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1.  An analysis of Liberia's 2007 national health policy: lessons for health systems strengthening and chronic disease care in poor, post-conflict countries 
Globally, chronic diseases are responsible for an enormous burden of deaths, disability, and economic loss, yet little is known about the optimal health sector response to chronic diseases in poor, post-conflict countries. Liberia's experience in strengthening health systems and health financing overall, and addressing HIV/AIDS and mental health in particular, provides a relevant case study for international stakeholders and policymakers in other poor, post-conflict countries seeking to understand and prioritize the global response to chronic diseases.
We conducted a historical review of Liberia's post-conflict policies and their impact on general economic and health indicators, as well as on health systems strengthening and chronic disease care and treatment. Key sources included primary documents from Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, published and gray literature, and personal communications from key stakeholders engaged in Liberia's Health Sector Reform. In this case study, we examine the early reconstruction of Liberia's health care system from the end of conflict in 2003 to the present time, highlight challenges and lessons learned from this initial experience, and describe future directions for health systems strengthening and chronic disease care and treatment in Liberia.
Six key lessons emerge from this analysis: (i) the 2007 National Health Policy's 'one size fits all' approach met aggregate planning targets but resulted in significant gaps and inefficiencies throughout the system; (ii) the innovative Health Sector Pool Fund proved to be an effective financing mechanism to recruit and align health actors with the 2007 National Health Policy; (iii) a substantial rural health delivery gap remains, but it could be bridged with a robust cadre of community health workers integrated into the primary health care system; (iv) effective strategies for HIV/AIDS care in other settings should be validated in Liberia and adapted for use in other chronic diseases; (v) mental health disorders are extremely prevalent in Liberia and should remain a top chronic disease priority; and (vi) better information systems and data management are needed at all levels of the health system.
The way forward for chronic diseases in Liberia will require an increased emphasis on quality over quantity, better data management to inform rational health sector planning, corrective mechanisms to more efficiently align health infrastructure and personnel with existing needs, and innovative methods to improve long-term retention in care and bridge the rural health delivery gap.
PMCID: PMC3201890  PMID: 21985150
2.  A Guide for Health Professionals Working with Aboriginal Peoples: Executive Summary 
to provide Canadian health professionals with a network of information and recommendations regarding Aboriginal health.
health professionals working with Aboriginal individuals and communities in the area of women’s health care.
improved health status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Appropriateness and accessibility of women’s health services for Aboriginal peoples.
Improved communication and clinical skills of health professionals in the area of Aboriginal health.
Improved quality of relationship between health professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Improved quality of relationship between health care professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
recommendations are based on expert opinion and a review of the literature. Published references were identified by a Medline search of all review articles, randomized clinical control trials, meta-analyses, and practice guidelines from 1966 to February 1999, using the MeSH headings “Indians, North American or Eskimos” and “Health.”* Subsequently published articles were brought to the attention of the authors in the process of writing and reviewing the document. Ancillary and unpublished references were recommended by members of the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee and the panel of expert reviewers.
information collected was reviewed by the principal author. The social, cultural, political, and historic context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, systemic barriers regarding the publication of information by Aboriginal authors, the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and the need for a culturally appropriate and balanced presentation were carefully considered in addition to more traditional scientific evaluation. The majority of information collected consisted of descriptive health and social information and such evaluation tools as the evidence guidelines of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health exam were not appropriate.
Benefits, costs, and harms
utilization of the information and recommendations by Canadian health professionals will enhance understanding, communication, and clinical skills in the area of Aboriginal health. The resulting enhancement of collaborative relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their women’s health providers may contribute to health services that are more appropriate, effective, efficient, and accessible for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The educational process may require an initial investment of time from the health professional.
Recommendations were grouped according to four themes: sociocultural context, health concerns, cross-cultural understanding, and Aboriginal health resources. Health professionals are encouraged to learn the appropriate names, demographics, and traditional geographic territories and language groups of the various Aboriginal groups in Canada. In addition, sensitivity to the impact of colonization and current socioeconomic challenges to the health status of Aboriginal peoples is warranted. Health services for Aboriginal peoples should take place as close to home as possible. Governmental obligations and policies regarding determination are recognized. With respect to health concerns, holistic definitions of health, based on Aboriginal perspectives, are put forward. Aboriginal peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of health problems. Health professionals are encouraged to become familiar with several key areas of morbidity and mortality. Relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their care providers need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect. Gaps and barriers in the current health care system for Aboriginal peoples are identified. Health professionals are encouraged to work with Aboriginal individuals and communities to address these gaps and barriers. Aboriginal peoples require culturally appropriate health care, including treatment in their own languages when possible. This may require interpreters or Aboriginal health advocates. Health professionals are encouraged to recognize the importance of family and community roles, and to respect traditional medicines and healers. Health professionals can develop their sensitivities towards Aboriginal peoples by participating in workshops, making use of educational resources, and by spending time with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. Aboriginal communities and health professionals are encouraged to support community-based, community-directed health services and health research for Aboriginal peoples. In addition, the education of more Aboriginal health professionals is essential. The need for a preventative approach to health programming in Aboriginal communities is stressed.
recommendations were reviewed and revised by the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee, a panel of expert reviewers, and the SOGC Council. In addition, this document was also reviewed and supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Paediatric Society, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Metis National Council, National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3653835  PMID: 23682204 CAMSID: cams2752
3.  Clinical Effectiveness Research in Managed-care Systems: Lessons from the Pediatric Asthma Care PORT 
Health Services Research  2002;37(3):775-789.
To highlight the unique challenges of evaluative research on practice behavior change in the “real world” settings of contemporary managed-care organizations, using the experience of the Pediatric Asthma Care PORT (Patient Outcomes Research Team).
Study Setting
The Pediatric Asthma Care PORT is a five-year initiative funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study strategies for asthma care improvement in three managed-care plans in Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. At its core is a randomized trial of two care improvement strategies compared with usual care: (1) a targeted physician education program using practice based Peer Leaders (PL) as change agents, (2) adding to the PL intervention a “Planned Asthma Care Intervention” incorporating joint “asthma check-ups” by nurse-physician teams. During the trial, each of the participating organizations viewed asthma care improvement as an immediate priority and had their own corporate improvement programs underway.
Data Collection
Investigators at each health plan described the organizational and implementation challenges in conducting the PAC PORT randomized trial. These experiences were reviewed for common themes and “lessons” that might be useful to investigators planning interventional research in similar care-delivery settings.
Randomized trials in “real world” settings represent the most robust design available to test care improvement strategies. In complex, rapidly changing managed-care organizations, blinding is not feasible, corporate initiatives may complicate implementation, and the assumption that a “usual care” arm will be static is highly likely to be mistaken. Investigators must be prepared to use innovative strategies to maintain the integrity of the study design, including: continuous improvement within the intervention arms, comanagement by researchers and health plan managers of condition-related quality improvement initiatives, procedures for avoiding respondent burden in health plan enrollees, and anticipation and minimization of risks from experimental arm contamination and major organizational change. With attention to these delivery system issues, as well as the usual design features of randomized trials, we believe managed-care organizations can serve as important laboratories to test care improvement strategies.
