cause of death in 78% of individual cases, the PVCA did so in only 38% of cases
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the SP method for analyzing VA data can outperform PCVA at both the population and the individual level. In particular, the SP method may be much better than PCVA at assigning the cause of death for individuals who have had little contact with health services before dying, a common situation in the poorest regions of world. The SP method needs to be validated using data from other parts of the world and also needs to be tested in multi-country validation studies to build up information about how culture and language affect the likelihood of specific symptoms being reported in VAs for each cause of death. Provided the SP method works as well in other countries as it apparently does in China, its adoption, together with improvements in how VA data are collected, has the potential to improve the accuracy of cause-of-death data in developing countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040327.
• An accompanying paper by Murray and colleagues describes an alternative approach to collecting accurate cause-of-death data in developing countries
• World Health Organization provides information on health statistics and health information systems, on the International Classification of Diseases, on the Health Metrics Network, a global collaboration focused on improving sources of vital statistics and cause-of-death data, and on verbal autopsy standards
• Grand Challenges in Global Health provides information on research into better ways for developing countries to measure their health status
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040327
PMCID: PMC2080648  PMID: 18031196
20.  Knowledge about childhood autism and opinion among healthcare workers on availability of facilities and law caring for the needs and rights of children with childhood autism and other developmental disorders in Nigeria 
BMC Pediatrics  2009;9:12.
Background
In designing programs to raise the community level of awareness about childhood autism in sub-Saharan Africa, it is logical to use the primary healthcare workers as contact point for education of the general public. Tertiary healthcare workers could play the role of trainers on childhood autism at primary healthcare level. Assessing their baseline knowledge about childhood autism to detect areas of knowledge gap is an essential ingredient in starting off such programs that would be aimed at early diagnosis and interventions. Knowledge of the healthcare workers on availability of facilities and law that would promote the required interventions is also important. This study assessed the baseline knowledge about childhood autism and opinion among Nigerian healthcare workers on availability of facilities and law caring for the needs and rights of children with childhood autism and other developmental disorders.
Method
A total of one hundred and thirty four (134) consented healthcare workers working in tertiary healthcare facilities located in south east and south-south regions of Nigeria were interviewed with Socio-demographic, Knowledge about Childhood Autism among Health Workers (KCAHW) and Opinion on availability of Facilities and Law caring for the needs and rights of children with Childhood Autism and other developmental disorders (OFLCA) questionnaires.
Results
The total mean score of participated healthcare workers on KCAHW questionnaire was 12.35 ± 4.40 out of a total score of 19 possible. Knowledge gap was found to be higher in domain 3 (symptoms of obsessive and repetitive pattern of behavior), followed by domains 1 (symptoms of impairments in social interaction), 4 (type of disorder autism is and associated co-morbidity) and 2 (symptoms of communication impairments) of KCAHW respectively among the healthcare workers. Knowledge about childhood autism (KCA) as measured by scores on KCAHW questionnaire was significantly associated with age group distribution of the healthcare workers, with those age group of fourth decades and above more likely to have higher mean score (p = 0.004) and previous experience of managing children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (p = 0.000). KCA showed near significant association with area of specialty, with those healthcare workers in psychiatry compared to pediatrics having higher mean score (p = 0.071) and also with years of working experience of the healthcare workers (p = 0.056). More than half of the healthcare workers subscribed to the opinion that facilities and law caring for the needs and rights of children with childhood autism and other developmental disorders are lacking in Nigeria.
Conclusion
The correlates of KCA may help in selection of those tertiary healthcare workers that would best fit the role of trainers. It is important to update the knowledge gaps of those healthcare workers who scored low in different domains of KCAHW questionnaire. It is imperative for policy makers in Nigeria to advocate and implement multidisciplinary healthcare service system that would ensure early diagnosis and interventions. Nationally representative baseline epidemiological data that would guide policy and planning are also desirable.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-9-12
PMCID: PMC2650693  PMID: 19216754
21.  Quality of Private and Public Ambulatory Health Care in Low and Middle Income Countries: Systematic Review of Comparative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1000433.
Paul Garner and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 80 studies to compare the quality of private versus public ambulatory health care in low- and middle-income countries.
Background
In developing countries, the private sector provides a substantial proportion of primary health care to low income groups for communicable and non-communicable diseases. These providers are therefore central to improving health outcomes. We need to know how their services compare to those of the public sector to inform policy options.
