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1.  Red Blood Cell Transfusion and Mortality in Trauma Patients: Risk-Stratified Analysis of an Observational Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001664.
Using a large multicentre cohort, Pablo Perel and colleagues evaluate the association of red blood cell transfusion with mortality according to the predicted risk of death for trauma patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Haemorrhage is a common cause of death in trauma patients. Although transfusions are extensively used in the care of bleeding trauma patients, there is uncertainty about the balance of risks and benefits and how this balance depends on the baseline risk of death. Our objective was to evaluate the association of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion with mortality according to the predicted risk of death.
Methods and Findings
A secondary analysis of the CRASH-2 trial (which originally evaluated the effect of tranexamic acid on mortality in trauma patients) was conducted. The trial included 20,127 trauma patients with significant bleeding from 274 hospitals in 40 countries. We evaluated the association of RBC transfusion with mortality in four strata of predicted risk of death: <6%, 6%–20%, 21%–50%, and >50%. For this analysis the exposure considered was RBC transfusion, and the main outcome was death from all causes at 28 days. A total of 10,227 patients (50.8%) received at least one transfusion. We found strong evidence that the association of transfusion with all-cause mortality varied according to the predicted risk of death (p-value for interaction <0.0001). Transfusion was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality among patients with <6% and 6%–20% predicted risk of death (odds ratio [OR] 5.40, 95% CI 4.08–7.13, p<0.0001, and OR 2.31, 95% CI 1.96–2.73, p<0.0001, respectively), but with a decrease in all-cause mortality in patients with >50% predicted risk of death (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.47–0.74, p<0.0001). Transfusion was associated with an increase in fatal and non-fatal vascular events (OR 2.58, 95% CI 2.05–3.24, p<0.0001). The risk associated with RBC transfusion was significantly increased for all the predicted risk of death categories, but the relative increase was higher for those with the lowest (<6%) predicted risk of death (p-value for interaction <0.0001). As this was an observational study, the results could have been affected by different types of confounding. In addition, we could not consider haemoglobin in our analysis. In sensitivity analyses, excluding patients who died early; conducting propensity score analysis adjusting by use of platelets, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate; and adjusting for country produced results that were similar.
Conclusions
The association of transfusion with all-cause mortality appears to vary according to the predicted risk of death. Transfusion may reduce mortality in patients at high risk of death but increase mortality in those at low risk. The effect of transfusion in low-risk patients should be further tested in a randomised trial.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01746953
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Trauma—a serious injury to the body caused by violence or an accident—is a major global health problem. Every year, injuries caused by traffic collisions, falls, blows, and other traumatic events kill more than 5 million people (9% of annual global deaths). Indeed, for people between the ages of 5 and 44 years, injuries are among the top three causes of death in many countries. Trauma sometimes kills people through physical damage to the brain and other internal organs, but hemorrhage (serious uncontrolled bleeding) is responsible for 30%–40% of trauma-related deaths. Consequently, early trauma care focuses on minimizing hemorrhage (for example, by using compression to stop bleeding) and on restoring blood circulation after blood loss (health-care professionals refer to this as resuscitation). Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is often used for the management of patients with trauma who are bleeding; other resuscitation products include isotonic saline and solutions of human blood proteins.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although RBC transfusion can save the lives of patients with trauma who are bleeding, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the balance of risks and benefits associated with this procedure. RBC transfusion, which is an expensive intervention, is associated with several potential adverse effects, including allergic reactions and infections. Moreover, blood supplies are limited, and the risks from transfusion are high in low- and middle-income countries, where most trauma-related deaths occur. In this study, which is a secondary analysis of data from a trial (CRASH-2) that evaluated the effect of tranexamic acid (which stops excessive bleeding) in patients with trauma, the researchers test the hypothesis that RBC transfusion may have a beneficial effect among patients at high risk of death following trauma but a harmful effect among those at low risk of death.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The CRASH-2 trail included 20,127 patients with trauma and major bleeding treated in 274 hospitals in 40 countries. In their risk-stratified analysis, the researchers investigated the effect of RBC transfusion on CRASH-2 participants with a predicted risk of death (estimated using a validated model that included clinical variables such as heart rate and blood pressure) on admission to hospital of less than 6%, 6%–20%, 21%–50%, or more than 50%. That is, the researchers compared death rates among patients in each stratum of predicted risk of death who received a RBC transfusion with death rates among patients who did not receive a transfusion. Half the patients received at least one transfusion. Transfusion was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality at 28 days after trauma among patients with a predicted risk of death of less than 6% or of 6%–20%, but with a decrease in all-cause mortality among patients with a predicted risk of death of more than 50%. In absolute figures, compared to no transfusion, RBC transfusion was associated with 5.1 more deaths per 100 patients in the patient group with the lowest predicted risk of death but with 11.9 fewer deaths per 100 patients in the group with the highest predicted risk of death.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that RBC transfusion is associated with an increase in all-cause deaths among patients with trauma and major bleeding with a low predicted risk of death, but with a reduction in all-cause deaths among patients with a high predicted risk of death. In other words, these findings suggest that the effect of RBC transfusion on all-cause mortality may vary according to whether a patient with trauma has a high or low predicted risk of death. However, because the participants in the CRASH-2 trial were not randomly assigned to receive a RBC transfusion, it is not possible to conclude that receiving a RBC transfusion actually increased the death rate among patients with a low predicted risk of death. It might be that the patients with this level of predicted risk of death who received a transfusion shared other unknown characteristics (confounders) that were actually responsible for their increased death rate. Thus, to provide better guidance for clinicians caring for patients with trauma and hemorrhage, the hypothesis that RBC transfusion could be harmful among patients with trauma with a low predicted risk of death should be prospectively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001664.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The World Health Organization provides information on injuries and on violence and injury prevention (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on injury and violence prevention and control
The National Trauma Institute, a US-based non-profit organization, provides information about hemorrhage after trauma and personal stories about surviving trauma
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about blood transfusion, including a personal story about transfusion after a serious road accident
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also provides detailed information about blood transfusions
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on injuries, bleeding, and blood transfusion (in English and Spanish)
More information in available about CRASH-2 (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001664
PMCID: PMC4060995  PMID: 24937305
2.  Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000132.
In a cohort of 6,441 volunteers followed over an average of 8.2 years, Naresh Punjabi and colleagues find sleep-disordered breathing to be independently associated with mortality and identify predictive characteristics.
Background
Sleep-disordered breathing is a common condition associated with adverse health outcomes including hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The overall objective of this study was to determine whether sleep-disordered breathing and its sequelae of intermittent hypoxemia and recurrent arousals are associated with mortality in a community sample of adults aged 40 years or older.
Methods and Findings
We prospectively examined whether sleep-disordered breathing was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause in 6,441 men and women participating in the Sleep Heart Health Study. Sleep-disordered breathing was assessed with the apnea–hypopnea index (AHI) based on an in-home polysomnogram. Survival analysis and proportional hazards regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios for mortality after adjusting for age, sex, race, smoking status, body mass index, and prevalent medical conditions. The average follow-up period for the cohort was 8.2 y during which 1,047 participants (587 men and 460 women) died. Compared to those without sleep-disordered breathing (AHI: <5 events/h), the fully adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality in those with mild (AHI: 5.0–14.9 events/h), moderate (AHI: 15.0–29.9 events/h), and severe (AHI: ≥30.0 events/h) sleep-disordered breathing were 0.93 (95% CI: 0.80–1.08), 1.17 (95% CI: 0.97–1.42), and 1.46 (95% CI: 1.14–1.86), respectively. Stratified analyses by sex and age showed that the increased risk of death associated with severe sleep-disordered breathing was statistically significant in men aged 40–70 y (hazard ratio: 2.09; 95% CI: 1.31–3.33). Measures of sleep-related intermittent hypoxemia, but not sleep fragmentation, were independently associated with all-cause mortality. Coronary artery disease–related mortality associated with sleep-disordered breathing showed a pattern of association similar to all-cause mortality.
Conclusions
Sleep-disordered breathing is associated with all-cause mortality and specifically that due to coronary artery disease, particularly in men aged 40–70 y with severe sleep-disordered breathing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
About 1 in 10 women and 1 in 4 men have a chronic condition called sleep-disordered breathing although most are unaware of their problem. Sleep-disordered breathing, which is commonest in middle-aged and elderly people, is characterized by numerous, brief (10 second or so) interruptions of breathing during sleep. These interruptions, which usually occur when relaxation of the upper airway muscles decreases airflow, lower the level of oxygen in the blood and, as a result, affected individuals are frequently aroused from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing include loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. Treatments include lifestyle changes such as losing weight (excess fat around the neck increases airway collapse) and smoking cessation. Affected people can also use special devices to prevent them sleeping on their backs, but for severe sleep-disordered breathing, doctors often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a machine that pressurizes the upper airway through a face mask to keep it open.
Why Was This Study Done?
Sleep-disordered breathing is a serious condition. It is associated with several adverse health conditions including coronary artery disease (narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart, a condition that can cause a heart attack) and daytime sleepiness that can affect an individual's driving ability. In addition, several clinic- and community-based studies suggest that sleep-disordered sleeping may increase a person's risk of dying. However, because these studies have been small and have often failed to allow for other conditions and characteristics that affect an individual's risk of dying (“confounding factors”), they provide inconsistent or incomplete information about the potential association between sleep-disordered breathing and the risk of death. In this prospective cohort study (part of the Sleep Heart Health Study, which is researching the effects of sleep-disordered breathing on cardiovascular health), the researchers examine whether sleep-disordered breathing is associated with all-cause mortality (death from any cause) in a large community sample of adults. A prospective cohort study is one in which a group of participants is enrolled and then followed forward in time (in this case for several years) to see what happens to them.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
At enrollment, the study participants—more than 6,000 people aged 40 years or older, none of whom were being treated for sleep-disordered breathing—had a health examination. Their night-time breathing, sleep patterns, and blood oxygen levels were also assessed and these data used to calculate each participant's apnea-hypopnea index (AHI)—the number of apneas and hypopneas per hour. During the study follow-up period, 1,047 participants died. Compared to participants without sleep-disordered sleeping, participants with severe sleep-disordered breathing (an AHI of ≥30) were about one and a half times as likely to die from any cause after adjustment for potential confounding factors. People with milder sleep-disordered breathing did not have a statistically significant increased risk of dying. After dividing the participants into subgroups according to their age and sex, men aged 40–70 years with severe sleep-disordered breathing had a statistically increased risk of dying from any cause (twice the risk of men of a similar age without sleep-disordered breathing). Finally, death from coronary artery disease was also associated with sleep-disordered breathing in men but not in women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that sleep-disordered breathing is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, particularly in men aged 40–70 years, even after allowing for known confounding factors. They also suggest that the increased risk of death is specifically associated with coronary artery disease although further studies are needed to confirm this finding because it was based on the analysis of a small subgroup of study participants. Although this study is much larger than previous investigations into the association between sleep-disordered breathing and all-cause mortality, it has several limitations including its reliance on a single night's measurements for the diagnosis of sleep-disordered breathing. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that clinical trials should now be started to assess whether treatment can reduce the increased risk of death that seems to be associated with this common disorder.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000132.
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has information (including a video) about sleep-disordered breathing (sleep apnea) (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Heath Service also provides information for patients about sleep apnea
MedlinePlus provides links to further information and advice about sleep-disordered breathing (in English and Spanish)
More information on the Sleep Heart Health Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000132
PMCID: PMC2722083  PMID: 19688045
3.  Socioeconomic Factors and All Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality among Older People in Latin America, India, and China: A Population-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001179.
Cleusa Ferri and colleagues studied mortality rates in over 12,000 people aged 65 years and over in Latin America, India, and China and showed that chronic diseases are the main causes of death and that education has an important effect on mortality.
Background
Even in low and middle income countries most deaths occur in older adults. In Europe, the effects of better education and home ownership upon mortality seem to persist into old age, but these effects may not generalise to LMICs. Reliable data on causes and determinants of mortality are lacking.
Methods and Findings
The vital status of 12,373 people aged 65 y and over was determined 3–5 y after baseline survey in sites in Latin America, India, and China. We report crude and standardised mortality rates, standardized mortality ratios comparing mortality experience with that in the United States, and estimated associations with socioeconomic factors using Cox's proportional hazards regression. Cause-specific mortality fractions were estimated using the InterVA algorithm. Crude mortality rates varied from 27.3 to 70.0 per 1,000 person-years, a 3-fold variation persisting after standardisation for demographic and economic factors. Compared with the US, mortality was much higher in urban India and rural China, much lower in Peru, Venezuela, and urban Mexico, and similar in other sites. Mortality rates were higher among men, and increased with age. Adjusting for these effects, it was found that education, occupational attainment, assets, and pension receipt were all inversely associated with mortality, and food insecurity positively associated. Mutually adjusted, only education remained protective (pooled hazard ratio 0.93, 95% CI 0.89–0.98). Most deaths occurred at home, but, except in India, most individuals received medical attention during their final illness. Chronic diseases were the main causes of death, together with tuberculosis and liver disease, with stroke the leading cause in nearly all sites.