PMCID: PMC1434661  PMID: 12132605
Guideline implementation; managed-care research; childhood asthma; physician behavior change; randomized trials
4.  Boundaries and e-health implementation in health and social care 
The major problem facing health and social care systems globally today is the growing challenge of an elderly population with complex health and social care needs. A longstanding challenge to the provision of high quality, effectively coordinated care for those with complex needs has been the historical separation of health and social care. Access to timely and accurate data about patients and their treatments has the potential to deliver better care at less cost.
To explore the way in which structural, professional and geographical boundaries have affected e-health implementation in health and social care, through an empirical study of the implementation of an electronic version of Single Shared Assessment (SSA) in Scotland, using three retrospective, qualitative case studies in three different health board locations.
Progress in effectively sharing electronic data had been slow and uneven. One cause was the presence of established structural boundaries, which lead to competing priorities, incompatible IT systems and infrastructure, and poor cooperation. A second cause was the presence of established professional boundaries, which affect staffs’ understanding and acceptance of data sharing and their information requirements. Geographical boundaries featured but less prominently and contrasting perspectives were found with regard to issues such as co-location of health and social care professionals.
To provide holistic care to those with complex health and social care needs, it is essential that we develop integrated approaches to care delivery. Successful integration needs practices such as good project management and governance, ensuring system interoperability, leadership, good training and support, together with clear efforts to improve working relations across professional boundaries and communication of a clear project vision. This study shows that while technological developments make integration possible, long-standing boundaries constitute substantial risks to IT implementations across the health and social care interface which those initiating major changes would do well to consider before committing to the investment.
PMCID: PMC3465217  PMID: 22958223
5.  Clinical trials in a remote Aboriginal setting: lessons from the BOABS smoking cessation study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:579.
There is limited evidence regarding the best approaches to helping Indigenous Australians to stop smoking. The composite analysis of the only two smoking cessation randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating this suggests that one-on-one extra support delivered by and provided to Indigenous Australians in a primary health care setting appears to be more effective than usual care in encouraging smoking cessation. This paper describes the lessons learnt from one of these studies, the Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study, and how to develop and implement an integrated smoking cessation program.
Qualitative study using data collected from multiple documentary sources related to the BOABS Study. As the project neared completion the research team participated in four workshops to review and conduct thematic analyses of these documents.
Challenges we encountered during the relatively complex BOABS Study included recruiting sufficient number of participants; managing the project in two distant locations and ensuring high quality work across both sites; providing appropriate training and support to Aboriginal researchers; significant staff absences, staff shortages and high workforce turnover; determining where and how the project fitted in the clinics and consequent siloing of the Aboriginal researchers relating to the requirements of RCTs; resistance to change, and maintaining organisational commitment and priority for the project. The results of this study also demonstrated the importance of local Aboriginal ownership, commitment, participation and control. This included knowledge of local communities, the flexibility to adapt interventions to local settings and circumstances, and taking sufficient time to allow this to occur.
The keys to the success of the BOABS Study were local development, ownership and participation, worker professional development and support, and operating within a framework of cultural safety. There were difficulties associated with the BOABS Study being an RCT, and many of these are shared with stand-alone programs. Interventions targeted at particular health problems are best integrated with usual primary health care. Research to investigate complex interventions in Indigenous health should not be limited to randomised clinical trials and funding needs to reflect the additional, but necessary, cost of providing for local control of planning and implementation.
PMCID: PMC4064520  PMID: 24912949
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Smoking cessation; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) study; Qualitative; Randomised controlled trial
6.  The Emergence of Ebola as a Global Health Security Threat: From ‘Lessons Learned’ to Coordinated Multilateral Containment Efforts 
First reported in remote villages of Africa in the 1970s, the Ebolavirus was originally believed to be transmitted to people from wild animals. Ebolavirus (EBOV) causes a severe, frequently fatal hemorrhagic syndrome in humans. Each outbreak of the Ebolavirus over the last three decades has perpetuated fear and economic turmoil among the local and regional populations in Africa. Until now it has been considered a tragic malady confined largely to the isolated regions of the African continent, but it is no longer so. The frequency of outbreaks has increased since the 1970s. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has been the most severe in history and was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization. Given the widespread use of modern transportation and global travel, the EBOV is now a risk to the entire Global Village, with intercontinental transmission only an airplane flight away. Clinically, symptoms typically appear after an incubation period of approximately 11 days. A flu-like syndrome can progress to full hemorrhagic fever with multiorgan failure, and frequently, death. Diagnosis is confirmed by detection of viral antigens or Ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood or other body fluids. Although historically the mortality of this infection exceeded 80%, modern medicine and public health measures have been able to lower this figure and reduce the impact of EBOV on individuals and communities. The treatment involves early, aggressive supportive care with rehydration. Core interventions, including contact tracing, preventive initiatives, active surveillance, effective isolation and quarantine procedures, and timely response to patients, are essential for a successful outbreak control. These measures, combined with public health education, point-of-care diagnostics, promising new vaccine and pharmaceutical efforts, and coordinated efforts of the international community, give new hope to the Global effort to eliminate Ebola as a public health threat. Here we present a review of EBOV infection in an effort to further educate medical and political communities on what the Ebolavirus disease entails, and what efforts are recommended to treat, isolate, and eventually eliminate it.
PMCID: PMC4265832  PMID: 25538455
Containment; Ebolavirus; Epidemic; Outbreak; Global response; Government response system; Global Health Security Agenda; Virus transmission
7.  Sustained Hospital-based Wellness Program 
Global Advances in Health and Medicine  2014;3(Suppl 1):BPA05.
Beginning as a grassroots initiative, a community hospital employing 2800 celebrates the stress-transforming benefits of HeartMath for its employees and community. Initially introduced to address the deleterious effects of personal stress experienced by the high healthcare claimants of the organization, HeartMath was eventually introduced to every stratification of the organization's population health management. The ensuing depth and breadth of HeartMath's presence in the organization is a consequence of a deliberate effort to integrate the program at every possible and sensible touch point of the organization and, ultimately, patient care. Today, 5 years later, the success of HeartMath at Indiana University (IU) Health Bloomington continues to be a tribute to the grassroots movement of an established worksite wellness program.
HeartMath was initiated as an intervention for transforming the stress of a workforce's highest healthcare claimants: those with the complexities of co-morbidities as well as challenging psychosocial and economic realities. This segment of a workforce is invariably the greatest strain to any organization's health plan. As importantly, on an individual level and subsequent to their health status, the respective employees can experience tremendous personal strain in several dimensions of their lives. Further compounding their marginal and worsening physical health, the inherent challenges of the current medical system to integrate and advocate for their care requires that stress be addressed and skills developed for a positive, long-term, and sustainable outcome.