Methods and Findings
We summarised reliable research comparing the quality of formal private versus public ambulatory health care in low and middle income countries. We selected studies against inclusion criteria following a comprehensive search, yielding 80 studies. We compared quality under standard categories, converted values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarised median values of the differences across studies. As the results for for-profit and not-for-profit providers were similar, we combined them. Overall, median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Overall, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort. No difference between provider groups was detected for patient satisfaction or competence. Synthesis of qualitative components indicates the private sector is more client centred.
Conclusions
Although data are limited, quality in both provider groups seems poor, with the private sector performing better in drug availability and aspects of delivery of care, including responsiveness and effort, and possibly being more client orientated. Strategies seeking to influence quality in both groups are needed to improve care delivery and outcomes for the poor, including managing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The provision of private (“for-profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not-for-profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations) versus public health care services in low and middle income countries raises considerable ideological debate. Ideological arguments aside—which can be very passionate on both sides—there is general agreement that improving the quality of both public and private health care could have a major impact on improved health outcomes, especially as the private sector is so widely used in low and middle income countries. For example, almost three quarters and half of children from the poorest households of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively, seek health care from a private provider when they are ill. Private providers are also increasingly responsible for outpatient care for non-communicable diseases.
As a result of the mixed health care system in many low and middle income countries, adequate oversight and stewardship of the mixed system from the national government is essential yet often missing.
Why Was This Study Done?
An understanding of how quality and performance in the private sector compares with that in the public sector would help governments to prioritize where they need to concentrate their efforts. So, for example, if the private sector is generally providing poorer quality care than the public sector, then there is an imperative to improve the quality and outcomes; on the other hand, if the quality of care offered by the private sector is good, the policy priority is to influence the market to further improve access to such health care for low income groups.
In order to help with this comparison, the researchers wanted to systematically identify and summarize the results of studies that directly compared the quality of care offered by public providers with the one offered by “formal” private providers (recognized by law) and “informal” private providers (providers that are not legally recognized, such as lay health workers and shop keepers). For the purposes of this study the researchers focused their comparison on the private and public provision of outpatient care in low and middle income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In their literature review, the researchers searched for relevant studies reported in English, French, or German and published between January 1970 and April 2009. Only studies that compared private and public outpatient medical services in the same country, at the same time, using the same methods, and which met particular quality criteria, were included in the analysis. The researchers also had strict criteria for including qualitative studies, and they retrieved the full text of articles, contacted study authors where appropriate, and verified with a second researcher most (80%) of the extracted study data. In order to evaluate and compare the studies, the researchers converted study values to a linear 100% scale, calculated differences between providers within studies, and summarized the median values of the differences across studies.
The researchers identified a total of 8,812 relevant titles and abstracts and found 80 studies that included direct quantitative comparisons of public and private formal providers. Ten studies included qualitative data. Most studies were conducted after 1990, and mainly in sub-Saharan Africa (n = 39) and Asia and the Pacific (n = 23). Most studies did not report socio-economic status of public and private service users, and only five studies presented data by different income groups. No study compared the same individual providers working in public and private care settings. Only two studies compared public providers and private informal providers, so the authors excluded these from subsequent analysis.
For the formal sector, since the results for “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” providers were similar, the researchers decided to combine the results. Overall, the researchers found that the median values indicated that many services, irrespective of whether public or private, scored low (less than 50%) on infrastructure, clinical competence, and practice. Generally, the private sector performed better in relation to drug supply, responsiveness, and effort, but there was no detectable difference between provider groups for patient satisfaction. Furthermore, a synthesis of qualitative data suggested that the private sector may be more client-centered.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Based on the findings of this review, there is a clear need to consider the quality of primary health services in both the public and private sector in order to improve health outcomes in low and middle income countries. These findings also indicate that, for some aspects of care, on average the private sector provided better quality services. The overall low quality of care in both the formal private and public sector found in this review is worrying, and calls for the governments of low and middle income countries to find and implement effective strategies to improve the quality in both sectors. This is particularly important given the increasing volume of conditions that require relatively sophisticated, long-term ambulatory medical care, such as non-communicable diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jishnu Das
WHO has more information on health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries
WHO has more information on noncommunicable diseases
The World Bank's World Development Report for 2004 addresses health care for poor people
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000433
PMCID: PMC3075233  PMID: 21532746
22.  Comprehensiveness of Care from the Patient Perspective: Comparison of Primary Healthcare Evaluation Instruments 
Healthcare Policy  2011;7(Spec Issue):154-166.
Comprehensiveness relates both to scope of services offered and to a whole-person clinical approach. Comprehensive services are defined as “the provision, either directly or indirectly, of a full range of services to meet most patients' healthcare needs”; whole-person care is “the extent to which a provider elicits and considers the physical, emotional and social aspects of a patient's health and considers the community context in their care.” Among instruments that evaluate primary healthcare, two had subscales that mapped to comprehensive services and to the community component of whole-person care: the Primary Care Assessment Tool – Short Form (PCAT-S) and the Components of Primary Care Index (CPCI, a limited measure of whole-person care).