Conclusions
Education seems to have an important latent effect on mortality into late life. However, compositional differences in socioeconomic position do not explain differences in mortality between sites. Social protection for older people, and the effectiveness of health systems in preventing and treating chronic disease, may be as important as economic and human development.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, half of all deaths occur in people aged 60 or older. Yet mortality among older people is a neglected topic in global health. In high income countries, where 84% of people do not die until they are aged 65 years or older, the causes of death among older people and the factors (determinants) that affect their risk of dying are well documented. In Europe, for example, the leading causes of death among older people are heart disease, stroke, and other chronic (long-term) diseases. Moreover, as in younger age groups, having a better education and owning a house reduces the risk of death among older people. By contrast, in low and middle income countries (LMICs), where three-quarters of deaths of older people occur, reliable data on the causes and determinants of death among older people are lacking, in part because many LMICs have inadequate vital registration systems—official records of all births and deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many LMICs, chronic diseases are replacing communicable (infectious) diseases as the leading causes of death and disability—health experts call this the epidemiological transition (epidemiology is the study of the distribution and causes of disease in populations)—and the average age of the population is increasing (the demographic transition). Faced with these changes, which occur when countries move from a pre-industrial to an industrial economy, policy makers in LMICs need to introduce measures to improve health and reduce deaths among older people. However, to do this, they need reliable data on the causes and determinants of death in this section of the population. In this longitudinal population-based cohort study (a type of study that follows a group of people from a defined population over time), researchers from the 10/66 Dementia Research Group, which is carrying out population-based research on dementia, aging, and non-communicable diseases in LMICs, investigate the patterns of mortality among older people living in Latin America, India, and China.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 2003 and 2005, the researchers completed a baseline survey of people aged 65 years or older living in six Latin American LMICs, China, and India. Three to five years later, they determined the vital status of 12,373 of the study participants (that is, they determined whether the individual was alive or dead) and interviewed a key informant (usually a relative) about each death using a standardized “verbal autopsy” questionnaire that includes questions about date and place of death, and about medical help-seeking and signs and symptoms noted during the final illness. Finally, they used a tool called the InterVA algorithm to calculate the most likely causes of death from the verbal autopsies. Crude mortality rates varied from 27.3 per 1,000 person-years in urban Peru to 70.0 per 1,000 person-years in urban India, a three-fold difference in mortality rates that persisted even after allowing for differences in age, sex, education, occupational attainment, and number of assets among the study sites. Compared to the US, mortality rates were much higher in urban India and rural China; much lower in urban and rural Peru, Venezuela, and urban Mexico; but similar elsewhere. Although several socioeconomic factors were associated with mortality, only a higher education status provided consistent independent protection against death in statistical analyses. Finally, chronic diseases were the main causes of death; stroke was the leading cause of death at all the sites except those in rural Peru and Mexico.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify the main causes of death among older adults in a range of LMICs and suggest that there is an association of education with mortality that extends into later life. However, these findings may not be generalizable to other LMICs or even to other sites in the LMICs studied, and because some of the information provided by key informants may have been affected by recall error, the accuracy of the findings may be limited. Nevertheless, these findings suggest how health and mortality might be improved in elderly people in LMICs. Specifically, they suggest that efforts to ensure universal access to education should confer substantial health benefits and that interventions that target social and economic vulnerability in later life and promote access to effectively organized health care (particularly for stroke) should be considered.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001179.
The World Health Organization provides information on mortality around the world and projections of global mortality up to 2030
The 10/66 Dementia Research Group is building an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of policies for improving the health and social welfare of older people in LMICs, particularly people with dementia; its website includes background information about demographic and epidemiological aging in LMICs
Wikipedia has a page on the demographic transition (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Information about the InterVA tool for interpreting verbal autopsy data is available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about healthy aging
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001179
PMCID: PMC3289608  PMID: 22389633
4.  Health Behaviours, Socioeconomic Status, and Mortality: Further Analyses of the British Whitehall II and the French GAZEL Prospective Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000419.
Further analysis of data from two prospective cohorts reveals differences in the extent to which health behaviors attenuate associations between socioeconomic position and mortality outcomes.
Background
Differences in morbidity and mortality between socioeconomic groups constitute one of the most consistent findings of epidemiologic research. However, research on social inequalities in health has yet to provide a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying this association. In recent analysis, we showed health behaviours, assessed longitudinally over the follow-up, to explain a major proportion of the association of socioeconomic status (SES) with mortality in the British Whitehall II study. However, whether health behaviours are equally important mediators of the SES-mortality association in different cultural settings remains unknown. In the present paper, we examine this issue in Whitehall II and another prospective European cohort, the French GAZEL study.
Methods and Findings
We included 9,771 participants from the Whitehall II study and 17,760 from the GAZEL study. Over the follow-up (mean 19.5 y in Whitehall II and 16.5 y in GAZEL), health behaviours (smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and physical activity), were assessed longitudinally. Occupation (in the main analysis), education, and income (supplementary analysis) were the markers of SES. The socioeconomic gradient in smoking was greater (p<0.001) in Whitehall II (odds ratio [OR]  = 3.68, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.11–4.36) than in GAZEL (OR  = 1.33, 95% CI 1.18–1.49); this was also true for unhealthy diet (OR  = 7.42, 95% CI 5.19–10.60 in Whitehall II and OR  = 1.31, 95% CI 1.15–1.49 in GAZEL, p<0.001). Socioeconomic differences in mortality were similar in the two cohorts, a hazard ratio of 1.62 (95% CI 1.28–2.05) in Whitehall II and 1.94 in GAZEL (95% CI 1.58–2.39) for lowest versus highest occupational position. Health behaviours attenuated the association of SES with mortality by 75% (95% CI 44%–149%) in Whitehall II but only by 19% (95% CI 13%–29%) in GAZEL. Analysis using education and income yielded similar results.
Conclusions
Health behaviours were strong predictors of mortality in both cohorts but their association with SES was remarkably different. Thus, health behaviours are likely to be major contributors of socioeconomic differences in health only in contexts with a marked social characterisation of health behaviours.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The influence of the socioeconomic environment on the health of individuals and populations is well known, giving rise to the so-called social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities—the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. In addition, health-damaging behaviors are often strongly socially patterned. For example, material constraints, lack of knowledge, and limited opportunities to follow health promoting messages often act as barriers that prevent those from lower socioeconomic groups to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Yet the extent to which health behaviors explain social inequalities in health remains unclear and can range from 12% to 72% according to some studies.
Why Was This Study Done?
In a recently published paper using data from the British Whitehall II cohort, the researchers showed that longitudinal assessment of health behaviors accounted for socioeconomic differences in mortality better than a single baseline assessment as used in most previous studies. (The Whitehall II study started in 1985 to examine the socioeconomic gradient in health among 10,308 London-based civil servants [6,895 men and 3,413 women] aged 35–55).
However, it is not clear whether health behaviors are equally important mediators of the socioeconomic-health association in different cultural settings. In this study, the researchers examine this issue by comparing their recent findings of the Whitehall II study with another European cohort, the French GAZEL study. (The GAZEL study started in 1989 among employees of the French national gas and electricity company totaling 20,625 employees [15,011 men and 5,614 women], aged 35–50.) The Whitehall II study and the GAZEL study have comparable designs in the way both assess socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and mortality and have a similar age range and follow-up period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers included 9,771 participants from the Whitehall II study and 17,760 from the GAZEL study—mean follow up for Whitehall II was 19.5 years and for GAZEL was 16.5 years. The researchers used occupation as the main marker of socioeconomic status, and education and income as supplementary markers of socioeconomic status. Apart from a few exceptions, the researchers analyzed each cohort separately and used statistical techniques to calculate: the mortality rates per 1000 person-years for each socioeconomic group; the age- and sex-adjusted prevalence rates of smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity, at the first and the last follow-up of the study for each socioeconomic group; and the differences in health behaviors prevalence between lowest and highest occupational position. Then the researchers used a statistical model to deduce the contribution of all health behaviors.
The researchers found that the socioeconomic gradient in smoking, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity was greater in Whitehall II than in GAZEL. Socioeconomic differences in mortality were similar in the two cohorts, a hazard ratio of 1.62 in Whitehall II and 1.94 in GAZEL for lowest versus highest occupational position. Health behaviors weakened the association between socioeconomic status and mortality by 75% in Whitehall II but only by 19% in GAZEL. The supplementary analysis the researchers conducted using education and income as socioeconomic markers gave similar results.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that the social patterning of unhealthy behaviors differs between countries. Although in both cohorts socioeconomic status and health behaviors were strong predictors of mortality, major differences in the social patterning of unhealthy behaviors in the two cohorts meant that the causal chains leading from socioeconomic status to health behaviors to mortality were different. Therefore it may be that health behaviors are likely to only be major contributors of socioeconomic differences in health in contexts with a marked social characterization of those behaviors. In order to identify the common and unique determinants of social inequalities in health in different populations, there needs to be further comparative research on the relative importance of different pathways linking socioeconomic status to health.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000419.
WHO provides information on social determinants of health
University College London provides information on the Whitehall study
The GAZEL study is available in an online open access format
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000419
PMCID: PMC3043001  PMID: 21364974
5.  Mortality in Pharmacologically Treated Older Adults with Diabetes: The Cardiovascular Health Study, 1989–2001 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e400.
Background
Diabetes mellitus (DM) confers an increased risk of mortality in young and middle-aged individuals and in women. It is uncertain, however, whether excess DM mortality continues beyond age 75 years, is related to type of hypoglycemic therapy, and whether women continue to be disproportionately affected by DM into older age.
Methods and Findings
From the Cardiovascular Health Study, a prospective study of 5,888 adults, we examined 5,372 participants aged 65 y or above without DM (91.2%), 322 with DM treated with oral hypoglycemic agents (OHGAs) (5.5%), and 194 with DM treated with insulin (3.3%). Participants were followed (1989–2001) for total, cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD), and non-CVD/noncancer mortality. Compared with non-DM participants, those treated with OHGAs or insulin had adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) for total mortality of 1.33 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10 to 1.62) and 2.04 (95% CI, 1.62 to 2.57); CVD mortality, 1.99 (95% CI, 1.54 to 2.57) and 2.16 (95% CI, 1.54 to 3.03); CHD mortality, 2.47 (95% CI, 1.89 to 3.24) and 2.75 (95% CI, 1.95 to 3.87); and infectious and renal mortality, 1.35 (95% CI, 0.70 to 2.59) and 6.55 (95% CI, 4.18 to 10.26), respectively. The interaction of age (65–74 y versus ≥75 y) with DM was not significant. Women treated with OHGAs had a similar HR for total mortality to men, but a higher HR when treated with insulin.
Conclusions
DM mortality risk remains high among older adults in the current era of medical care. Mortality risk and type of mortality differ between OHGA and insulin treatment. Women treated with insulin therapy have an especially high mortality risk. Given the high absolute CVD mortality in older people, those with DM warrant aggressive CVD risk factor reduction.
The negative impact on mortality of diabetes persists into old age. Elderly people with diabetes might be twice as likely to die from CVD as people without diabetes. More aggressive treatment of CVD risk factors in older patients should be considered.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Diabetes is a growing global health problem. By 2030, 300 million people worldwide may have this chronic, incurable disorder, double the current number. People with diabetes have dangerously high amounts of sugar in their blood. Blood-sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas that tells cells to absorb sugar from the blood. This control fails in people with diabetes, either because they make no insulin (type 1 diabetes) or because their cells are insensitive to insulin (type 2 diabetes). Type 1 diabetes is controlled with insulin injections; type 2 diabetes is controlled with diet, exercise, and pills that reduce blood-sugar levels. Long-term complications of diabetes include kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage. Individuals with diabetes also have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD)—heart problems, strokes, and poor circulation—because of damage to their blood vessels.
Why Was This Study Done?