From this small but powerful vantage point, IU Health Bloomington's platinum worksite wellness program (a distinction of the Wellness Council of America) extended HeartMath to every population health management stratification within the organization. This specific program migration happened initially by way of departments and units that expressed, in an employee opinion survey, high levels of stress. In some instances, these highly-stressed departments were also departments with higher staff turnover, attributed most consistently to the acuity of patient care. The critical mass of acquired HeartMath mastery by more than one thousand employees allowed the organization to introduce HeartMath's neutral technique as a nonpharmacological option for patients experiencing pain, anxiety, or sleeplessness.
Wrapping “heart” around self-care (through the worksite wellness program), patient care (at the bedside, laboring mothers, hospice patients and families), and subsequently a culture of care, HeartMath is credited, in part, with the increase in the organization's aggregate “culture of care” index.
Transforming stress from a worksite wellness program to a culture of care required a thoughtful internal audit of training and patient touch points that were sensible and appropriate to teach, reinforce, and practice HeartMath. From the mandated training for Giving and Receiving Feedback to patient registration, onboarding to inpatient Behavioral Health group and individual sessions, and Nurse Residency retention programs to the VA Clinic outreach, HeartMath is the stress-transformation technique for employees and patients with the ultimate goal of creating a healthier and more resilient community.
HeartMath has become the stress-transforming practice for IU Health Bloomington. Because of the numerous touch points of integration and the delivery platform of an established employee wellness program, HeartMath is a dimension of employee experience without boundaries—boundaries that are otherwise and previously accepted: departmental, human resource development and performance, as well as clinician and patient. Statistically, from 2009 to 2012 the response to the question regarding employees' perception of the organization's interest in creating a healthy workplace increased overall by 6% in the categories of excellent, high interest, and good interest.
Contrary to the more common launching point of HeartMath by way of senior leader stewardship, the potential for grassroots introduction can lead to rich integration of existing programs, organizational practice, and policy making with an outcome of enhanced culture of care and employee satisfaction.
PMCID: PMC3923282
Hospital wellness program; stress reduction; HeartMath; biofeedback
8.  The RAFT Telemedicine Network: Lessons Learnt and Perspectives from a Decade of Educational and Clinical Services in Low- and Middle-Incomes Countries 
Background: The objectives of this paper are to (i) provide an overview of the educational and clinical experiences of the Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine (RAFT) network, (ii) analyze key challenges and lessons learnt throughout a decade of activity, and (iii) draw a vision and perspectives of its sustainability.
Methods: The study was carried out following three main stages: (i) a literature review, (ii) the analysis of key documents, and (iii) discussions with key collaborators of the RAFT.
Results: Réseau en Afrique Francophone pour la Télémédecine has been offering an important quantity of educational, clinical, and public health activities during the last decade. The educational activities include the weekly delivery of video-lectures for continuing and post-graduate medical education, the use of virtual patients for training in clinical decision making, research training activities using ICTs and other e-learning activities. The clinical and public health activities include tele-expertise to support health professionals in the management of difficult clinical cases, the implementation of clinical information systems in African hospitals, the deployment of mHealth projects, etc. Since 2010, the RAFT has been extended to the Altiplano in Bolivia and Nepal (in progress).
Lessons Learnt and Perspectives: Important lessons have been learnt from the accumulated experiences throughout these years. These lessons concern: social and organization, human resources, technologies and data security, policy and legislation, and economy and financing. Also, given the increase of the activities and the integration of eHealth and telemedicine in the health system of most of the countries, the RAFT network faces many other challenges and perspectives such as learning throughout life, recognition, and valorization of teaching or learning activities, the impact evaluation of interventions, and the scaling up and transferability out of Africa of RAFT activities. Based on the RAFT experience, effective integration and optimum use of eHealth and telemedicine in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) health systems should take into account the context (resources, infrastructure, and funding), the needs of key stakeholders, and the results derived from theoretical and practical experience. The relevant items highlighted to illustrate the sustainability of the RAFT network and the analyses performed in this study, should serve as discussion basis for the development of eHealth and telemedicine in LMICs.
PMCID: PMC4187539  PMID: 25340048
telemedicine; eHealth; low and middle income countries; Africa; telemedicine network
9.  Human resources for health: lessons from the cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea 
Papua New Guinea is striving to achieve the minimum core requirements under the International Health Regulations in surveillance and outbreak response, and has experienced challenges in the availability and distribution of health professionals.
Since mid-2009, a large cholera outbreak spread across lowland regions of the country and has been associated with more than 15 500 notifications at a case fatality ratio of 3.2%. The outbreak placed significant pressure on clinical and public health services.
We describe some of the challenges to cholera preparedness and response in this human resource-limited setting, the strategies used to ensure effective cholera management and lessons learnt.
Cholera task forces were useful to establish a clear system of leadership and accountability for cholera outbreak response and ensure efficiencies in each technical area. Cholera outbreak preparedness and response was strongest when human resource and health systems functioned well before the outbreak. Communication relied on coordination of existing networks and methods for empowering local leaders and villagers to modify behaviours of the population.
In line with the national health emergencies plan, the successes of human resource strategies during the cholera outbreak should be built upon through emergency exercises, especially in non-affected provinces. Population needs for all public health professionals involved in health emergency preparedness and response should be mapped, and planning should be implemented to increase the numbers in relevant areas. Human resource planning should be integrated with health emergency planning. It is essential to maintain and strengthen the human resource capacities and experiences gained during the cholera outbreak to ensure a more effective response to the next health emergency.
PMCID: PMC3854099  PMID: 24319607
10.  From scaling up to sustainability in HIV: potential lessons for moving forward 
In 30 years of experience in responding to the HIV epidemic, critical decisions and program characteristics for successful scale-up have been studied. Now leaders face a new challenge: sustaining large-scale HIV prevention programs. Implementers, funders, and the communities served need to assess what strategies and practices of scaling up are also relevant for sustaining delivery at scale.
We reviewed white and gray literature to identify domains central to scaling-up programs and reviewed HIV case studies to identify how these domains might relate to sustaining delivery at scale.
We found 10 domains identified as important for successfully scaling up programs that have potential relevance for sustaining delivery at scale: fiscal support; political support; community involvement, integration, buy-in, and depth; partnerships; balancing flexibility/adaptability and standardization; supportive policy, regulatory, and legal environment; building and sustaining strong organizational capacity; transferring ownership; decentralization; and ongoing focus on sustainability. We identified one additional potential domain important for programs sustaining delivery at scale: emphasizing equity.
Today, the public and private sector are examining their ability to generate value for populations. All stakeholders are aiming to stem the tide of the HIV epidemic. Implementers need a framework to guide the evolution of their strategies and management practices. Greater research is needed to refine the domains for policy and program implementers working to sustain HIV program delivery at scale.
PMCID: PMC3826849  PMID: 24199749
Scale-up; Sustainability; Large-scale; HIV; Literature review; Framework; Public health; Care delivery
11.  Care Seeking for Neonatal Illness in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001183.
Hadley Herbert and colleagues systematically review newborn care-seeking behaviors by caregivers in low- and middle-income countries.