Objective:
To examine how well comprehensiveness is captured in validated instruments that evaluate primary healthcare from the patient's perspective.
Method:
645 adults with at least one healthcare contact in the previous 12 months responded to six instruments that evaluate primary healthcare. Scores were normalized for descriptive comparison. Exploratory and confirmatory (structural equation modelling) factor analysis examined fit to operational definition, and item response theory analysis examined item performance on common constructs.
Results:
Over one-quarter of respondents had missing responses on services offered or doctor's knowledge of the community. The subscales did not load on a single factor; comprehensive services and community orientation were examined separately. The community orientation subscales did not perform satisfactorily. The three comprehensive services subscales fit very modestly onto two factors: (1) most healthcare needs (from one provider) (CPCI Comprehensive Care, PCAT-S First-Contact Utilization) and (2) range of services (PCAT-S Comprehensive Services Available). Individual item performance revealed several problems.
Conclusion:
Measurement of comprehensiveness is problematic, making this attribute a priority for measure development. Range of services offered is best obtained from providers. Whole-person care is not addressed as a separate construct, but some dimensions are covered by attributes such as interpersonal communication and relational continuity.
PMCID: PMC3399439  PMID: 23205042
23.  Advice from a Medical Expert through the Internet on Queries about AIDS and Hepatitis: Analysis of a Pilot Experiment 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e256.
Background
Advice from a medical expert on concerns and queries expressed anonymously through the Internet by patients and later posted on the Web, offers a new type of patient–doctor relationship. The aim of the current study was to perform a descriptive analysis of questions about AIDS and hepatitis made to an infectious disease expert and sent through the Internet to a consumer-oriented Web site in the Spanish language.
Methods and Findings
Questions were e-mailed and the questions and answers were posted anonymously in the “expert-advice” section of a Web site focused on AIDS and hepatitis. We performed a descriptive study and a temporal analysis of the questions received in the first 12 months after the launch of the site. A total of 899 questions were received from December 2003 to November 2004, with a marked linear growth pattern. Questions originated in Spain in 68% of cases and 32% came from Latin America (the Caribbean, Central America, and South America). Eighty percent of the senders were male. Most of the questions concerned HIV infection (79%) with many fewer on hepatitis (17%) . The highest numbers of questions were submitted just after the weekend (37% of questions were made on Mondays and Tuesdays). Risk factors for contracting HIV infection were the most frequent concern (69%), followed by the window period for detection (12.6%), laboratory results (5.9%), symptoms (4.7%), diagnosis (2.7%), and treatment (2.2%).
Conclusions
Our results confirm a great demand for this type of “ask-the-expert” Internet service, at least for AIDS and hepatitis. Factors such as anonymity, free access, and immediate answers have been key factors in its success.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Although substantial progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, in terms of developing new treatments and understanding factors that cause the disease to worsen, putting this knowledge into practice can be difficult. Two main barriers exist that can prevent individuals seeking information or treatment. The first is the considerable social stigma still associated with HIV; the second is the poverty of the developing countries—such as those in Latin America—where the disease has reached pandemic proportions. In addition, the disease, which used to be spread mainly through the sharing of injecting drug needles or through sex between men, has now entered the general population. When healthcare services are limited, people are often unable to seek information about HIV, and even when services do exist, the cost of accessing them can be too high. The same is true for other diseases such as hepatitis infection, which often co-exists with HIV. The Internet has the potential to go some way to filling this health information gap. And, many patients seek information on the Internet before consulting their doctor.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2003, the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo launched an HIV and hepatitis information resource situated in the health section of its existing Web site. One aspect of this resource was an “ask-the-expert” section, in which readers could anonymously e-mail questions about HIV and hepatitis that would be answered by an infectious disease expert. These ranged from how the diseases can be transmitted and who is most at risk, to what to do if an individual thinks they might have the disease. There seems to be a clear need for this Spanish-language service; in Latin America, 2.1 million people are infected with HIV, with 230,000 new cases in 2005. In the Caribbean, AIDS is the leading cause of death in people aged 15–44 years. In Spain, 71,000 people were infected with HIV in 2005. Although the Internet contains a vast store of health information, and many aspects of patient–doctor interactions have been made electronic, little is known about what format is ideal. The researchers, who included employees of the newspaper, decided to investigate the effectiveness of the question–answer format used by El Mundo.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the first 12 months after the service was launched, the researchers recorded several details: what day of the week questions were sent, what the questions were about, and whether they were sent by the person needing the information or by a family member or friend. They also noted demographic information, such as the age, sex, and country of origin of the person e-mailing the question.