Epidemiological studies (investigations of disease patterns, causes, and control in populations) have indicated that diabetes increases the risk of death (mortality) from CVD in young and middle-aged people, but it is not known whether this is also true for old people. It is also not known what effect long-term treatment for diabetes has on mortality or whether the risk of death from CVD is decreasing in diabetic people as it is in the general US population. This information would help physicians provide health care and lifestyle advice to people with diabetes. In this study, the researchers have investigated mortality patterns in elderly diabetic people by looking at data collected between 1989 and 2001 by the US Cardiovascular Health Study, an observational study of nearly 6,000 people aged over 65 years (in this type of study participants are observed without imposing any specific changes to their lifestyle, behavior, medical care, or treatments).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Participants were screened at the start of the Cardiovascular Health Study for CVD and diabetes (defined as drug-treated disease), for established CVD risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking, for recently recognized CVD risk factors (for example, subclinical CVD), and for psychosocial factors associated with diabetes that might influence mortality, such as frailty and depression. At this time, about 5% of the participants were taking oral hypoglycemic agents for diabetes and about 3% were taking insulin. During the 11-year study, 40% of the participants died. After adjusting for CVD risk factors and psychosocial factors, the researchers calculated that people treated with oral hypoglycemic agents were 1.3 times as likely to die from all causes and people treated with insulin were twice as likely to die as people without diabetes. The risk of death from CVD was about twice as high in both groups of diabetic participants as in non-diabetic participants; the risk of death from coronary heart disease was increased about 2.5-fold. These adjusted relative risks are very similar to those found in previous studies. The researchers also report that participants treated with insulin were six times more likely to die from infectious diseases or renal failure than nondiabetic participants, and women treated with insulin had a particularly high mortality risk.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the negative impact on mortality of diabetes persists into old age and that death from CVD is currently declining in both older diabetic people and nondiabetic people. In addition, they show that diabetic people treated with insulin are at a greater risk of dying relative to people without diabetes and those taking oral hypoglycemic agents. This might reflect the type of diabetes that these people had, but this was not investigated. How long participants had had diabetes was also not considered, nor how many people developed diabetes during the study. These and other limitations might mean that the reported excess mortality due to diabetes is an underestimate. Nevertheless, the estimate that elderly people with diabetes are twice as likely to die from CVD as people without diabetes is important. Many elderly people die anyway because of CVD, so this increased risk represents many more deaths than the similar increased risk in younger diabetic populations. Yet, elderly people often receive less-intensive management of CVD risk factors than younger people. The results of this study suggest that rectifying this situation could prolong the lives of many elderly people with diabetes.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030400.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on diabetes, heart disease, stroke and poor circulation
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides patient information on diabetes
Information for patients on prevention, diagnosis, and management of diabetes is available from the America Diabetes Association
Patient information is available from the American Heart Association on all aspects of heart disease, including its association with diabetes
Wikipedia pages on diabetes and cardiovascular disease (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Further information is available about the Cardiovascular Health Study
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030400
PMCID: PMC1609124  PMID: 17048978
6.  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
7.  Primary prevention of CVD: physical activity 
Clinical Evidence  2009;2009:0218.
Introduction
Increasing physical activity has been associated with reduced risk of mortality and of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The proportion of people doing no physical activity in a week varies between countries, but can reach nearly 25% in Europe and the Americas.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: Does counselling people to increase physical activity lead to increased physical activity in healthy people without existing CVD? What are the health benefits of increasing physical activity in relation to cardiovascular outcomes in healthy people without existing CVD? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to September 2008 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 21 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: counselling people to increase physical activity, and to perform higher-intensity exercise programmes.
Key Points
Increasing physical activity has been associated with reduced risk of mortality and CVD. The proportion of people doing no physical activity in a week varies between countries, but can reach nearly 25% in Europe and the Americas.
In this review, we have looked at healthy people older than 18 years who have no evidence of existing CVD.
Counselling people to increase physical activity may increase people's activity levels over 3–12 months, particularly if accompanied by written materials and telephone follow-up.
However, the nature of the counselling interventions varied widely among RCTs, and results varied by the exact counselling intervention employed. Counselling people to do higher-intensity exercise may increase activity levels more than counselling people to do lower-intensity exercise.People counselled to perform a higher-intensity exercise programme were also found to adhere to it better than those given a more moderate-intensity programme.
We don't know whether counselling people to increase physical activity compared with no counselling reduces CVD, or whether counselling people to do higher-intensity exercise compared with counselling them to perform lower-intensity exercise reduces CVD, as we found insufficient evidence.
PMCID: PMC2907823  PMID: 21726487
8.  Leisure Time Physical Activity of Moderate to Vigorous Intensity and Mortality: A Large Pooled Cohort Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001335.
Analyzing data from over 650,000 individuals, Dr. Steven Moore and colleagues report that greater amounts of leisure-time physical activity were associated with higher life expectancy across a wide range of activity levels and body mass index groups.
Background
Leisure time physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality, but the years of life expectancy gained at different levels remains unclear. Our objective was to determine the years of life gained after age 40 associated with various levels of physical activity, both overall and according to body mass index (BMI) groups, in a large pooled analysis.
Methods and Findings
We examined the association of leisure time physical activity with mortality during follow-up in pooled data from six prospective cohort studies in the National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium, comprising 654,827 individuals, 21–90 y of age. Physical activity was categorized by metabolic equivalent hours per week (MET-h/wk). Life expectancies and years of life gained/lost were calculated using direct adjusted survival curves (for participants 40+ years of age), with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) derived by bootstrap. The study includes a median 10 y of follow-up and 82,465 deaths. A physical activity level of 0.1–3.74 MET-h/wk, equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 min/wk, was associated with a gain of 1.8 (95% CI: 1.6–2.0) y in life expectancy relative to no leisure time activity (0 MET-h/wk). Higher levels of physical activity were associated with greater gains in life expectancy, with a gain of 4.5 (95% CI: 4.3–4.7) y at the highest level (22.5+ MET-h/wk, equivalent to brisk walking for 450+ min/wk). Substantial gains were also observed in each BMI group. In joint analyses, being active (7.5+ MET-h/wk) and normal weight (BMI 18.5–24.9) was associated with a gain of 7.2 (95% CI: 6.5–7.9) y of life compared to being inactive (0 MET-h/wk) and obese (BMI 35.0+). A limitation was that physical activity and BMI were ascertained by self report.
Conclusions
More leisure time physical activity was associated with longer life expectancy across a range of activity levels and BMI groups.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Regular physical activity is essential for human health. It helps to maintain a healthy body weight and prevents or delays heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. It also makes people feel better and increases life expectancy. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. Moderate-intensity physical activities (for example, brisk walking and gardening) require a moderate amount of effort and noticeably increase the heart rate; vigorous-intensity physical activities (for example, running or fast swimming) require a large amount of effort and cause rapid breathing and a substantial heart rate increase. Worryingly, people in both developed and developing countries are becoming increasingly physically inactive. People are sitting at desks all day instead of doing manual labor; they are driving to work in cars instead of walking or cycling; and they are participating in fewer leisure time physical activities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although various studies suggest that physical activity increases life expectancy, few have quantified the years of life gained at distinct levels of physical activity. Moreover, the difference in life expectancy between active, overweight individuals and inactive, normal weight individuals has not been quantified. Thus, it is hard to develop a simple public health message to maximize the population benefits of physical activity. In this pooled prospective cohort analysis, the researchers determine the association between levels of leisure time physical activities, such as recreational walking, and years of life gained after age 40, both overall and within body mass index (BMI) groups. A pooled prospective cohort analysis analyzes the combined data from multiple studies that have followed groups of people to investigate associations between baseline characteristics and outcomes such as death. BMI is a ratio of weight to height, calculated by dividing a person's weight by their height squared; normal weight is defined as a BMI of 18.5–24.9 kg/m2, obesity (excessive body fat) is defined as a BMI of more than 30 kg/m2.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pooled self-reported data on leisure time physical activities and BMIs from nearly 650,000 individuals over the age of 40 years enrolled in one Swedish and five US prospective cohort studies, most of which were investigating associations between lifestyle factors and disease risk. They used these and other data to calculate the gain in life expectancy associated with specific levels of physical activity. A physical activity level equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes per week was associated with a gain of 1.8 years in life expectancy relative to no leisure time activity. Being active—having a physical activity level at or above the WHO-recommended minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking per week—was associated with an overall gain of life expectancy of 3.4–4.5 years. Gains in life expectancy were seen also for black individuals and former smokers, groups for whom relatively few data had been previously available. The physical activity and life expectancy association was also evident at all BMI levels. Being active and normal weight was associated with a gain of 7.2 years of life compared to being inactive and class II+ obese (having a BMI of more than 35.0 kg/m2). However, being inactive but normal weight was associated with 3.1 fewer years of life compared to being active but class I obese (having a BMI of 30–34.9 kg/m2).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that participation in leisure time physical activity, even below the recommended level, is associated with a reduced risk of mortality compared to participation in no leisure time physical activity. This result may help convince currently inactive people that a modest physical activity program may have health benefits, even if it does not result in weight loss. The findings also suggest that physical activity at recommended levels or higher may increase longevity further, and that a lack of leisure time physical activity may markedly reduce life expectancy when combined with obesity. Although the accuracy and generalizability of these findings may be limited by certain aspects of the study's design (for example, some study participants may have overestimated their leisure time physical activity), these findings reinforce the public health message that both a physically active lifestyle and a normal body weight are important for increasing longevity.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335.
The World Health Organization provides information about physical activity and health (in several languages); its 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health is available in several languages
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on physical activity for different age groups; its Physical Activity for Everyone webpages include guidelines, instructional videos, and personal success stories
The UK National Health Service information source NHS Choices also explains the benefits of regular physical activity and includes physical activity guidelines, tips for exercising, and some personal stories
MedlinePlus has links to other resources about exercise and physical fitness (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335
PMCID: PMC3491006  PMID: 23139642
9.  Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001587.
Anders Grøntved and colleagues examined whether women who perform muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities have an associated reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
It is well established that aerobic physical activity can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D), but whether muscle-strengthening activities are beneficial for the prevention of T2D is unclear. This study examined the association of muscle-strengthening activities with the risk of T2D in women.
Methods and Findings
We prospectively followed up 99,316 middle-aged and older women for 8 years from the Nurses' Health Study ([NHS] aged 53–81 years, 2000–2008) and Nurses' Health Study II ([NHSII] aged 36–55 years, 2001–2009), who were free of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases at baseline. Participants reported weekly time spent on resistance exercise, lower intensity muscular conditioning exercises (yoga, stretching, toning), and aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) at baseline and in 2004/2005. Cox regression with adjustment for major determinants for T2D was carried out to examine the influence of these types of activities on T2D risk. During 705,869 person years of follow-up, 3,491 incident T2D cases were documented. In multivariable adjusted models including aerobic MVPA, the pooled relative risk (RR) for T2D for women performing 1–29, 30–59, 60–150, and >150 min/week of total muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities was 0.83, 0.93, 0.75, and 0.60 compared to women reporting no muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities (p<0.001 for trend). Furthermore, resistance exercise and lower intensity muscular conditioning exercises were each independently associated with lower risk of T2D in pooled analyses. Women who engaged in at least 150 min/week of aerobic MVPA and at least 60 min/week of muscle-strengthening activities had substantial risk reduction compared with inactive women (pooled RR = 0.33 [95% CI 0.29–0.38]). Limitations to the study include that muscle-strengthening and conditioning activity and other types of physical activity were assessed by a self-administered questionnaire and that the study population consisted of registered nurses with mostly European ancestry.
Conclusions
Our study suggests that engagement in muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities (resistance exercise, yoga, stretching, toning) is associated with a lower risk of T2D. Engagement in both aerobic MVPA and muscle-strengthening type activity is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of T2D in middle-aged and older women.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, more than 370 million people have diabetes mellitus, a disorder characterized by poor glycemic control—dangerously high amounts of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas. In people with type 2 diabetes (the commonest form of diabetes), blood sugar control fails because the fat and muscle cells that normally respond to insulin by removing excess sugar from the blood become less responsive to insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which was previously known as adult-onset diabetes, can often initially be controlled with diet and exercise, and with antidiabetic drugs such as metformin and sulfonylureas. However, as the disease progresses, the pancreatic beta cells, which make insulin, become impaired and patients may eventually need insulin injections. Long-term complications of diabetes, which include an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke, reduce the life expectancy of people with diabetes by about 10 years compared to people without diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common worldwide so better preventative strategies are essential. It is well-established that regular aerobic exercise—physical activity in which the breathing and heart rate increase noticeably such as jogging, brisk walking, and swimming—lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization currently recommends that adults should do at least 150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity to reduce the risk of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. It also recommends that adults should undertake muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities such as weight training and yoga on two or more days a week. However, although studies have shown that muscle-strengthening activity improves glycemic control in people who already have diabetes, it is unclear whether this form of exercise prevents diabetes. In this prospective cohort study (a study in which disease development is followed up over time in a group of people whose characteristics are recorded at baseline), the researchers investigated the association of muscle-strengthening activities with the risk of type 2 diabetes in women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers followed up nearly 100,000 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and the Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII), two prospective US investigations into risk factors for chronic diseases in women, for 8 years. The women provided information on weekly participation in muscle-strengthening exercise (for example, weight training), lower intensity muscle-conditioning exercises (for example, yoga and toning), and aerobic moderate and vigorous physical activity (aerobic MVPA) at baseline and 4 years later. During the study 3,491 women developed diabetes. After allowing for major risk factors for type 2 diabetes (for example, diet and a family history of diabetes) and for aerobic MVPA, compared to women who did no muscle-strengthening or conditioning exercise, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women declined with increasing participation in muscle-strengthening and conditioning activity. Notably, women who did more than 150 min/week of these types of exercise had 40% lower risk of developing diabetes as women who did not exercise in this way at all. Muscle-strengthening and muscle-conditioning exercise were both independently associated with reduced diabetes risk, and women who engaged in at least 150 min/week of aerobic MVPA and at least 60 min/week of muscle-strengthening exercise were a third as likely to develop diabetes as inactive women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among the women enrolled in NHS and NHSII, engagement in muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes independent of aerobic MVPA. That is, non-aerobic exercise provided protection against diabetes in women who did no aerobic exercise. Importantly, they also show that doing both aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercise substantially reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. Because nearly all the participants in NHS and NHSII were of European ancestry, these results may not be generalizable to women of other ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, the accuracy of these findings may be limited by the use of self-administered questionnaires to determine how much exercise the women undertook. Nevertheless, these findings support the inclusion of muscle-strengthening and conditioning exercises in strategies designed to prevent type 2 diabetes in women, a conclusion that is consistent with current guidelines for physical activity among adults.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001587.