Despite recent achievements to reduce child mortality, neonatal deaths continue to remain high, accounting for 41% of all deaths in children under five years of age worldwide, of which over 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Infections are a leading cause of death and limitations in care seeking for ill neonates contribute to high mortality rates. As estimates for care-seeking behaviors in LMICs have not been studied, this review describes care seeking for neonatal illnesses in LMICs, with particular attention to type of care sought.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic literature review of studies that reported the proportion of caregivers that sought care for ill or suspected ill neonates in LMICs. The initial search yielded 784 studies, of which 22 studies described relevant data from community household surveys, facility-based surveys, and intervention trials. The majority of studies were from South Asia (n = 17/22), set in rural areas (n = 17/22), and published within the last 4 years (n = 18/22). Of the 9,098 neonates who were ill or suspected to be ill, 4,320 caregivers sought some type of care, including care from a health facility (n = 370) or provider (n = 1,813). Care seeking ranged between 10% and 100% among caregivers with a median of 59%. Care seeking from a health care provider yielded a similar range and median, while care seeking at a health care facility ranged between 1% and 100%, with a median of 20%. Care-seeking estimates were limited by the few studies conducted in urban settings and regions other than South Asia. There was a lack of consistency regarding illness, care-seeking, and care provider definitions.
There is a paucity of data regarding newborn care-seeking behaviors; in South Asia, care seeking is low for newborn illness, especially in terms of care sought from health care facilities and medically trained providers. There is a need for representative data to describe care-seeking patterns in different geographic regions and better understand mechanisms to enhance care seeking during this vulnerable time period.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide around 3.3 million babies die within their first month of life every year. While the global neonatal mortality rate has declined by 28% between 1990 and 2009 (from 33.2 deaths per 1,000 livebirths to 23.9), the proportion of under-five child deaths that are now in the neonatal period has increased in all regions of the world and currently stands at 41%. Of these deaths, over 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), making the risk of death in the neonatal period in LMICs more than six times higher than in high-income countries. In LMIC settings most babies are born at home so inappropriate and delayed care seeking can contribute substantially to neonatal mortality. Infection causes over a quarter of all deaths in neonates, but in LMICs diagnosis is often based on nonspecific clinical signs, which may delay the provision of care.
Why Was This Study Done?
In order to improve neonatal survival in LMICs, health care facilities and providers must not only be available and accessible but a baby's caregiver, often a parent or other family member, must also recognize that the baby is ill and seek help. To address this problem with effective strategies, an understanding is needed of the patterns of care-seeking behavior by babies' caregivers in seeking help from health-care facilities or providers. In this study, the researchers explored the extent and nature of care-seeking behaviors by the caregivers of ill babies in LMIC settings.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using multiple databases, the researchers conducted a comprehensive review up until October 2011 of all relevant studies including those that had not been formally published. Using specific criteria, the researchers then identified 22 appropriate studies (out of a possible 784) and recorded the same information from each study, including the number of neonates with illness or suspected illness, the number of care providers who sought care, and where care was sought. They also assessed the quality of each included study (the majority of which were from rural areas in South Asia) on the basis of a validated method for reviewing intervention effectiveness. The researchers found that the definitions of neonatal illness and care-seeking behavior varied considerably between studies or were not defined at all. Because of these inherent study differences it was not possible to statistically combine the results from the identified studies using a technique called meta-analysis, instead the researchers reported literature estimates and described their findings narratively.
The researchers' analysis included 9,098 neonates who were identified in community-based studies as being ill or suspected of being ill and a total of 4,320 related care-seeking events: care seeking ranged between 10% and 100% among caregivers including seeking care from a health facility (370) or from a health provider (1,813). Furthermore, between 4% to 100% of caregivers sought care from a trained medical provider and 4% to 48% specified receiving care at a health care facility: caregivers typically sought help from primary health care, secondary health care, and pharmacies and some from an unqualified health provider. The researchers also identified seven community-based intervention studies that included interventions such as essential newborn care, birth preparedness, and illness recognition, where all showed an increase in care seeking following the intervention.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings highlight the lack of a standardized and consistent approach to neonate care-seeking behaviors described in the literature. However, despite the large variations of results, care seeking for newborn illnesses in LMICs appears to be low in general and remains a key challenge to improving neonatal mortality. Global research efforts to define, understand, and address care seeking, may help to reduce the global burden of neonatal mortality. However, to achieve sustainable improvements in neonatal survival, changes are needed to both increase the demand for newborn care and strengthen health care systems to improve access to, and quality of, care. This review also shows that there is a role for interventions within the community to encourage appropriate and timely care seeking. Finally, by addressing the inconsistencies and establishing standardized terms to identify barriers to care, future studies may be able to better generalize the factors and delays that influence neonatal care seeking.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A recent PLoS Medicine study has the latest figures on neonatal mortality worldwide
UNICEF provides information about progress toward United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4
UNICEF also has information about neonatal mortality
The United Nations Population Fund has information on home births
PMCID: PMC3295826  PMID: 22412355
12.  A Health Services Framework of Spiritual Care 
Journal of nursing management  2012;20(8):1021-1028.
To introduce a health services framework of spiritual care that addresses the empirical and applied issues surrounding spirituality and nursing practice.
Despite over 20 years of study, the concept of spirituality is still under development, which limits application to nursing practice.
Three studies using a health services framework are reviewed: (1) a survey study of dying patients and family that describes the providers, types, and outcomes of spiritual care; (2) an exploratory study of the process of spiritual care; and (3) a multi-level study of the structure and outcomes of spiritual care in long-term care facilities.
Spiritual care recipients identify family or friends (41%), clergy (17%), and health care providers (29%) as spiritual care providers. The most frequently reported type of spiritual care was help in coping with illness (87%). Just over half (55%) of spiritual care recipients were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the care that they received. The processes of spiritual care involved: (1) presence, or the deliberate ideation and purposeful action of providing care that went beyond medical treatment; (2) opening eyes, or the process by which providers became aware of their patient’s storied humanity and the individualized experience of their current illness, and; (3) co-creating, which was a mutual and fluid activity between patients, family members, and care providers that began with an affirmation of the patient’s life experience and led to the generation of a holistic care plan that focused on maintaining the patient’s humanity and dignity. In long term care facilities, decedents who received spiritual care were perceived as receiving better overall care in the last month of life, when compared with those decedents who did not receive spiritual care. In addition, among those receiving support for their spiritual needs, care was rated more highly among those who received support from facility staff, such as nurses, than those who did not; no differences were observed based on the presence of other sources of support.
A health services framework provides a holistic view of spiritual care, one that is consistent with integrated nursing models.
Implications for Nursing Management
By focusing on the structure, process, and outcome elements of spiritual care within organizational settings, nursing management can develop feasible approaches to implement, improve, and evaluate the delivery of this unique type of care.