Of 899 questions sent to the Web site between December 2003 and November 2004, most (80%) were sent by males. Most questions came from Spain, followed by Latin America, and most questions were sent on Mondays and Tuesdays. Some e-mails were from people who felt they had been waiting too long for an answer to their first e-mail—despite the mean time for answering a question being fewer than seven days. Messages of support for the Web site rose during the year from 2% to 22%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The messages of support and encouragement sent in by users indicated that the service was well-received and useful. Most of the questions were about HIV rather than about hepatitis, which the researchers say could represent the more prominent media coverage of HIV. However, despite the disease's high profile, the questions about HIV were very basic. It could also mean that people hold a false impression that hepatitis is a less serious illness or that they have more information about it than about HIV.
Since most questions were sent in at the start of the week, the researchers believe that many individuals wrote in after engaging in potentially risky sexual behaviour over the weekend.
The researchers also found that existing information on the Web site already answered many of the new questions, indicating that people prefer a question-and-answer model over ready-prepared information. The anonymity, free access, and immediacy of the Internet-based service suggest this could be a model for providing other types of health information.
The findings also suggest that such a service can highlight the needs and concerns of specific populations and can help health planners and policymakers respond to those needs in their countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030256.
• The AIDSinfo Web site from the US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and has sections specially written for patients and the general public
• AVERT, an international AIDS charity, has a section on HIV in Latin America that includes details of transmission, infection rates, and treatment
Marco and colleagues analyzed questions sent by the public to a Spanish language "ask-the-expert" Internet site, and found that 70% of queries were about risk factors for acquiring HIV.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030256
PMCID: PMC1483911  PMID: 16796404
24.  A Novel Tool for the Assessment of Pain: Validation in Low Back Pain 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000047.
Joachim Scholz and colleagues develop and validate an assessment tool that distinguishes between radicular and axial low back pain.
Background
Adequate pain assessment is critical for evaluating the efficacy of analgesic treatment in clinical practice and during the development of new therapies. Yet the currently used scores of global pain intensity fail to reflect the diversity of pain manifestations and the complexity of underlying biological mechanisms. We have developed a tool for a standardized assessment of pain-related symptoms and signs that differentiates pain phenotypes independent of etiology.
Methods and Findings
Using a structured interview (16 questions) and a standardized bedside examination (23 tests), we prospectively assessed symptoms and signs in 130 patients with peripheral neuropathic pain caused by diabetic polyneuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, or radicular low back pain (LBP), and in 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) LBP. A hierarchical cluster analysis revealed distinct association patterns of symptoms and signs (pain subtypes) that characterized six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain. Using a classification tree analysis, we identified the most discriminatory assessment items for the identification of pain subtypes. We combined these six interview questions and ten physical tests in a pain assessment tool that we named Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). We validated StEP for the distinction between radicular and axial LBP in an independent group of 137 patients. StEP identified patients with radicular pain with high sensitivity (92%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 83%–97%) and specificity (97%; 95% CI 89%–100%). The diagnostic accuracy of StEP exceeded that of a dedicated screening tool for neuropathic pain and spinal magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, we were able to reproduce subtypes of radicular and axial LBP, underscoring the utility of StEP for discerning distinct constellations of symptoms and signs.
Conclusions
We present a novel method of identifying pain subtypes that we believe reflect underlying pain mechanisms. We demonstrate that this new approach to pain assessment helps separate radicular from axial back pain. Beyond diagnostic utility, a standardized differentiation of pain subtypes that is independent of disease etiology may offer a unique opportunity to improve targeted analgesic treatment.