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides information about diabetes for patients, health-care professionals and the general public, including information on diabetes prevention (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients and carers about type 2 diabetes and explains the benefits of regular physical activity
The World Health Organization provides information about diabetes and about physical activity and health (in several languages); its 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health are available in several languages
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on physical activity for different age groups; its Physical Activity for Everyone web pages include guidelines, instructional videos and personal success stories
More information about the Nurses Health Study and the Nurses Health Study II is available
The UK charity Healthtalkonline has interviews with people about their experiences of diabetes
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources and advice about diabetes and about physical exercise and fitness (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001587
PMCID: PMC3891575  PMID: 24453948
10.  In the critically ill patient, diabetes predicts mortality independent of statin therapy but is not associated with acute lung injury: a cohort study 
Critical care medicine  2012;40(6):1835-1843.
Objectives
Patients with diabetes mellitus (DM) form 23–30% of published cohorts of critically ill patients. Conflicting published evidence links DM to both higher and lower mortality. Other cohort studies have suggest that DM protects against acute lung injury (ALI). We hypothesized that DM is an independent risk factor for mortality. We further hypothesized that DM is a risk factor for cardiac overload (CO) and not for ALI.
Design
Retrospective cohort study.
Setting
The intensive care unit (ICU) of a tertiary referral hospital.
Patients
From 1 November 2004 to 1 October 2007, a cohort of patients admitted ≥48h to the ICU.
Interventions
None
Measurements and Main Results
Of 2,013 patients, 317 had DM. Ninety-day mortality was higher in the DM patients compared to patients without DM (hazard ratio [HR] 1.53, 95% confidence interval 1.29–1.80). This association strengthened after adjusting for confounders and for medication (HR 1.53, 1.07–2.17). We found no association between DM and ALI (relative risk ratio [RRR] 1.01, 0.78–1.32; adjusted RRR 0.99, 0.75–1.31), but DM was a risk factor for CO (RRR 1.91, 1.30–2.81; adjusted RRR 1.45, 0.97–2.18). Statins were associated with both a reduced risk of mortality (HR 0.74, 0.63–0.87; adjusted HR 0.53, 0.44–0.64) and a decreased risk of developing ALI (RRR 0.71, 0.56–0.89; adjusted RRR 0.61, 0.47–0.79).
Conclusions
DM is an independent risk factor for mortality in critically ill patients and failure to adjust for statins underestimates the size of this association. DM is not associated with ALI but is associated with CO. A diagnosis of CO excludes a diagnosis of ALI. Investigators who do not account for CO as a competing alternative outcome may therefore falsely conclude that DM protects from ALI.
doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e31824e1696
PMCID: PMC3379571  PMID: 22488007
diabetes mellitus; intensive care; acute lung injury; acute respiratory distress syndrome; mortality; heart failure; hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors; confounding factors (epidemiology); multinomial logistic regression; Cox regression
11.  Effect of a Nutrition Supplement and Physical Activity Program on Pneumonia and Walking Capacity in Chilean Older People: A Factorial Cluster Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(4):e1001023.
Alan Dangour and colleagues report results from the CENEX (Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people) trial, which evaluates a nutritional and exercise program aiming to prevent pneumonia and physical decline in Chilean people.
Background
Ageing is associated with increased risk of poor health and functional decline. Uncertainties about the health-related benefits of nutrition and physical activity for older people have precluded their widespread implementation. We investigated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a national nutritional supplementation program and/or a physical activity intervention among older people in Chile.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster randomized factorial trial among low to middle socioeconomic status adults aged 65–67.9 years living in Santiago, Chile. We randomized 28 clusters (health centers) into the study and recruited 2,799 individuals in 2005 (∼100 per cluster). The interventions were a daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions, or neither, for 24 months. The primary outcomes, assessed blind to allocation, were incidence of pneumonia over 24 months, and physical function assessed by walking capacity 24 months after enrolment. Adherence was good for the nutritional supplement (∼75%), and moderate for the physical activity intervention (∼43%). Over 24 months the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control clusters (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years respectively; risk ratio = 1.00; 95% confidence interval 0.61–1.63; p = 0.99). In intention-to-treat analysis, after 24 months there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters; 95% confidence interval 13.9–53.8; p = 0.001). The overall cost of the physical activity intervention over 24 months was US$164/participant; equivalent to US$4.84/extra meter walked. The number of falls and fractures was balanced across physical activity intervention arms and no serious adverse events were reported for either intervention.
Conclusions
Chile's nutritional supplementation program for older people is not effective in reducing the incidence of pneumonia. This trial suggests that the provision of locally accessible physical activity classes in a transition economy population can be a cost-effective means of enhancing physical function in later life.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN 48153354
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
By 2050, about a quarter of the world's population will be aged 60 years or over, with Asia and Latin America experiencing the most dramatic increases in the proportion of older people. For example, in Chile, which has recently undergone rapid demographic transition, the proportion of the population aged 60 years or over has increased from 8% to 12% over the past 25 years.
Current global policy initiatives that promote healthy ageing include an emphasis on adequate nutrient intakes, as longitudinal studies (conducted in high-income countries) suggest that achieving nutritional sufficiency and maintaining moderate levels of physical activity both decrease risk of mortality by preserving immune function and lean body mass and so reduce the numerous risk factors for disability and chronic disease in later life. Such interventions may also decrease the risk of infection, particularly pneumonia, a common cause of death in older people. However, older people in low- and middle-income countries frequently have diets with insufficient calories (energy) and/or micronutrients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, there is no high-quality evidence to support the benefits of improved nutrition and increased physical activity levels from low-income or transition economies, where the ongoing demographic trends suggest that the needs are greatest. National policies aimed at preserving health and function in older people with interventions such as cash-transfers and provision of “food baskets” are often used in Latin American countries, such as Chile, but are rarely formally evaluated. Therefore, the purpose of this study (the Cost-effectiveness Evaluation of a Nutritional supplement and EXercise program for older people—CENEX) was to evaluate Chile's national nutritional supplementation program and/or physical exercise, to investigate whether this program prevented pneumonia and physical functional decline in older people in Santiago, and also to investigate whether these interventions were cost-effective.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly allocated 28 participating health centers in Santiago, Chile, into one of four arms: (1) nutritional supplementation; (2) nutritional supplementation+physical activity; (3) physical activity alone; (4) control. From May to December 2005, 2,799 eligible adults aged 65–67.9 years and living in low to middle socioeconomic circumstances, who attended each health center, were recruited into the study and received the allocated intervention—daily micronutrient-rich nutritional supplement, or two 1-hour physical activity classes per week, or both interventions or neither—for 24 months. The researchers did not know the allocation arm of each patient and over the course of the study assessed the incidence of pneumonia (viral and bacterial as based on diagnosis at the health center or hospital) and physical function was measured by walking capacity (meters walked in 6 minutes). The researchers used administrative records and interviews with staff and patients to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
Participant retention in the study was 84%, although only three-quarters of patients receiving the nutritional intervention and less than half (43%) of patients in the physical activity intervention arm adhered to their respective programs. Over 24 months, the incidence rate of pneumonia did not differ between intervention and control groups (32.5 versus 32.6 per 1,000 person years, respectively), but at the end of the study period, there was a significant difference in walking capacity between the intervention and control clusters (mean difference 33.8 meters). The number of falls and fractures in the study arms were similar. The overall costs over 24 months were US$91.00 and US$163.70 per participant for the nutritional supplement and physical activity interventions, respectively. The cost of the physical activity intervention per extra meter walked at 24 months was US$4.84.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this trial suggest that there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of Chile's national nutritional supplementation program in reducing the incidence of pneumonia for 65.0–67.9 year olds. Therefore, given Chile's high burden of infectious and nutrition-related chronic diseases and the associated high health costs, this program should not be considered as a priority preventive public health intervention. However, the provision of locally available physical activity classes to older people could be of clinical benefit, especially in urban settings such as Santiago, although future challenges include increasing the uptake of, and retention to, such programs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001023.
The World Health Organization provides information about the state of health in Chile
Wikipedia also provides information about health and health care in Chile (please note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001023
PMCID: PMC3079648  PMID: 21526229
12.  A Case-Control Study to Assess the Relationship between Poverty and Visual Impairment from Cataract in Kenya, the Philippines, and Bangladesh 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e244.
Background
The link between poverty and health is central to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty can be both a cause and consequence of poor health, but there are few epidemiological studies exploring this complex relationship. The aim of this study was to examine the association between visual impairment from cataract and poverty in adults in Kenya, Bangladesh, and the Philippines.
Methods and Findings
A population-based case–control study was conducted in three countries during 2005–2006. Cases were persons aged 50 y or older and visually impaired due to cataract (visual acuity < 6/24 in the better eye). Controls were persons age- and sex-matched to the case participants with normal vision selected from the same cluster. Household expenditure was assessed through the collection of detailed consumption data, and asset ownership and self-rated wealth were also measured. In total, 596 cases and 535 controls were included in these analyses (Kenya 142 cases, 75 controls; Bangladesh 216 cases, 279 controls; Philippines 238 cases, 180 controls). Case participants were more likely to be in the lowest quartile of per capita expenditure (PCE) compared to controls in Kenya (odds ratio = 2.3, 95% confidence interval 0.9–5.5), Bangladesh (1.9, 1.1–3.2), and the Philippines (3.1, 1.7–5.7), and there was significant dose–response relationship across quartiles of PCE. These associations persisted after adjustment for self-rated health and social support indicators. A similar pattern was observed for the relationship between cataract visual impairment with asset ownership and self-rated wealth. There was no consistent pattern of association between PCE and level of visual impairment due to cataract, sex, or age among the three countries.
Conclusions
Our data show that people with visual impairment due to cataract were poorer than those with normal sight in all three low-income countries studied. The MDGs are committed to the eradication of extreme poverty and provision of health care to poor people, and this study highlights the need for increased provision of cataract surgery to poor people, as they are particularly vulnerable to visual impairment from cataract.
Hannah Kuper and colleagues report a population-based case-control study conducted in three countries that found an association between poverty and visual impairment from cataract.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Globally, about 45 million people are blind. As with many other conditions, avoidable blindness (preventable or curable blindness) is a particular problem for people in developing countries—90% of blind people live in poor regions of the world. Although various infections and disorders can cause blindness, cataract is the most common cause. In cataract, which is responsible for half of all cases of blindness in the world, the lens of the eye gradually becomes cloudy. Because the lens focuses light to produce clear, sharp images, as cataract develops, vision becomes increasingly foggy or fuzzy, colors become less intense, and the ability to see shapes against a background declines. Eventually, vision may be lost completely. Cataract can be treated with an inexpensive, simple operation in which the cloudy lens is surgically removed and an artificial lens is inserted into the eye to restore vision. In developed countries, this operation is common and easily accessible but many poor countries lack the resources to provide the operation to everyone who needs it. In addition, blind people often cannot afford to travel to the hospitals where the operation, which also may come with a fee, is done.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because blindness may reduce earning potential, many experts believe that poverty and blindness (and, more generally, poor health) are inextricably linked. People become ill more often in poor countries than in wealthy countries because they have insufficient food, live in substandard housing, and have limited access to health care, education, water, and sanitation. Once they are ill, their ability to earn money may be reduced, which increases their personal poverty and slows the economic development of the whole country. Because of this potential link between health and poverty, improvements in health are at the heart of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals established in 2000 with the primary aim of reducing world poverty. However, few studies have actually investigated the complex relationship between poverty and health. Here, the researchers investigate the association between visual impairment from cataract and poverty among adults living in three low-income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified nearly 600 people aged 50 y or more with severe cataract-induced visual impairment (“cases”) primarily through a survey of the population in Kenya, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. They matched each case to a normally sighted (“control”) person of similar age and sex living nearby. They then assessed a proxy for the income level, measured as “per capita expenditure” (PCE), of all the study participants (people with cataracts and controls) by collecting information about what their households consumed. The participants' housing conditions and other assets and their self-rated wealth were also measured. In all three countries, cases were more likely to be in the lowest quarter (quartile) of the range of PCEs for that country than controls. In the Philippines, for example, people with cataract-affected vision were three times more likely than normally sighted controls to have a PCE in the lowest quartile than in the highest quartile. The risk of cataract-related visual impairment increased as PCE decreased in all three countries. Similarly, severe cataract-induced visual impairment was more common in those who owned fewer assets and those with lower self-rated wealth. However, there was no consistent association between PCE and the level of cataract-induced visual impairment.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that there is an association between visual impairment caused by cataract and poverty in Kenya, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. However, because the financial circumstances of the people in this study were assessed after cataracts had impaired their sight, this study does not prove that poverty is a cause of visual impairment. A causal connection between poverty and cataract can only be shown by determining the PCEs of normally sighted people and following them for several years to see who develops cataract. Nevertheless, by confirming an association between poverty and blindness, these findings highlight the need for increased provision of cataract surgery to poor people, particularly since cataract surgery has the potential to improve the quality of life for many people in developing countries at a relatively low cost.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050244.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Susan Lewallen
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on cataract, and MedlinePlus also provides a list of links to further information about cataract (in English and Spanish)
VISION 2020, a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness launched by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, provides information in several languages about many causes of blindness, including cataract. It also has an article available for download on blindness, poverty, and development
Information is available from the World Health Organization on health and the Millennium Development Goals (in English, French, and Spanish)
The International Centre for Eye Health carries out research and education activities to improve eye health and eliminate avoidable blindness with a focus on populations with low incomes
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050244
PMCID: PMC2602716  PMID: 19090614
13.  Non-leisure time physical activity is an independent predictor of longevity for a Taiwanese elderly population: an eight-year follow-up study 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:428.