PMCID: PMC3763824  PMID: 23151104
Nursing practice; spirituality; spiritual care; health services
13.  “If Only Someone Had Told Me…”: Lessons From Rural Providers 
Health care providers face challenges in rural service delivery due to the unique circumstances of rural living. The intersection of rural living and health care challenges can create barriers to care that providers may not be trained to navigate, resulting in burnout and high turnover. Through the exploration of experienced rural providers’ knowledge and lessons learned, this study sought to inform future practitioners, educators, and policy makers in avenues through which to enhance training, recruiting, and maintaining a rural workforce across multiple health care domains.
Using a qualitative study design, 18 focus groups were conducted, with a total of 127 health care providers from Alaska and New Mexico. Transcribed responses from the question, “What are the 3 things you wish someone would have told you about delivering health care in rural areas?” were thematically coded.
Emergent themes coalesced into 3 overarching themes addressing practice-related factors surrounding the challenges, adaptations, and rewards of being a rural practitioner.
Based on the themes, a series of recommendations are offered to future rural practitioners related to community engagement, service delivery, and burnout prevention. The recommendations offered may help practitioners enter communities more respectfully and competently. They can also be used by training programs and communities to develop supportive programs for new practitioners, enabling them to retain their services and help practitioners integrate into the community. Moving toward an integrative paradigm of health care delivery wherein practitioners and communities collaborate in service delivery will be the key to enhancing rural health care and reducing disparities.
PMCID: PMC3057882  PMID: 21204979
access to care; allied health; health disparities; qualitative research; rural health care providers
14.  An Overview of the CERC ARTEMIS Project 
The basic premise of this effort is that health care can be made more effective and affordable by applying modern computer technology to improve collaboration among diverse and distributed health care providers.
Information sharing, communication, and coordination are basic elements of any collaborative endeavor. In the health care domain, collaboration is characterized by cooperative activities by health care providers to deliver total and real-time care for their patients. Communication between providers and managed access to distributed patient records should enable health care providers to make informed decisions about their patients in a timely manner. With an effective medical information infrastructure in place, a patient will be able to visit any health care provider with access to the network, and the provider will be able to use relevant information from even the last episode of care in the patient record. Such a patient-centered perspective is in keeping with the real mission of health care providers.
Today, an easy-to-use, integrated health care network is not in place in any community, even though current technology makes such a network possible. Large health care systems have deployed partial and disparate systems that address different elements of collaboration. But these islands of automation have not been integrated to facilitate cooperation among health care providers in large communities or nationally.
CERC and its team members at Valley Health Systems, Inc., St. Marys Hospital and Cabell Huntington Hospital form a consortium committed to improving collaboration among the diverse and distributed providers in the health care arena. As the first contract recipient of the multi-agency High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Initiative, this team of computer system developers, practicing rural physicians, community care groups, health care researchers, and tertiary care providers are using research prototypes and commercial off-the-shelf technologies to develop an open collaboration environment for the health care domain. This environment is called ARTEMIS — Advanced Research TEstbed for Medical InformaticS.
PMCID: PMC2579046  PMID: 8563249
15.  Addressing the Neglected Tropical Disease Podoconiosis in Northern Ethiopia: Lessons Learned from a New Community Podoconiosis Program 
Despite its great public health importance, few control initiatives addressing podoconiosis (non-filarial elephantiasis, a geochemical neglected tropical disease) exist. In June 2010, the first podoconiosis program in Northern Ethiopia, consisting of prevention, awareness, and care and support activities, began in Debre Markos, Northern Ethiopia. This study aims to document and disseminate the lessons learned from a new community podoconiosis program in Debre Markos.
Methods/Principal Findings
We used a content analysis approach to examine and evaluate data from a series of sources. These sources include conducted interview transcripts, a focus group discussion transcript and secondary sources including monitoring and evaluation field reports, observation notes, and research obtained from a literature review. Themes were identified and grouped into matrix tables. Overall, sixteen program steps were identified and grouped into 6 domains: Initial preparation, training and sensitization, foundation building, treatment activity implementation, awareness, and follow-up. Emphasis is placed on the need for baseline data, effective training, local leadership, experience-sharing, mass-awareness, cross-cutting sector issues (i.e., water and waste management), and integration with government health systems. Related successes and challenges are also described, as are stakeholder roles and misconceptions and socio-cultural challenges affecting the program start-up. Many of the identified successes and challenges are relevant to the aim of the podoconiosis program to be sustainable and community-led.
Much of this information has already been used to improve the Debre Markos program. We also anticipate that the domains and steps identified will be useful in guiding new programs in other settings where podoconiosis is highly prevalent. We hope to encourage partnerships and collaboration among podoconiosis stakeholders in future growth and disease control expansion.
Author Summary
Podoconiosis is a chronic non-infectious disease that causes leg swelling among those living and walking bare-footed in red clay soil areas. It can be prevented and treated primarily by the use of shoes and foot hygiene. In Ethiopia, it is estimated that nearly 11 million people are at risk but few control programs exist. We aimed to assess and document the lessons learned from the first community podoconiosis program started in Northern Ethiopia in June 2010. We conducted interviews and a focus group discussion in addition to examining monitoring and evaluation field reports, observation notes, and other research articles. Overall, sixteen program steps were identified and grouped into 6 domains: Initial preparation, training and sensitization, foundation building, treatment activity implementation, awareness, and follow-up. Related successes and challenges, stakeholder roles, misconceptions and socio-cultural challenges affecting the program start-up were also identified. We hope that the results will be useful in guiding new programs in other settings where podoconiosis is highly prevalent.
PMCID: PMC3302806  PMID: 22428078
16.  Past lessons and new uses of the mass media in reducing tobacco consumption. 
Public Health Reports  1990;105(3):239-244.
A review of mass media response to the smoking issue over the past 25 years reveals that sustained involvement of the broadcast and print media has served significantly to heighten public awareness and reduce smoking rates in the total U.S. population. Public service advertising has been an integral part of the smoking control movement from its outset, but today's intensely competitive media environment has forced health promoters to look beyond public service announcements in the development of total communication programs. Media advocacy--using the media to sharpen public awareness and mold public policy to serve the public interest, a technique derived from political campaigns--is emerging as a powerful tool in the smoking control movement. Its emphasis is on changing the entire social context of tobacco use in America, rather than the smoking behavior of people. Because media advocates' success pivots on their access to the media, they must be able both to create news and to react quickly to breaking news and unexpected events. The opportunistic, risk-taking nature of media advocacy requires that most efforts be waged at the State and local levels. An increasing number of State health departments and other organizations are using paid advertising to improve the frequency and reach of nonsmoking messages. Research verifies that paid media campaigns increase the target audience's exposure to smoking control messages, but planning and making efficient media purchases require sophistication and, of course, the necessary funds. Irrefutable medical evidence linking smoking to disease and addiction, combined with the powerful social force of the nonsmokers' rights movement, offer hope that a smoke-free society is an achievable goal.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC1580009  PMID: 2113681
17.  Secondary health conditions and spinal cord injury: an uphill battle in the journey of care 
Disability and Rehabilitation  2013;35(11-13):894-906.