Editors' Summary
Background
Pain, although unpleasant, is essential for survival. Whenever the body is damaged, nerve cells detecting the injury send an electrical message via the spinal cord to the brain and, as a result, action is taken to prevent further damage. Usually pain is short-lived, but sometimes it continues for weeks, months, or years. Long-lasting (chronic) pain can be caused by an ongoing, often inflammatory condition (for example, arthritis) or by damage to the nervous system itself—experts call this “neuropathic” pain. Damage to the brain or spinal cord causes central neuropathic pain; damage to the nerves that convey information from distant parts of the body to the spinal cord causes peripheral neuropathic pain. One example of peripheral neuropathic pain is “radicular” low back pain (also called sciatica). This is pain that radiates from the back into the legs. By contrast, axial back pain (the most common type of low back pain) is confined to the lower back and is non-neuropathic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Chronic pain is very common—nearly 10% of American adults have frequent back pain, for example—and there are many treatments for it, including rest, regulated exercise (physical therapy), pain-killing drugs (analgesics), and surgery. However, the best treatment for any individual depends on the exact nature of their pain, so it is important to assess their pain carefully before starting treatment. This is usually done by scoring overall pain intensity, but this assessment does not reflect the characteristics of the pain (for example, whether it occurs spontaneously or in response to external stimuli) or the complex biological processes involved in pain generation. An assessment designed to take such factors into account might improve treatment outcomes and could be useful in the development of new therapies. In this study, the researchers develop and test a new, standardized tool for the assessment of chronic pain that, by examining many symptoms and signs, aims to distinguish between pain subtypes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
One hundred thirty patients with several types of peripheral neuropathic pain and 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) low back pain completed a structured interview of 16 questions and a standardized bedside examination of 23 tests. Patients were asked, for example, to choose words that described their pain from a list provided by the researchers and to grade the intensity of particular aspects of their pain from zero (no pain) to ten (the maximum imaginable pain). Bedside tests included measurements of responses to light touch, pinprick, and vibration—chronic pain often alters responses to harmless stimuli. Using “hierarchical cluster analysis,” the researchers identified six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain based on the patterns of symptoms and signs revealed by the interviews and physical tests. They then used “classification tree analysis” to identify the six questions and ten physical tests that discriminated best between pain subtypes and combined these items into a tool for a Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). Finally, the researchers asked whether StEP, which took 10–15 minutes, could identify patients with radicular back pain and discriminate them from those with axial back pain in an independent group of 137 patients with chronic low back pain. StEP, they report, accurately diagnosed these two conditions and was well accepted by the patients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that a standardized assessment of pain-related signs and symptoms can provide a simple, quick diagnostic procedure that distinguishes between radicular (neuropathic) and axial (non-neuropathic) low back pain. This distinction is crucial because these types of back pain are best treated in different ways. In addition, the findings suggest that it might be possible to identify additional pain subtypes using StEP. Because these subtypes may represent conditions in which different pain mechanisms are acting, classifying patients in this way might eventually enable physicians to tailor treatments for chronic pain to the specific needs of individual patients rather than, as at present, largely guessing which of the available treatments is likely to work best.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000047.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Giorgio Cruccu and and Andrea Truini
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides a primer on pain in English and Spanish
In its 2006 report on the health status of the US, the National Center for Health Statistics provides a special feature on the epidemiology of pain, including back pain
The Pain Treatment Topics Web site is a resource, sponsored partly by associations and manufacturers, that provides information on all aspects of pain and its treatment for health care professionals and their patients
Medline Plus provides a brief description of pain and of back pain and links to further information on both topics (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia also has a page on low back pain (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000047
PMCID: PMC2661253  PMID: 19360087
25.  Determinants of Unacceptable Waiting Times for Specialized Services in Canada 
Healthcare Policy  2007;2(3):e140-e154.
Background:
Much of the current evidence regarding timely access to healthcare services focuses on the duration of the waiting time as the principal determinant of wait time acceptability. We conducted the first national-level analysis of wait time acceptability in Canada to identify the determinants of unacceptable waits for specialized healthcare services, including selected demographic and socio-economic variables.
Methods:
We analyzed data reported by respondents to a national survey on access to healthcare services who accessed specialized services (i.e., specialist visits, non-emergency surgery and selected diagnostic tests) during a 12-month period. We used univariate analyses and weighted logistic regression to examine the relation between wait time acceptability and selected demographic, socio-economic and health status factors for each specialized service.
Results:
Between 17% and 29% of patients who waited for a specialized service declared that their waiting time was unacceptable. Most individuals reported waiting less than 3 months for their services. Between 10% and 19% of those who waited indicated that waiting for care affected their lives. Results of the logistic regression analyses showed that longer waits and adverse experiences during the waiting period were significantly associated with higher odds of reporting an unacceptable waiting time for all three types of specialized services. The role of socio-economic and demographic factors on wait time acceptability was varied. Individuals with lower education were consistently less likely to consider their waiting times unacceptable. Patients less than 65 years of age were more likely to consider their waiting times unacceptable for specialist visits and diagnostic tests.
Interpretation:
Our study shows that the primary determinants of waiting time acceptability are the length of the waiting time and the effects of waiting on the patient’s life. In addition, some patient characteristics, such as age and education, may play a role, pointing to the potential role of patient expectations in determining the acceptability of waits for specialized services.
PMCID: PMC2585450  PMID: 19305710

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