Background
The aim of this study is to determine the relationship between leisure time physical activity (LTPA) and non-leisure time physical activity (NLTPA) on mortality among the elderly in Taiwan.
Methods
This is a prospective observational cohort study. We analyzed the mortality data from a cohort of 876 non-institutionalized community-dwelling men and women aged 65 years or over, who were recruited by stratified clustering random sampling from Tainan city and participated in the 1996 Elderly Medication Survey. Information about activities and other variables were collected by structured interviews at baseline in the participants' home. The Cox proportional hazards model and crude death rate were applied to estimate mortality risk.
Results
Among the 876 participants, 312 died during the follow-up period (1996-2004). In the unadjusted Cox regression model, subjects aged over 75, having difficulty in carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs), a BMI less than 18.5, a history of diabetes mellitus or stroke, without LTPA or being inactive in NLTPA, were found to have a higher risk of eight-year mortality. With the adjustment for age, gender, education level, habitual smoking and drinking, living status, BMI and medical history, the mortality was found to be higher among the sedentary subjects, either defined by lack of LTPA or NLTPA, with the hazard ratio of 1.27 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.97-1.66) and 1.45 (95% CI = 1.07-1.97), respectively. Furthermore, when both LTPA and NLTPA were put into the model simultaneously, NLTPA (HR = 1.40; 95% CI = 1.03-1.91) but not LTPA (HR = 1.21, 95% CI = 0.92-1.59) significantly predicted mortality during eight-year follow-up. In addition, subjects who were actively engaged in NLTPA had a lower mortality risk especially in subjects without performing LTPA.
Conclusions
NLTPA is an independent predictor of longevity among older people in Taiwan. A physically active lifestyle, especially engaged in NLTPA, is associated with lower mortality risk in the elderly population. We thus suggest that encouraging older people to keep on engaging in customary NLTPA is good for their health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-428
PMCID: PMC3132163  PMID: 21639879
14.  Drivers of Inequality in Millennium Development Goal Progress: A Statistical Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000241.
David Stuckler and colleagues examine the impact of the HIV and noncommunicable disease epidemics on low-income countries' progress toward the Millennium Development Goals for health.
Background
Many low- and middle-income countries are not on track to reach the public health targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We evaluated whether differential progress towards health MDGs was associated with economic development, public health funding (both overall and as percentage of available domestic funds), or health system infrastructure. We also examined the impact of joint epidemics of HIV/AIDS and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which may limit the ability of households to address child mortality and increase risks of infectious diseases.
Methods and Findings
We calculated each country's distance from its MDG goals for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality targets for the year 2005 using the United Nations MDG database for 227 countries from 1990 to the present. We studied the association of economic development (gross domestic product [GDP] per capita in purchasing-power-parity), the relative priority placed on health (health spending as a percentage of GDP), real health spending (health system expenditures in purchasing-power-parity), HIV/AIDS burden (prevalence rates among ages 15–49 y), and NCD burden (age-standardised chronic disease mortality rates), with measures of distance from attainment of health MDGs. To avoid spurious correlations that may exist simply because countries with high disease burdens would be expected to have low MDG progress, and to adjust for potential confounding arising from differences in countries' initial disease burdens, we analysed the variations in rates of change in MDG progress versus expected rates for each country. While economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure did not explain more than one-fifth of the differences in progress to health MDGs among countries, burdens of HIV and NCDs explained more than half of between-country inequalities in child mortality progress (R2-infant mortality  = 0.57, R2-under 5 mortality  = 0.54). HIV/AIDS and NCD burdens were also the strongest correlates of unequal progress towards tuberculosis goals (R2 = 0.57), with NCDs having an effect independent of HIV/AIDS, consistent with micro-level studies of the influence of tobacco and diabetes on tuberculosis risks. Even after correcting for health system variables, initial child mortality, and tuberculosis diseases, we found that lower burdens of HIV/AIDS and NCDs were associated with much greater progress towards attainment of child mortality and tuberculosis MDGs than were gains in GDP. An estimated 1% lower HIV prevalence or 10% lower mortality rate from NCDs would have a similar impact on progress towards the tuberculosis MDG as an 80% or greater rise in GDP, corresponding to at least a decade of economic growth in low-income countries.
Conclusions
Unequal progress in health MDGs in low-income countries appears significantly related to burdens of HIV and NCDs in a population, after correcting for potentially confounding socioeconomic, disease burden, political, and health system variables. The common separation between NCDs, child mortality, and infectious syndromes among development programs may obscure interrelationships of illness affecting those living in poor households—whether economic (e.g., as money spent on tobacco is lost from child health expenditures) or biological (e.g., as diabetes or HIV enhance the risk of tuberculosis).
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2000, 189 countries adopted the United Nations (UN) Millennium Declaration, which commits the world to the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015. The Declaration lists eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 21 quantifiable targets, and 60 indicators of progress. So, for example, MDG 4 aims to reduce child mortality (deaths). The target for this goal is to reduce the number of children who die each year before they are five years old (the under-five mortality rate) to two-thirds of its 1990 value by 2015. Indicators of progress toward this goal include the under-five mortality rate and the infant mortality rate. Because poverty and ill health are inextricably linked—ill health limits the ability of individuals and nations to improve their economic status, and poverty contributes to the development of many illnesses—two other MDGs also tackle public health issues. MDG 5 sets a target of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters of its 1990 level by 2015. MDG 6 aims to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases such as tuberculosis by 2015.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although progress has been made toward achieving the MDGs, few if any of the targets are likely to be met by 2015. Worryingly, low-income countries are falling furthest behind their MDG targets. For example, although child mortality has been declining globally, in many poor countries there has been little or no progress. What is the explanation for this and other inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs? Some countries may simply lack the financial resources needed to combat epidemics or may allocate only a low proportion of their gross domestic product (GDP) to health. Alternatively, money allocated to health may not always reach the people who need it most because of an inadequate health infrastructure. Finally, coexisting epidemics may be hindering progress toward the MDG health targets. Thus, the spread of HIV/AIDS may be hindering attempts to limit the spread of tuberculosis because HIV infection increases the risk of active tuberculosis, and ongoing epidemics of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) may be affecting the attainment of health MDGs by diverting scarce resources. In this study, the researchers investigate whether any of these possibilities is driving the inequalities in MDG progress.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated how far 227 countries were from their MDG targets for HIV, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality in 2005 using information collected by the UN. They then used statistical methods to study the relationship between this distance and economic development (GDP per person), health spending as a proportion of GDP (health priority), actual health system expenditures, health infrastructure, HIV burden, and NCD burden in each country. Economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure explained no more than one-fifth of the inequalities in progress toward health MDGs. By contrast, the HIV and NCD burdens explained more than half of inequalities in child mortality progress and were strongly associated with unequal progress toward tuberculosis goals. Furthermore, the researchers calculated that a 1% reduction in the number of people infected with HIV or a 10% reduction in rate of deaths from NCDs in a population would have a similar impact on progress toward the tuberculosis MDG target as a rise in GDP corresponding to at least a decade of growth in low-income countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by the quality of the available data on health indicators in low-income countries and, because the researchers used country-wide data, their findings only reveal possible drivers of inequalities in progress toward MDGs in whole countries and may mask drivers of within-country inequalities. Nevertheless, as one of the first attempts to analyze the determinants of global inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs, these findings have important implications for global health policy. Most importantly, the finding that unequal progress is related to the burdens of HIV and NCDs in populations suggests that programs designed to achieve health MDGs must consider all the diseases and factors that can trap households in vicious cycles of illness and poverty, especially since the achievement of feasible reductions in NCDs in low-income countries could greatly enhance progress towards health MDGs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals website provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress towards the MDGs
The World Health Organization provides information about poverty and health and health and development
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241
PMCID: PMC2830449  PMID: 20209000
15.  PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND RAPID DECLINE IN KIDNEY FUNCTION AMONG OLDER ADULTS 
Archives of internal medicine  2009;169(22):2116-2123.
BACKGROUND
Physical activity promotes diverse metabolic benefits that may moderate the long-term risk of progressive kidney dysfunction.
OBJECTIVE
To test the hypothesis that greater physical activity is associated with a lower risk of rapid kidney function decline among a general population of older adults.
DESIGN
Prospective cohort study of community-dwelling older men and women.
SETTING
Community-based sample in 4 U.S. sites recruited from Medicare eligibility files.
PARTICIPANTS
A total of 5888 men and women aged 65 years or older participating in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Participants who did not complete at least two measurements of kidney function, those who were unable to complete basic household chores, and those with missing physical activity data were excluded, leaving 4011 participants for analysis.
MAIN EXPOSURE MEASURE
Physical activity score calculated by summation of leisure-time activity (ordinal score of 1–5 for quintiles of 105, 480, 1012.5, and 2089 kilocalories per week) and walking pace (ordinal score of 1–3 for categories of less than 2, 2–3, and greater than 3 miles per hour).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE
Rapid kidney function decline, defined by the loss of >3.0 mL/min per 1.73 m2 per year in the estimated glomerular filtration rate, calculated using longitudinal serum measurements of cystatin C.
RESULTS
There were 958 participants (23.9%) with a rapid decline in kidney function, (4.1 events per 100 person-years). The estimated risk of rapid kidney function decline was 16% in the highest physical activity group and 30% in the lowest physical activity group. After full adjustment for demographics, clinical, and subclinical disease characteristics, the two highest physical activity groups were associated with a 28% lower (95% CI: 21% to 41% lower) risk of rapid kidney function decline, compared to the two lowest physical activity groups. Greater kilocalories of leisure time physical activity, walking pace, and exercise intensity were each also associated with a lower incidence of rapid kidney function decline.
CONCLUSION
Greater physical activity is associated with a lower risk of rapid kidney function decline among older adults.
doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.438
PMCID: PMC2878734  PMID: 20008696
physical activity; exercise; kilocalories; kidney disease; progression; cystatin C
16.  Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e29.
Background
Obesity is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and is associated with high medical expenditures. It has been suggested that obesity prevention could result in cost savings. The objective of this study was to estimate the annual and lifetime medical costs attributable to obesity, to compare those to similar costs attributable to smoking, and to discuss the implications for prevention.
Methods and Findings
With a simulation model, lifetime health-care costs were estimated for a cohort of obese people aged 20 y at baseline. To assess the impact of obesity, comparisons were made with similar cohorts of smokers and “healthy-living” persons (defined as nonsmokers with a body mass index between 18.5 and 25). Except for relative risk values, all input parameters of the simulation model were based on data from The Netherlands. In sensitivity analyses the effects of epidemiologic parameters and cost definitions were assessed. Until age 56 y, annual health expenditure was highest for obese people. At older ages, smokers incurred higher costs. Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers. Obese individuals held an intermediate position. Alternative values of epidemiologic parameters and cost definitions did not alter these conclusions.
Conclusions
Although effective obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, this decrease is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained. Obesity prevention may be an important and cost-effective way of improving public health, but it is not a cure for increasing health expenditures.