To understand the journey of care in the prevention and management of secondary health conditions (SHCs) following spinal cord injury (SCI).
This was a case study design with ‘Ontario’ as the case. The Network Episode Model was used as the conceptual framework. Data sources included in depth interviews with persons with SCI, care providers, and policy and decision makers. Document analysis was also conducted on relevant materials and policies. Key informants were selected by purposeful sampling as well as snowball sampling to provide maximum variation. Data analysis was an iterative process and involved descriptive and interpretive analyses. A coding structure was developed based on the conceptual framework which allowed for free nodes when emerging ideas or themes were identified.
Twenty-eight individuals were interviewed (14 persons with SCI and 14 persons representing care providers, community advocacy organization representatives, system service delivery administrators and policy-makers). A major over-arching domain that emerged from the data was the concept of ‘fighting’. Eleven themes were identified: at the micro-individual level: (i) social isolation and system abandonment, (ii) funding and equitable care, (iii) bounded freedom and self-management; at the meso care provider level: (iv) gender and caregiving strain, (v) help versus disempowerment, (vi) holistic care-thinking outside the box, (vii) poor communication and coordination of care; and at the macro health system level: (viii) fight for access and availability, (ix) models of care tensions, (x) private versus public tensions and (xi) rigid rules and policies.
Findings suggest that the journey is challenging and a persistent uphill struggle for persons with SCI, care providers, and community-based advocates. If we are to make significant gains in minimizing the incidence and severity of SHCs, we need to tailor efforts at the health system level.
Implications for Rehabilitation
Secondary health conditions are problematic for individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI).
This study aimed to understand the journey of care in the prevention and management of secondary health conditions (SHCs) following SCI.
Findings suggest that the journey is challenging and a persistent uphill struggle for persons with SCI, care providers, and community-based advocates.
All stakeholders involved recognized the disparities in access to care and resources that exist within the system. We recommend that if we are to make significant gains in minimizing the incidence and severity of SHCs, we need to tailor efforts at the health system level.
PMCID: PMC3665227  PMID: 23020250
Health services; secondary health conditions; spinal cord injury
18.  Health and Wellness Technology Use by Historically Underserved Health Consumers: Systematic Review 
The implementation of health technology is a national priority in the United States and widely discussed in the literature. However, literature about the use of this technology by historically underserved populations is limited. Information on culturally informed health and wellness technology and the use of these technologies to reduce health disparities facing historically underserved populations in the United States is sparse in the literature.
To examine ways in which technology is being used by historically underserved populations to decrease health disparities through facilitating or improving health care access and health and wellness outcomes.
We conducted a systematic review in four library databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Engineering Village) to investigate the use of technology by historically underserved populations. Search strings consisted of three topics (eg, technology, historically underserved populations, and health).
A total of 424 search phrases applied in the four databases returned 16,108 papers. After review, 125 papers met the selection criteria. Within the selected papers, 30 types of technology, 19 historically underserved groups, and 23 health issues were discussed. Further, almost half of the papers (62 papers) examined the use of technology to create effective and culturally informed interventions or educational tools. Finally, 12 evaluation techniques were used to assess the technology.
While the reviewed studies show how technology can be used to positively affect the health of historically underserved populations, the technology must be tailored toward the intended population, as personally relevant and contextually situated health technology is more likely than broader technology to create behavior changes. Social media, cell phones, and videotapes are types of technology that should be used more often in the future. Further, culturally informed health information technology should be used more for chronic diseases and disease management, as it is an innovative way to provide holistic care and reminders to otherwise underserved populations. Additionally, design processes should be stated regularly so that best practices can be created. Finally, the evaluation process should be standardized to create a benchmark for culturally informed health information technology.
PMCID: PMC3799608  PMID: 22652979
health care disparities; biomedical technology; health education; health knowledge, attitudes, and practice; health care quality, access, and evaluation; educational technology; cultural diversity
19.  Paving the Way to Personalized Genomic Medicine: Steps to Successful Implementation 
Over the last decade there has been vast interest in and focus on the implementation of personalized genomic medicine. Although there is general agreement that personalized genomic medicine involves utilizing genome technology to assess individual risk and ensure the delivery of the “right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time,” different categories of stakeholders focus on different aspects of personalized genomic medicine and operationalize it in diverse ways. In order to move toward a clearer, more holistic understanding of the concept, this article begins by identifying and defining three major elements of personalized genomic medicine commonly discussed by stakeholders: molecular medicine, pharmacogenomics, and health information technology. The integration of these three elements has the potential to improve health and reduce health care costs, but it also raises many challenges. This article endeavors to address these challenges by identifying five strategic areas that will require significant investment for the successful integration of personalized genomics into clinical care: (1) health technology assessment; (2) health outcomes research; (3) education (of both health professionals and the public); (4) communication among stakeholders; and (5) the development of best practices and guidelines. While different countries and global regions display marked heterogeneity in funding of health care in the form of public, private, or blended payor systems, previous analyses of personalized genomic medicine and attendant technological innovations have been performed without due attention to this complexity. Hence, this article focuses on personalized genomic medicine in the United States as a model case study wherein a significant portion of health care payors represent private, nongovernment resources. Lessons learned from the present analysis of personalized genomic medicine could usefully inform health care systems in other global regions where payment for personalized genomic medicine will be enabled through private or hybrid public-private funding systems.
PMCID: PMC2809376  PMID: 20098629
Personalized Genomic Medicine; Personalized Medicine; Ethics; Genomics; Policy
20.  German translation of the Alberta context tool and two measures of research use: methods, challenges and lessons learned 
Understanding the relationship between organizational context and research utilization is key to reducing the research-practice gap in health care. This is particularly true in the residential long term care (LTC) setting where relatively little work has examined the influence of context on research implementation. Reliable, valid measures and tools are a prerequisite for studying organizational context and research utilization. Few such tools exist in German. We thus translated three such tools (the Alberta Context Tool and two measures of research use) into German for use in German residential LTC. We point out challenges and strategies for their solution unique to German residential LTC, and demonstrate how resolving specific challenges in the translation of the health care aide instrument version streamlined the translation process of versions for registered nurses, allied health providers, practice specialists, and managers.
Our translation methods were based on best practices and included two independent forward translations, reconciliation of the forward translations, expert panel discussions, two independent back translations, reconciliation of the back translations, back translation review, and cognitive debriefing.
We categorized the challenges in this translation process into seven categories: (1) differing professional education of Canadian and German care providers, (2) risk that German translations would become grammatically complex, (3) wordings at risk of being misunderstood, (4) phrases/idioms non-existent in German, (5) lack of corresponding German words, (6) limited comprehensibility of corresponding German words, and (7) target persons’ unfamiliarity with activities detailed in survey items. Examples of each challenge are described with strategies that we used to manage the challenge.
Translating an existing instrument is complex and time-consuming, but a rigorous approach is necessary to obtain instrument equivalence. Essential components were (1) involvement of and co-operation with the instrument developers and (2) expert panel discussions, including both target group and content experts. Equivalent translated instruments help researchers from different cultures to find a common language and undertake comparative research. As acceptable psychometric properties are a prerequisite for that, we are currently carrying out a study with that focus.