Using a simulation model, Pieter van Baal and colleagues conclude that obesity prevention leads to a decrease in costs of obesity-related diseases, but this is offset by cost increases due to diseases unrelated to obesity in life-years gained.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the mid 1970s, the proportion of people who are obese (people who have an unhealthy amount of body fat) has increased sharply in many countries. One-third of all US adults, for example, are now classified as obese, and recent forecasts suggest that by 2025 half of US adults will be obese. A person is overweight if their body mass index (BMI, calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared) is between 25 and 30, and obese if BMI is greater than 30. Compared to people with a healthy weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 25), overweight and obese individuals have an increased risk of developing many diseases, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, and tend to die younger. People become unhealthily fat by consuming food and drink that contains more energy than they need for their daily activities. In these circumstances, the body converts the excess energy into fat for use at a later date. Obesity can be prevented, therefore, by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because obesity causes so much illness and premature death, many governments have public-health policies that aim to prevent obesity. Clearly, the improvement in health associated with the prevention of obesity is a worthwhile goal in itself but the prevention of obesity might also reduce national spending on medical care. It would do this, the argument goes, by reducing the amount of money spent on treating the diseases for which obesity is a risk factor. However, some experts have suggested that these short-term savings might be offset by spending on treating the diseases that would occur during the extra lifespan experienced by non-obese individuals. In this study, therefore, the researchers have used a computer model to calculate yearly and lifetime medical costs associated with obesity in The Netherlands.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used their model to estimate the number of surviving individuals and the occurrence of various diseases for three hypothetical groups of men and women, examining data from the age of 20 until the time when the model predicted that everyone had died. The “obese” group consisted of never-smoking people with a BMI of more than 30; the “healthy-living” group consisted of never-smoking people with a healthy weight; the “smoking” group consisted of lifetime smokers with a healthy weight. Data from the Netherlands on the costs of illness were fed into the model to calculate the yearly and lifetime health-care costs of all three groups. The model predicted that until the age of 56, yearly health costs were highest for obese people and lowest for healthy-living people. At older ages, the highest yearly costs were incurred by the smoking group. However, because of differences in life expectancy (life expectancy at age 20 was 5 years less for the obese group, and 8 years less for the smoking group, compared to the healthy-living group), total lifetime health spending was greatest for the healthy-living people, lowest for the smokers, and intermediate for the obese people.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models such as this, the accuracy of these findings depend on how well the model reflects real life and the data fed into it. In this case, the model does not take into account varying degrees of obesity, which are likely to affect lifetime health-care costs, nor indirect costs of obesity such as reduced productivity. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that although effective obesity prevention reduces the costs of obesity-related diseases, this reduction is offset by the increased costs of diseases unrelated to obesity that occur during the extra years of life gained by slimming down.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on obesity (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of obesity (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service's health Web site (NHS Direct) provides information about obesity
The International Obesity Taskforce provides information about preventing obesity
The UK Foods Standards Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Shaping America's Health all provide useful advice about healthy eating
The Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) Web site provides more information on the cost of illness and illness prevention in the Netherlands (in English and Dutch)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029
PMCID: PMC2225430  PMID: 18254654
17.  Long-Term Exposure to Silica Dust and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Chinese Workers: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001206.
A retro-prospective cohort study by Weihong Chen and colleagues provides new estimates for the risk of total and cause-specific mortality due to long-term silica dust exposure among Chinese workers.
Background
Human exposure to silica dust is very common in both working and living environments. However, the potential long-term health effects have not been well established across different exposure situations.
Methods and Findings
We studied 74,040 workers who worked at 29 metal mines and pottery factories in China for 1 y or more between January 1, 1960, and December 31, 1974, with follow-up until December 31, 2003 (median follow-up of 33 y). We estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure (CDE) for each worker by linking work history to a job–exposure matrix. We calculated standardized mortality ratios for underlying causes of death based on Chinese national mortality rates. Hazard ratios (HRs) for selected causes of death associated with CDE were estimated using the Cox proportional hazards model. The population attributable risks were estimated based on the prevalence of workers with silica dust exposure and HRs. The number of deaths attributable to silica dust exposure among Chinese workers was then calculated using the population attributable risk and the national mortality rate. We observed 19,516 deaths during 2,306,428 person-years of follow-up. Mortality from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 per 100,000 person-years). We observed significant positive exposure–response relationships between CDE (measured in milligrams/cubic meter–years, i.e., the sum of silica dust concentrations multiplied by the years of silica exposure) and mortality from all causes (HR 1.026, 95% confidence interval 1.023–1.029), respiratory diseases (1.069, 1.064–1.074), respiratory tuberculosis (1.065, 1.059–1.071), and cardiovascular disease (1.031, 1.025–1.036). Significantly elevated standardized mortality ratios were observed for all causes (1.06, 95% confidence interval 1.01–1.11), ischemic heart disease (1.65, 1.35–1.99), and pneumoconiosis (11.01, 7.67–14.95) among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations equal to or lower than 0.1 mg/m3. After adjustment for potential confounders, including smoking, silica dust exposure accounted for 15.2% of all deaths in this study. We estimated that 4.2% of deaths (231,104 cases) among Chinese workers were attributable to silica dust exposure. The limitations of this study included a lack of data on dietary patterns and leisure time physical activity, possible underestimation of silica dust exposure for individuals who worked at the mines/factories before 1950, and a small number of deaths (4.3%) where the cause of death was based on oral reports from relatives.
Conclusions
Long-term silica dust exposure was associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. The increased risk was observed not only for deaths due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer, but also for deaths due to cardiovascular disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Walk along most sandy beaches and you will be walking on millions of grains of crystalline silica, one of the commonest minerals on earth and a major ingredient in glass and in ceramic glazes. Silica is also used in the manufacture of building materials, in foundry castings, and for sandblasting, and respirable (breathable) crystalline silica particles are produced during quarrying and mining. Unfortunately, silica dust is not innocuous. Several serious diseases are associated with exposure to this dust, including silicosis (a chronic lung disease characterized by scarring and destruction of lung tissue), lung cancer, and pulmonary tuberculosis (a serious lung infection). Moreover, exposure to silica dust increases the risk of death (mortality). Worryingly, recent reports indicate that in the US and Europe, about 1.7 and 3.0 million people, respectively, are occupationally exposed to silica dust, figures that are dwarfed by the more than 23 million workers who are exposed in China. Occupational silica exposure, therefore, represents an important global public health concern.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the lung-related adverse health effects of exposure to silica dust have been extensively studied, silica-related health effects may not be limited to these diseases. For example, could silica dust particles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (diseases that affect the heart and circulation)? Other environmental particulates, such as the products of internal combustion engines, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but no one knows if the same is true for silica dust particles. Moreover, although it is clear that high levels of exposure to silica dust are dangerous, little is known about the adverse health effects of lower exposure levels. In this cohort study, the researchers examined the effect of long-term exposure to silica dust on the risk of all cause and cause-specific mortality in a large group (cohort) of Chinese workers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure for 74,040 workers at 29 metal mines and pottery factories from 1960 to 2003 from individual work histories and more than four million measurements of workplace dust concentrations, and collected health and mortality data for all the workers. Death from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 deaths per 100,000 person-years), and there was a positive exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and death from all causes, respiratory diseases, respiratory tuberculosis, and cardiovascular disease. For example, the hazard ratio for all cause death was 1.026 for every increase in cumulative silica dust exposure of 1 mg/m3-year; a hazard ratio is the incidence of an event in an exposed group divided by its incidence in an unexposed group. Notably, there was significantly increased mortality from all causes, ischemic heart disease, and silicosis among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations at or below 0.1 mg/m3, the workplace exposure limit for silica dust set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. For example, the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for silicosis among people exposed to low levels of silica dust was 11.01; an SMR is the ratio of observed deaths in a cohort to expected deaths calculated from recorded deaths in the general population. Finally, the researchers used their data to estimate that, in 2008, 4.2% of deaths among industrial workers in China (231,104 deaths) were attributable to silica dust exposure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that long-term silica dust exposure is associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. They confirm that there is an exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and a heightened risk of death from respiratory diseases and lung cancer. That is, the risk of death from these diseases increases as exposure to silica dust increases. In addition, they show a significant relationship between silica dust exposure and death from cardiovascular diseases. Importantly, these findings suggest that even levels of silica dust that are considered safe increase the risk of death. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the accuracy of the silica dust exposure estimates and/or by confounding (other factors shared by the people exposed to silica such as diet may have affected their risk of death). Nevertheless, these findings highlight the need to tighten regulations on workplace dust control in China and elsewhere.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001206.
The American Lung Association provides information on silicosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on silica in the workplace, including links to relevant US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety publications, and information on silicosis and other pneumoconioses
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has detailed information on occupational exposure to crystalline silica
What does silicosis mean to you is a video provided by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration that includes personal experiences of silicosis; Dont let silica dust you is a video produced by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics that identifies ways to reduce silica dust exposure in the workplace
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on silicosis (in English and Spanish)
The International Labour Organization provides information on health surveillance for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica
The World Health Organization has published a report about the health effects of crystalline silica and quartz
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001206
PMCID: PMC3328438  PMID: 22529751
18.  Cigarette smoking, health status, socio-economic status and access to health care in diabetes mellitus: a cross-sectional survey 
Background
In diabetes mellitus, cigarette smoking is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular mortality and microvascular complications. We evaluated cigarette smoking in people with diabetes mellitus in a socio-economically deprived area.
Methods
We carried out a cross-sectional survey of people registered with diabetes mellitus at 29 general practices in inner London. Responses were analysed for 1,899 (64%) respondents out of 2,983 eligible.
Results
There were 1,899 respondents of whom 968 (51%) had never smoked, 296 (16%) were current smokers and 582 (31%) were ex-smokers. Smoking was more frequent in white Europeans (men 22%, women 20%), than in African Caribbeans (men 15%, women 10%) or Africans (men 8%, women 2%). Smoking prevalence decreased with age. Smokers were more likely to be living in rented accommodation (odds ratio, OR 2.02, 95% confidence interval 1.48 to 2.74). After adjusting for confounding, current smokers had lower SF-36 scores than subjects who had never smoked (mean difference in physical functioning score -5.6, 95% confidence interval -10.0 to -1.2; general health -6.1, -9.7 to -2.5). Current smokers were less likely to have attended a hospital diabetic clinic in the last year (OR 0.59, 0.44 to 0.79), and their hypertension was less likely to be treated (OR 0.47, 0.30 to 0.74).
Conclusions
Compared with non-smokers, smokers had lower socio-economic status and worse health status, but were less likely to be referred to hospital or treated for their hypertension. People with diabetes who smoke can be regarded as a vulnerable group who need more intensive support and treatment.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-3-4
PMCID: PMC150570  PMID: 12589709
diabetes mellitus; cigarette smoking; social inequalities; health status; utilisation of health care; equity
19.  The psychometric properties of three self-report screening instruments for identifying frail older people in the community 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:176.
Background
Frailty is highly prevalent in older people. Its serious adverse consequences, such as disability, are considered to be a public health problem. Therefore, disability prevention in community-dwelling frail older people is considered to be a priority for research and clinical practice in geriatric care. With regard to disability prevention, valid screening instruments are needed to identify frail older people in time. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the psychometric properties of three screening instruments: the Groningen Frailty Indicator (GFI), the Tilburg Frailty Indicator (TFI) and the Sherbrooke Postal Questionnaire (SPQ). For validation purposes the Groningen Activity Restriction Scale (GARS) was added.
Methods
A questionnaire was sent to 687 community-dwelling older people (≥ 70 years). Agreement between instruments, internal consistency, and construct validity of instruments were evaluated and compared.
Results
The response rate was 77%. Prevalence estimates of frailty ranged from 40% to 59%. The highest agreement was found between the GFI and the TFI (Cohen's kappa = 0.74). Cronbach's alpha for the GFI, the TFI and the SPQ was 0.73, 0.79 and 0.26, respectively. Scores on the three instruments correlated significantly with each other (GFI - TFI, r = 0.87; GFI - SPQ, r = 0.47; TFI - SPQ, r = 0.42) and with the GARS (GFI - GARS, r = 0.57; TFI - GARS, r = 0.61; SPQ - GARS, r = 0.46). The GFI and the TFI scores were, as expected, significantly related to age, sex, education and income.
Conclusions
The GFI and the TFI showed high internal consistency and construct validity in contrast to the SPQ. Based on these findings it is not yet possible to conclude whether the GFI or the TFI should be preferred; data on the predictive values of both instruments are needed. The SPQ seems less appropriate for postal screening of frailty among community-dwelling older people.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-176
PMCID: PMC2868816  PMID: 20353611
20.  Utilization of DXA Bone Mineral Densitometry in Ontario 
Executive Summary
Issue
Systematic reviews and analyses of administrative data were performed to determine the appropriate use of bone mineral density (BMD) assessments using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and the associated trends in wrist and hip fractures in Ontario.
Background
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Bone Mineral Density Assessment
Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry bone densitometers measure bone density based on differential absorption of 2 x-ray beams by bone and soft tissues. It is the gold standard for detecting and diagnosing osteoporosis, a systemic disease characterized by low bone density and altered bone structure, resulting in low bone strength and increased risk of fractures. The test is fast (approximately 10 minutes) and accurate (exceeds 90% at the hip), with low radiation (1/3 to 1/5 of that from a chest x-ray). DXA densitometers are licensed as Class 3 medical devices in Canada. The World Health Organization has established criteria for osteoporosis and osteopenia based on DXA BMD measurements: osteoporosis is defined as a BMD that is >2.5 standard deviations below the mean BMD for normal young adults (i.e. T-score <–2.5), while osteopenia is defined as BMD that is more than 1 standard deviation but less than 2.5 standard deviation below the mean for normal young adults (i.e. T-score< –1 & ≥–2.5). DXA densitometry is presently an insured health service in Ontario.