PMCID: PMC3893410  PMID: 24238613
Translation; Cultural adaptation; Alberta Context Tool; Estabrooks’ Kind of Research Utilization; Conceptual Research Use scale; Organizational context; Research utilization; Residential long term care
21.  What are the ‘success factors’ for effective integration? Lessons from international case studies 
To describe key success factors, derived from literature review and international case studies that enable effective integration between clinicians, teams and organizations.
Effective integration is dependent on consideration of diverse factors operating at macro, meso and micro levels of health care.
Data sources
Literature review and four international case studies.
A maximum variation sample of four ICOs was selected from organizations and services nominated by international experts as ‘high performing’; ensuring a range of national policy contexts, organizational arrangements, and integrative approaches. Case studies in the USA, Holland and Scotland, drew on data from 10 to 15 semi-structured interviews with managers and clinicians and on document review. Interviews explored understanding of and objectives for ‘integration’, external influences and impact of internal characteristics (e.g. leadership, governance, IT) in facilitating/hindering integration. Clinical interviewees also described hypothetical patient journeys. Analysis focused on potential barriers and facilitators to integration.
Preliminary conclusions
Findings suggest integration requires four tiers of ‘success factors’: 1) a supportive ‘operating environment’ with appropriate policy, regulation, law, and payment systems; 2) organisational culture, infrastructure and processes (which may cross organizational boundaries) to support integration and enable; 3) effective inter-professional teams operating within or between organizations with linked infrastructure; shared assessments; common standards; care co-ordination and shared care plans and 4) activated patients to participate in care planning.
Those wishing to develop effective ICOs will need to ensure that each of these four tiers is addressed simultaneously across all levels (i.e. macro, meso and micro) of health care.
PMCID: PMC2807100
integrated care; success factors; international case studies; literature review
22.  A new model of care collaboration for community-dwelling elders: findings and lessons learned from the NORC-health care linkage evaluation 
Providing care for older individuals with chronic illnesses in the community requires a model of service delivery that takes into account both physical health and social health needs. However, packaging care in this way does not fit into existing service or reimbursement structures in the US, and there are few financial incentives that encourage service coordination. Lack of coordinated care can negatively affect access to high quality, appropriate care, putting seniors' physical and mental health and quality of life at risk, as well as their ability to stay in the community. Supportive Social Programs (SSPs), operating in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), attempt to increase access to care and enhance care quality for aging residents through outreach and service facilitation. Since their inception in 1986, NORC-SSPs have partnered with local health care providers to address both individual and community-wide health issues; however, each sector continues to operate along functional lines, and on a reactive basis. This article presents findings from an evaluation conducted from 2002 to 2006 looking at the feasibility, quality and outcomes of linking health and social services through innovative NORC-SSP and health organization partnerships.
Four NORC-SSPs participated in the study by finding a health care provider to collaborate on addressing health conditions that could benefit from a biopsychosocial approach. Each site focused on a specific population, a specific condition or problem, and created different linkages to address the target problem. Using a case study approach, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methods, this evaluation sought to answer the following two primary questions: 1) have the participating sites created viable linkages between the participating organizations that did not exist prior to the study; and, 2) to what extent have the linkages resulted in improvements in clinical and other health and social outcomes?
Findings suggest that immediate outcomes were widely achieved across sites: knowledge of other sector providers' capabilities and services increased; communication across providers increased; identification of target population increased; and, awareness of risks, symptoms and healthy behaviors among clients/patients increased. Furthermore, intermediate outcomes were also widely achieved: shared care planning increased across providers; continuity of care was enhanced; disease management improved; and self care among clients improved. Finally, several linkage partnerships were also able to demonstrate improvements in distal outcomes: falls risk decreased; clinical indicators for diabetes management improved; and inappropriate hospitalizations decreased.
Using simple, familiar and relatively low-tech approaches to sharing critical patient information among collaborating organizations, inter-sector linkages were successfully established at all four sites. Seven critical success factors emerged that increase the likelihood that linkages will be implemented, effective and sustained: 1) careful goal selection; 2) meaningful collaboration; 3) appropriate role for clients; 4) realistic interventions; 5) realistic expectations for implementation environment; 6) continuous focus on outcomes; and, 7) stable leadership. A considerable amount of literature speaks to the importance of organizational partnerships to improve community health; however, findings from this evaluation suggest that less complex, more focused, micro-level collaborations can also make a difference, extending the feasibility that organizations will enter into such endeavors.
PMCID: PMC2807089
older people; integrated care models; linkage
23.  Lessons learned from scaling up a community-based health program in the Upper East Region of northern Ghana 
The original CHPS model deployed nurses to the community and engaged local leaders, reducing child mortality and fertility substantially. Key scaling-up lessons: (1) place nurses in home districts but not home villages, (2) adapt uniquely to each district, (3) mobilize local resources, (4) develop a shared project vision, and (5) conduct “exchanges” so that staff who are initiating operations can observe the model working in another setting, pilot the approach locally, and expand based on lessons learned.
The original CHPS model deployed nurses to the community and engaged local leaders, reducing child mortality and fertility substantially. Key scaling-up lessons: (1) place nurses in home districts but not home villages, (2) adapt uniquely to each district, (3) mobilize local resources, (4) develop a shared project vision, and (5) conduct “exchanges” so that staff who are initiating operations can observe the model working in another setting, pilot the approach locally, and expand based on lessons learned.
Ghana's Community-Based Health Planning and Service (CHPS) initiative is envisioned to be a national program to relocate primary health care services from subdistrict health centers to convenient community locations. The initiative was launched in 4 phases. First, it was piloted in 3 villages to develop appropriate strategies. Second, the approach was tested in a factorial trial, which showed that community-based care could reduce childhood mortality by half in only 3 years. Then, a replication experiment was launched to clarify appropriate activities for implementing the fourth and final phase—national scale up. This paper discusses CHPS progress in the Upper East Region (UER) of Ghana, where the pace of scale up has been much more rapid than in the other 9 regions of the country despite exceedingly challenging economic, ecological, and social circumstances. The UER employed 5 strategies that facilitated scale up: (1) nurse recruitment from their home districts to improve worker morale and cultural grounding, balanced with some social distance from the village community to ensure client confidentiality, particularly regarding family planning use; (2) prioritization of CHPS planning and continuous review in management meetings to make necessary modifications to the initiative's approach; (3) community engagement and advocacy to local politicians to mobilize resources for financing start-up costs; (4) a shared and consistent vision about CHPS among health administration leaders to ensure appropriate resources and commitment to the initiative; and (5) knowledge exchange visits between new and advanced CHPS implementers to facilitate learning and scale up within and between districts.
PMCID: PMC4168550  PMID: 25276522
24.  An Epidemiological Network Model for Disease Outbreak Detection 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e210.