Clinical Need
 
Burden of Disease
The Canadian Multicenter Osteoporosis Study (CaMos) found that 16% of Canadian women and 6.6% of Canadian men have osteoporosis based on the WHO criteria, with prevalence increasing with age. Osteopenia was found in 49.6% of Canadian women and 39% of Canadian men. In Ontario, it is estimated that nearly 530,000 Ontarians have some degrees of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis-related fragility fractures occur most often in the wrist, femur and pelvis. These fractures, particularly those in the hip, are associated with increased mortality, and decreased functional capacity and quality of life. A Canadian study showed that at 1 year after a hip fracture, the mortality rate was 20%. Another 20% required institutional care, 40% were unable to walk independently, and there was lower health-related quality of life due to attributes such as pain, decreased mobility and decreased ability to self-care. The cost of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures in Canada was estimated to be $1.3 billion in 1993.
Guidelines for Bone Mineral Density Testing
With 2 exceptions, almost all guidelines address only women. None of the guidelines recommend blanket population-based BMD testing. Instead, all guidelines recommend BMD testing in people at risk of osteoporosis, predominantly women aged 65 years or older. For women under 65 years of age, BMD testing is recommended only if one major or two minor risk factors for osteoporosis exist. Osteoporosis Canada did not restrict its recommendations to women, and thus their guidelines apply to both sexes. Major risk factors are age greater than or equal to 65 years, a history of previous fractures, family history (especially parental history) of fracture, and medication or disease conditions that affect bone metabolism (such as long-term glucocorticoid therapy). Minor risk factors include low body mass index, low calcium intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
Current Funding for Bone Mineral Density Testing
The Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) Schedule presently reimburses DXA BMD at the hip and spine. Measurements at both sites are required if feasible. Patients at low risk of accelerated bone loss are limited to one BMD test within any 24-month period, but there are no restrictions on people at high risk. The total fee including the professional and technical components for a test involving 2 or more sites is $106.00 (Cdn).
Method of Review
This review consisted of 2 parts. The first part was an analysis of Ontario administrative data relating to DXA BMD, wrist and hip fractures, and use of antiresorptive drugs in people aged 65 years and older. The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences extracted data from the OHIP claims database, the Canadian Institute for Health Information hospital discharge abstract database, the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System, and the Ontario Drug Benefit database using OHIP and ICD-10 codes. The data was analyzed to examine the trends in DXA BMD use from 1992 to 2005, and to identify areas requiring improvement.
The second part included systematic reviews and analyses of evidence relating to issues identified in the analyses of utilization data. Altogether, 8 reviews and qualitative syntheses were performed, consisting of 28 published systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses, 34 randomized controlled trials, and 63 observational studies.
Findings of Utilization Analysis
Analysis of administrative data showed a 10-fold increase in the number of BMD tests in Ontario between 1993 and 2005.
OHIP claims for BMD tests are presently increasing at a rate of 6 to 7% per year. Approximately 500,000 tests were performed in 2005/06 with an age-adjusted rate of 8,600 tests per 100,000 population.
Women accounted for 90 % of all BMD tests performed in the province.
In 2005/06, there was a 2-fold variation in the rate of DXA BMD tests across local integrated health networks, but a 10-fold variation between the county with the highest rate (Toronto) and that with the lowest rate (Kenora). The analysis also showed that:
With the increased use of BMD, there was a concomitant increase in the use of antiresorptive drugs (as shown in people 65 years and older) and a decrease in the rate of hip fractures in people age 50 years and older.
Repeat BMD made up approximately 41% of all tests. Most of the people (>90%) who had annual BMD tests in a 2-year or 3-year period were coded as being at high risk for osteoporosis.
18% (20,865) of the people who had a repeat BMD within a 24-month period and 34% (98,058) of the people who had one BMD test in a 3-year period were under 65 years, had no fracture in the year, and coded as low-risk.
Only 19% of people age greater than 65 years underwent BMD testing and 41% received osteoporosis treatment during the year following a fracture.
Men accounted for 24% of all hip fractures and 21 % of all wrist fractures, but only 10% of BMD tests. The rates of BMD tests and treatment in men after a fracture were only half of those in women.
In both men and women, the rate of hip and wrist fractures mainly increased after age 65 with the sharpest increase occurring after age 80 years.
Findings of Systematic Review and Analysis
Serial Bone Mineral Density Testing for People Not Receiving Osteoporosis Treatment
A systematic review showed that the mean rate of bone loss in people not receiving osteoporosis treatment (including postmenopausal women) is generally less than 1% per year. Higher rates of bone loss were reported for people with disease conditions or on medications that affect bone metabolism. In order to be considered a genuine biological change, the change in BMD between serial measurements must exceed the least significant change (variability) of the testing, ranging from 2.77% to 8% for precisions ranging from 1% to 3% respectively. Progression in BMD was analyzed, using different rates of baseline BMD values, rates of bone loss, precision, and BMD value for initiating treatment. The analyses showed that serial BMD measurements every 24 months (as per OHIP policy for low-risk individuals) is not necessary for people with no major risk factors for osteoporosis, provided that the baseline BMD is normal (T-score ≥ –1), and the rate of bone loss is less than or equal to 1% per year. The analyses showed that for someone with a normal baseline BMD and a rate of bone loss of less than 1% per year, the change in BMD is not likely to exceed least significant change (even for a 1% precision) in less than 3 years after the baseline test, and is not likely to drop to a BMD level that requires initiation of treatment in less than 16 years after the baseline test.
Serial Bone Mineral Density Testing in People Receiving Osteoporosis Therapy
Seven published meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 2 recent RCTs on BMD monitoring during osteoporosis therapy showed that although higher increases in BMD were generally associated with reduced risk of fracture, the change in BMD only explained a small percentage of the fracture risk reduction.
Studies showed that some people with small or no increase in BMD during treatment experienced significant fracture risk reduction, indicating that other factors such as improved bone microarchitecture might have contributed to fracture risk reduction.
There is conflicting evidence relating to the role of BMD testing in improving patient compliance with osteoporosis therapy.
Even though BMD may not be a perfect surrogate for reduction in fracture risk when monitoring responses to osteoporosis therapy, experts advised that it is still the only reliable test available for this purpose.
A systematic review conducted by the Medical Advisory Secretariat showed that the magnitude of increases in BMD during osteoporosis drug therapy varied among medications. Although most of the studies yielded mean percentage increases in BMD from baseline that did not exceed the least significant change for a 2% precision after 1 year of treatment, there were some exceptions.
Bone Mineral Density Testing and Treatment After a Fragility Fracture
A review of 3 published pooled analyses of observational studies and 12 prospective population-based observational studies showed that the presence of any prevalent fracture increases the relative risk for future fractures by approximately 2-fold or more. A review of 10 systematic reviews of RCTs and 3 additional RCTs showed that therapy with antiresorptive drugs significantly reduced the risk of vertebral fractures by 40 to 50% in postmenopausal osteoporotic women and osteoporotic men, and 2 antiresorptive drugs also reduced the risk of nonvertebral fractures by 30 to 50%. Evidence from observational studies in Canada and other jurisdictions suggests that patients who had undergone BMD measurements, particularly if a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made, were more likely to be given pharmacologic bone-sparing therapy. Despite these findings, the rate of BMD investigation and osteoporosis treatment after a fracture remained low (<20%) in Ontario as well as in other jurisdictions.
Bone Mineral Density Testing in Men
There are presently no specific Canadian guidelines for BMD screening in men. A review of the literature suggests that risk factors for fracture and the rate of vertebral deformity are similar for men and women, but the mortality rate after a hip fracture is higher in men compared with women. Two bisphosphonates had been shown to reduce the risk of vertebral and hip fractures in men. However, BMD testing and osteoporosis treatment were proportionately low in Ontario men in general, and particularly after a fracture, even though men accounted for 25% of the hip and wrist fractures. The Ontario data also showed that the rates of wrist fracture and hip fracture in men rose sharply in the 75- to 80-year age group.
Ontario-Based Economic Analysis
The economic analysis focused on analyzing the economic impact of decreasing future hip fractures by increasing the rate of BMD testing in men and women age greater than or equal to 65 years following a hip or wrist fracture. A decision analysis showed the above strategy, especially when enhanced by improved reporting of BMD tests, to be cost-effective, resulting in a cost-effectiveness ratio ranging from $2,285 (Cdn) per fracture avoided (worst-case scenario) to $1,981 (Cdn) per fracture avoided (best-case scenario). A budget impact analysis estimated that shifting utilization of BMD testing from the low risk population to high risk populations within Ontario would result in a saving of $0.85 million to $1.5 million (Cdn) to the health system. The potential net saving was estimated at $1.2 million to $5 million (Cdn) when the downstream cost-avoidance due to prevention of future hip fractures was factored into the analysis.
Other Factors for Consideration
There is a lack of standardization for BMD testing in Ontario. Two different standards are presently being used and experts suggest that variability in results from different facilities may lead to unnecessary testing. There is also no requirement for standardized equipment, procedure or reporting format. The current reimbursement policy for BMD testing encourages serial testing in people at low risk of accelerated bone loss. This review showed that biannual testing is not necessary for all cases. The lack of a database to collect clinical data on BMD testing makes it difficult to evaluate the clinical profiles of patients tested and outcomes of the BMD tests. There are ministry initiatives in progress under the Osteoporosis Program to address the development of a mandatory standardized requisition form for BMD tests to facilitate data collection and clinical decision-making. Work is also underway for developing guidelines for BMD testing in men and in perimenopausal women.
Conclusion
Increased use of BMD in Ontario since 1996 appears to be associated with increased use of antiresorptive medication and a decrease in hip and wrist fractures.
Data suggest that as many as 20% (98,000) of the DXA BMD tests in Ontario in 2005/06 were performed in people aged less than 65 years, with no fracture in the current year, and coded as being at low risk for accelerated bone loss; this is not consistent with current guidelines. Even though some of these people might have been incorrectly coded as low-risk, the number of tests in people truly at low risk could still be substantial.
Approximately 4% (21,000) of the DXA BMD tests in 2005/06 were repeat BMDs in low-risk individuals within a 24-month period. Even though this is in compliance with current OHIP reimbursement policies, evidence showed that biannual serial BMD testing is not necessary in individuals without major risk factors for fractures, provided that the baseline BMD is normal (T-score < –1). In this population, BMD measurements may be repeated in 3 to 5 years after the baseline test to establish the rate of bone loss, and further serial BMD tests may not be necessary for another 7 to 10 years if the rate of bone loss is no more than 1% per year. Precision of the test needs to be considered when interpreting serial BMD results.
Although changes in BMD may not be the perfect surrogate for reduction in fracture risk as a measure of response to osteoporosis treatment, experts advised that it is presently the only reliable test for monitoring response to treatment and to help motivate patients to continue treatment. Patients should not discontinue treatment if there is no increase in BMD after the first year of treatment. Lack of response or bone loss during treatment should prompt the physician to examine whether the patient is taking the medication appropriately.
Men and women who have had a fragility fracture at the hip, spine, wrist or shoulder are at increased risk of having a future fracture, but this population is presently under investigated and under treated. Additional efforts have to be made to communicate to physicians (particularly orthopaedic surgeons and family physicians) and the public about the need for a BMD test after fracture, and for initiating treatment if low BMD is found.
Men had a disproportionately low rate of BMD tests and osteoporosis treatment, especially after a fracture. Evidence and fracture data showed that the risk of hip and wrist fractures in men rises sharply at age 70 years.
Some counties had BMD utilization rates that were only 10% of that of the county with the highest utilization. The reasons for low utilization need to be explored and addressed.
Initiatives such as aligning reimbursement policy with current guidelines, developing specific guidelines for BMD testing in men and perimenopausal women, improving BMD reports to assist in clinical decision making, developing a registry to track BMD tests, improving access to BMD tests in remote/rural counties, establishing mechanisms to alert family physicians of fractures, and educating physicians and the public, will improve the appropriate utilization of BMD tests, and further decrease the rate of fractures in Ontario. Some of these initiatives such as developing guidelines for perimenopausal women and men, and developing a standardized requisition form for BMD testing, are currently in progress under the Ontario Osteoporosis Strategy.
PMCID: PMC3379167  PMID: 23074491
21.  Physical capability in mid-life and survival over 13 years of follow-up: British birth cohort study 
Objectives To examine associations between three commonly used objective measures of physical capability assessed at age 53 and a composite score of these measures and all cause mortality; to investigate whether being unable to perform these tests is associated with mortality.
Design Cohort study.
Setting MRC National Survey of Health and Development in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Participants 1355 men and 1411 women with data on physical capability at age 53 who were linked to the National Health Service (NHS) central register for death notification.
Main outcome measure All cause mortality between ages 53 (1999) and 66 (2012).