Advanced disease-surveillance systems have been deployed worldwide to provide early detection of infectious disease outbreaks and bioterrorist attacks. New methods that improve the overall detection capabilities of these systems can have a broad practical impact. Furthermore, most current generation surveillance systems are vulnerable to dramatic and unpredictable shifts in the health-care data that they monitor. These shifts can occur during major public events, such as the Olympics, as a result of population surges and public closures. Shifts can also occur during epidemics and pandemics as a result of quarantines, the worried-well flooding emergency departments or, conversely, the public staying away from hospitals for fear of nosocomial infection. Most surveillance systems are not robust to such shifts in health-care utilization, either because they do not adjust baselines and alert-thresholds to new utilization levels, or because the utilization shifts themselves may trigger an alarm. As a result, public-health crises and major public events threaten to undermine health-surveillance systems at the very times they are needed most.
Methods and Findings
To address this challenge, we introduce a class of epidemiological network models that monitor the relationships among different health-care data streams instead of monitoring the data streams themselves. By extracting the extra information present in the relationships between the data streams, these models have the potential to improve the detection capabilities of a system. Furthermore, the models' relational nature has the potential to increase a system's robustness to unpredictable baseline shifts. We implemented these models and evaluated their effectiveness using historical emergency department data from five hospitals in a single metropolitan area, recorded over a period of 4.5 y by the Automated Epidemiological Geotemporal Integrated Surveillance real-time public health–surveillance system, developed by the Children's Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. We performed experiments with semi-synthetic outbreaks of different magnitudes and simulated baseline shifts of different types and magnitudes. The results show that the network models provide better detection of localized outbreaks, and greater robustness to unpredictable shifts than a reference time-series modeling approach.
The integrated network models of epidemiological data streams and their interrelationships have the potential to improve current surveillance efforts, providing better localized outbreak detection under normal circumstances, as well as more robust performance in the face of shifts in health-care utilization during epidemics and major public events.
Most surveillance systems are not robust to shifts in health care utilization. Ben Reis and colleagues developed network models that detected localized outbreaks better and were more robust to unpredictable shifts.
Editors' Summary
The main task of public-health officials is to promote health in communities around the world. To do this, they need to monitor human health continually, so that any outbreaks (epidemics) of infectious diseases (particularly global epidemics or pandemics) or any bioterrorist attacks can be detected and dealt with quickly. In recent years, advanced disease-surveillance systems have been introduced that analyze data on hospital visits, purchases of drugs, and the use of laboratory tests to look for tell-tale signs of disease outbreaks. These surveillance systems work by comparing current data on the use of health-care resources with historical data or by identifying sudden increases in the use of these resources. So, for example, more doctors asking for tests for salmonella than in the past might presage an outbreak of food poisoning, and a sudden rise in people buying over-the-counter flu remedies might indicate the start of an influenza pandemic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Existing disease-surveillance systems don't always detect disease outbreaks, particularly in situations where there are shifts in the baseline patterns of health-care use. For example, during an epidemic, people might stay away from hospitals because of the fear of becoming infected, whereas after a suspected bioterrorist attack with an infectious agent, hospitals might be flooded with “worried well” (healthy people who think they have been exposed to the agent). Baseline shifts like these might prevent the detection of increased illness caused by the epidemic or the bioterrorist attack. Localized population surges associated with major public events (for example, the Olympics) are also likely to reduce the ability of existing surveillance systems to detect infectious disease outbreaks. In this study, the researchers developed a new class of surveillance systems called “epidemiological network models.” These systems aim to improve the detection of disease outbreaks by monitoring fluctuations in the relationships between information detailing the use of various health-care resources over time (data streams).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data collected over a 3-y period from five Boston hospitals on visits for respiratory (breathing) problems and for gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) problems, and on total visits (15 data streams in total), to construct a network model that included all the possible pair-wise comparisons between the data streams. They tested this model by comparing its ability to detect simulated disease outbreaks implanted into data collected over an additional year with that of a reference model based on individual data streams. The network approach, they report, was better at detecting localized outbreaks of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease than the reference approach. To investigate how well the network model dealt with baseline shifts in the use of health-care resources, the researchers then added in a large population surge. The detection performance of the reference model decreased in this test, but the performance of the complete network model and of models that included relationships between only some of the data streams remained stable. Finally, the researchers tested what would happen in a situation where there were large numbers of “worried well.” Again, the network models detected disease outbreaks consistently better than the reference model.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that epidemiological network systems that monitor the relationships between health-care resource-utilization data streams might detect disease outbreaks better than current systems under normal conditions and might be less affected by unpredictable shifts in the baseline data. However, because the tests of the new class of surveillance system reported here used simulated infectious disease outbreaks and baseline shifts, the network models may behave differently in real-life situations or if built using data from other hospitals. Nevertheless, these findings strongly suggest that public-health officials, provided they have sufficient computer power at their disposal, might improve their ability to detect disease outbreaks by using epidemiological network systems alongside their current disease-surveillance systems.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia pages on public health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and is available in several languages)
A brief description from the World Health Organization of public-health surveillance (in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese)
A detailed report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called “Framework for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems for the Early Detection of Outbreaks”
The International Society for Disease Surveillance Web site
PMCID: PMC1896205  PMID: 17593895
25.  Supporting aboriginal knowledge and practice in health care: lessons from a qualitative evaluation of the strong women, strong babies, strong culture program 
The Strong Women, Strong Babies, Strong Culture Program (the Program) evolved from a recognition of the value of Aboriginal knowledge and practice in promoting maternal and child health (MCH) in remote communities of the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia. Commencing in 1993 it continues to operate today. In 2008, the NT Department of Health commissioned an evaluation to identify enabling factors and barriers to successful implementation of the Program, and to identify potential pathways for future development. In this paper we focus on the evaluation findings related specifically to the role of Aborignal cultural knowledge and practice within the Program.
A qualitative evaluation utilised purposive sampling to maximise diversity in program history and Aboriginal culture. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 76 participants were recorded in their preferred language with a registered Interpreter when required. Thematic analysis of data was verified or modified through further discussions with participants and members of the evaluation team.
Although the importance of Aboriginal knowledge and practice as a fundamental component of the Program is widely acknowledged, there has been considerable variation across time and location in the extent to which these cultural dimensions have been included in practice. Factors contributing to this variation are complex and relate to a number of broad themes including: location of control over Program activities; recognition and respect for Aboriginal knowledge and practice as a legitimate component of health care; working in partnership; communication within and beyond the Program; access to transport and working space; and governance and organisational support.
We suggest that inclusion of Aboriginal knowledge and practice as a fundamental component of the Program is key to its survival over more than twenty years despite serious challenges. Respect for the legitimacy of Aboriginal knowledge and practice within health care, a high level of community participation and control supported through effective governance and sufficient organisational commitment as well as competence in intercultural collaborative practice of health staff are critical requirements for realising the potential for cultural knowledge and practice to improve Aboriginal health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4328040  PMID: 25652186
Maternal and child health; Indigenous health; Aboriginal culture; Intercultural health care

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