Results For each of the three measures of physical capability (grip strength, chair rise speed, and standing balance time) those participants unable to perform the test and those in the lowest performing fifth were found to have higher mortality rates than those in the highest fifth. Adjustment for baseline covariates partially attenuated associations but in fully adjusted models the main associations remained. For example, the fully adjusted hazard ratio of all cause mortality for the lowest compared with the highest fifth of a composite score of physical capability was 3.68 (95% confidence interval 2.03 to 6.68). Those people who could not perform any of the tests had considerably higher rates of death compared with those people able to perform all three tests (8.40, 4.35 to 16.23). When a series of models including different combinations of the measures were compared by using likelihood ratio tests, all three measures of physical capability were found to improve model fit, and a model including all three measures produced the highest estimate of predictive ability (Harrell’s C index 0.71, 95% confidence interval 0.65 to 0.77). There was some evidence that standing balance time was more strongly associated with mortality than the other two measures.
Conclusions Lower levels of physical capability at age 53 and inability to perform capability tests are associated with higher rates of mortality. Even at this relatively young age these measures identify groups of people who are less likely than others to achieve a long and healthy life.
doi:10.1136/bmj.g2219
PMCID: PMC4004787  PMID: 24787359
22.  Relationship between physical activity and stiff or painful joints in mid-aged women and older women: a 3-year prospective study 
This prospective study examined the association between physical activity and the incidence of self-reported stiff or painful joints (SPJ) among mid-age women and older women over a 3-year period. Data were collected from cohorts of mid-age (48–55 years at Time 1; n = 4,780) and older women (72–79 years at Time 1; n = 3,970) who completed mailed surveys 3 years apart for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Physical activity was measured with the Active Australia questions and categorized based on metabolic equivalent value minutes per week: none (<40 MET.min/week); very low (40 to <300 MET.min/week); low (300 to <600 MET.min/week); moderate (600 to <1,200 MET.min/week); and high (1,200+ MET.min/week). Cohort-specific logistic regression models were used to examine the association between physical activity at Time 1 and SPJ 'sometimes or often' and separately 'often' at Time 2. Respondents reporting SPJ 'sometimes or often' at Time 1 were excluded from analysis. In univariate models, the odds of reporting SPJ 'sometimes or often' were lower for mid-age respondents reporting low (odds ratio (OR) = 0.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.63–0.94), moderate (OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.68–0.99), and high (OR = 0.75, 95% CI = 0.62–0.90) physical activity levels and for older respondents who were moderately (OR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.65–0.98) or highly active (OR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.69–0.99) than for those who were sedentary. After adjustment for confounders, these associations were no longer statistically significant. The odds of reporting SPJ 'often' were lower for mid-age respondents who were moderately active (OR = 0.71, 95% CI = 0.52–0.97) than for sedentary respondents in univariate but not adjusted models. Older women in the low (OR = 0.72, 95% CI = 0.55–0.96), moderate (OR = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.39–0.76), and high (OR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.46–0.82) physical activity categories had lower odds of reporting SPJ 'often' at Time 2 than their sedentary counterparts, even after adjustment for confounders. These results are the first to show a dose–response relationship between physical activity and arthritis symptoms in older women. They suggest that advice for older women not currently experiencing SPJ should routinely include counseling on the importance of physical activity for preventing the onset of these symptoms.
doi:10.1186/ar2154
PMCID: PMC1906812  PMID: 17394630
23.  Diet Quality Is Associated with All-Cause Mortality in Adults Aged 65 Years and Older123 
The Journal of Nutrition  2011;142(2):320-325.
Diet quality indices assess compliance with dietary guidelines and represent a measure of healthy dietary patterns. Few studies have compared different approaches to assessing diet quality in the same cohort. Our analysis was based on 972 participants of the British Diet and Nutrition Survey of people aged 65 y and older in 1994/1995 and who were followed-up for mortality status until 2008. Dietary intake was measured via a 4-d weighed food record. Three measures of diet quality were used: the Healthy Diet Score (HDS), the Recommended Food Score (RFS), and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS). HR for all-cause mortality were obtained using Cox regression adjusted for age, sex, energy intake, social class, region, smoking, physical activity, and BMI. After adjustment for confounders, the MDS was significantly associated with mortality [highest vs. lowest quartile; HR = 0.78 (95% CI = 0.62–0.98)]. Similarly, the RFS was also associated with mortality [HR = 0.67 (95 % CI = 0.52–0.86)]; however, there were no significant associations for the HDS [HR = 0.99 (95% CI = 0.79–1.24)]. The HDS was not a predictor of mortality is this population, whereas the RFS and the MDS were both associated with all-cause mortality. Simple measures of diet quality using food-based indicators can be useful predictors of longevity.
doi:10.3945/jn.111.148692
PMCID: PMC3593296  PMID: 22190031
24.  Bariatric Surgery 
Executive Summary
Objective
To conduct an evidence-based analysis of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery.
Background
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of at last 30 kg/m2.1 Morbid obesity is defined as a BMI of at least 40 kg/m2 or at least 35 kg/m2 with comorbid conditions. Comorbid conditions associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemias, obstructive sleep apnea, weight-related arthropathies, and stress urinary incontinence. It is also associated with depression, and cancers of the breast, uterus, prostate, and colon, and is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Obesity is also associated with higher all-cause mortality at any age, even after adjusting for potential confounding factors like smoking. A person with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 has about a 50% higher risk of dying than does someone with a healthy BMI. The risk more than doubles at a BMI of 35 kg/m2. An expert estimated that about 160,000 people are morbidly obese in Ontario. In the United States, the prevalence of morbid obesity is 4.7% (1999–2000).
In Ontario, the 2004 Chief Medical Officer of Health Report said that in 2003, almost one-half of Ontario adults were overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2). About 57% of Ontario men and 42% of Ontario women were overweight or obese. The proportion of the population that was overweight or obese increased gradually from 44% in 1990 to 49% in 2000, and it appears to have stabilized at 49% in 2003. The report also noted that the tendency to be overweight and obese increases with age up to 64 years. BMI should be used cautiously for people aged 65 years and older, because the “normal” range may begin at slightly above 18.5 kg/m2 and extend into the “overweight” range.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health cautioned that these data may underestimate the true extent of the problem, because they were based on self reports, and people tend to over-report their height and under-report their weight. The actual number of Ontario adults who are overweight or obese may be higher.
Diet, exercise, and behavioural therapy are used to help people lose weight. The goals of behavioural therapy are to identify, monitor, and alter behaviour that does not help weight loss. Techniques include self-monitoring of eating habits and physical activity, stress management, stimulus control, problem solving, cognitive restructuring, contingency management, and identifying and using social support. Relapse, when people resume old, unhealthy behaviour and then regain the weight, can be problematic.
Drugs (including gastrointestinal lipase inhibitors, serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and appetite suppressants) may be used if behavioural interventions fail. However, estimates of efficacy may be confounded by high rates of noncompliance, in part owing to the side effects of the drugs. In addition, the drugs have not been approved for indefinite use, despite the chronic nature of obesity.
The Technology
Morbidly obese people may be eligible for bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery for morbid obesity is considered an intervention of last resort for patients who have attempted first-line forms of medical management, such as diet, increased physical activity, behavioural modification, and drugs.
There are various bariatric surgical procedures and several different variations for each of these procedures. The surgical interventions can be divided into 2 general types: malabsorptive (bypassing parts of the gastrointestinal tract to limit the absorption of food), and restrictive (decreasing the size of the stomach so that the patient is satiated with less food). All of these may be performed as either open surgery or laparoscopically. An example of a malabsorptive technique is Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB). Examples of restrictive techniques are vertical banded gastroplasty (VBG) and adjustable gastric banding (AGB).
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) Schedule of Benefits for Physician Services includes fee code “S120 gastric bypass or partition, for morbid obesity” as an insured service. The term gastric bypass is a general term that encompasses a variety of surgical methods, all of which involve reconfiguring the digestive system. The term gastric bypass does not include AGB. The number of gastric bypass procedures funded and done in Ontario, and funded as actual out-of-country approvals,2 is shown below.
Number of Gastric Bypass Procedures by Fiscal Year: Ontario and Actual Out-of-Country (OOC) Approvals
Data from Provider Services, MOHLTC
Courtesy of Provider Services, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat reviewed the literature to assess the effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery to treat morbid obesity. It used its standard search strategy to retrieve international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles from selected databases. The interventions of interest were bariatric surgery and, for the controls, either optimal conventional management or another type of bariatric procedure. The outcomes of interest were improvement in comorbid conditions (e.g., diabetes, hypertension); short- and long-term weight loss; quality of life; adverse effects; and economic analysis data. The databases yielded 15 international health technology assessments or systematic reviews on bariatric surgery.
Subsequently, the Medical Advisory Secretariat searched MEDLINE and EMBASE from April 2004 to December 2004, after the search cut-off date of April, 2004, for the most recent systematic reviews on bariatric surgery. Ten studies met the inclusion criteria. One of those 10 was the Swedish Obese Subjects study, which started as a registry and intervention study, and then published findings on people who had been enrolled for at least 2 years or at least 10 years. In addition to the literature review of economic analysis data, the Medical Advisory Secretariat also did an Ontario-based economic analysis.
Summary of Findings
Bariatric surgery generally is effective for sustained weight loss of about 16% for people with BMIs of at least 40 kg/m2 or at least 35 kg/m2 with comorbid conditions (including diabetes, high lipid levels, and hypertension). It also is effective at resolving the associated comorbid conditions. This conclusion is largely based on level 3a evidence from the prospectively designed Swedish Obese Subjects study, which recently published 10-year outcomes for patients who had bariatric surgery compared with patients who received nonsurgical treatment. (1)
Regarding specific procedures, there is evidence that malabsorptive techniques are better than other banding techniques for weight loss and resolution of comorbid illnesses. However, there are no published prospective, long-term, direct comparisons of these techniques available.
Surgery for morbid obesity is considered an intervention of last resort for patients who have attempted first-line forms of medical management, such as diet, increased physical activity, behavioural modification, and drugs. In the absence of direct comparisons of active nonsurgical intervention via caloric restriction with bariatric techniques, the following observations are made:
A recent systematic review examining the efficacy of major commercial and organized self-help weight loss programs in the United States concluded that the evidence to support the use of such programs was suboptimal, except for one trial on Weight Watchers. Furthermore, the programs were associated with high costs, attrition rates, and probability of regaining at least 50% of the lost weight in 1 to 2 years. (2)
A recent randomized controlled trial reported 1-year outcomes comparing weight loss and metabolic changes in severely obese patients assigned to either a low-carbohydrate diet or a conventional weight loss diet. At 1 year, weight loss was similar for patients in each group (mean, 2–5 kg). There was a favourable effect on triglyceride levels and glycemic control in the low-carbohydrate diet group. (3)
A decision-analysis model showed bariatric surgery results in increased life expectancy in morbidly obese patients when compared to diet and exercise. (4)
A cost-effectiveness model showed bariatric surgery is cost-effective relative to nonsurgical management. (5)
Extrapolating from 2003 data from the United States, Ontario would likely need to do 3,500 bariatric surgeries per year. It currently does 508 per year, including out-of-country surgeries.
PMCID: PMC3382415  PMID: 23074460
25.  Determinants of self-rated health in old age: A population-based, cross-sectional study using the International Classification of Functioning 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:670.
Background
Self-rated health (SRH) is a widely used indicator of general health and multiple studies have supported the predictive validity of SRH in older populations concerning future health, functional decline, disability, and mortality. The aim of this study was to use the theoretical framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to create a better understanding of factors associated with SRH among community-dwelling older people in urban and rural areas.
Methods
The study design was population-based and cross-sectional. Participants were 185 Icelanders, randomly selected from a national registry, community-dwelling, 65-88 years old, 63% urban residents, and 52% men. Participants were asked: "In general, would you say your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?" Associations with SRH were analyzed with ordinal logistic regression. Explanatory variables represented aspects of body functions, activities, participation, environmental factors and personal factors components of the ICF.
Results
Univariate analysis revealed that SRH was significantly associated with all analyzed ICF components through 16 out of 18 explanatory variables. Multivariate analysis, however, demonstrated that SRH had an independent association with five variables representing ICF body functions, activities, and personal factors components: The likelihood of a better SRH increased with advanced lower extremity capacity (adjusted odds ratio [adjOR] = 1.05, p < 0.001), upper extremity capacity (adjOR = 1.13, p = 0.040), household physical activity (adjOR = 1.01, p = 0.016), and older age (adjOR = 1.09, p = 0.006); but decreased with more depressive symptoms (adjOR = 0.79, p < 0.001).
Conclusions
The results highlight a collection of ICF body functions, activities and personal factors associated with higher SRH among community-dwelling older people. Some of these, such as physical capacity, depressive symptoms, and habitual physical activity are of particular interest due to their potential for change through public health interventions. The use of ICF conceptual framework and widely accepted standardized assessments should make these results comparable and relevant in an international context.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-670
PMCID: PMC3175467  PMID: 21867517

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