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1.  A Guide for Health Professionals Working with Aboriginal Peoples: Executive Summary 
Objective
to provide Canadian health professionals with a network of information and recommendations regarding Aboriginal health.
Options
health professionals working with Aboriginal individuals and communities in the area of women’s health care.
Outcomes
improved health status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Appropriateness and accessibility of women’s health services for Aboriginal peoples.
Improved communication and clinical skills of health professionals in the area of Aboriginal health.
Improved quality of relationship between health professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Improved quality of relationship between health care professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Evidence
recommendations are based on expert opinion and a review of the literature. Published references were identified by a Medline search of all review articles, randomized clinical control trials, meta-analyses, and practice guidelines from 1966 to February 1999, using the MeSH headings “Indians, North American or Eskimos” and “Health.”* Subsequently published articles were brought to the attention of the authors in the process of writing and reviewing the document. Ancillary and unpublished references were recommended by members of the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee and the panel of expert reviewers.
Values
information collected was reviewed by the principal author. The social, cultural, political, and historic context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, systemic barriers regarding the publication of information by Aboriginal authors, the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and the need for a culturally appropriate and balanced presentation were carefully considered in addition to more traditional scientific evaluation. The majority of information collected consisted of descriptive health and social information and such evaluation tools as the evidence guidelines of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health exam were not appropriate.
Benefits, costs, and harms
utilization of the information and recommendations by Canadian health professionals will enhance understanding, communication, and clinical skills in the area of Aboriginal health. The resulting enhancement of collaborative relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their women’s health providers may contribute to health services that are more appropriate, effective, efficient, and accessible for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The educational process may require an initial investment of time from the health professional.
Recommendations
Recommendations were grouped according to four themes: sociocultural context, health concerns, cross-cultural understanding, and Aboriginal health resources. Health professionals are encouraged to learn the appropriate names, demographics, and traditional geographic territories and language groups of the various Aboriginal groups in Canada. In addition, sensitivity to the impact of colonization and current socioeconomic challenges to the health status of Aboriginal peoples is warranted. Health services for Aboriginal peoples should take place as close to home as possible. Governmental obligations and policies regarding determination are recognized. With respect to health concerns, holistic definitions of health, based on Aboriginal perspectives, are put forward. Aboriginal peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of health problems. Health professionals are encouraged to become familiar with several key areas of morbidity and mortality. Relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their care providers need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect. Gaps and barriers in the current health care system for Aboriginal peoples are identified. Health professionals are encouraged to work with Aboriginal individuals and communities to address these gaps and barriers. Aboriginal peoples require culturally appropriate health care, including treatment in their own languages when possible. This may require interpreters or Aboriginal health advocates. Health professionals are encouraged to recognize the importance of family and community roles, and to respect traditional medicines and healers. Health professionals can develop their sensitivities towards Aboriginal peoples by participating in workshops, making use of educational resources, and by spending time with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. Aboriginal communities and health professionals are encouraged to support community-based, community-directed health services and health research for Aboriginal peoples. In addition, the education of more Aboriginal health professionals is essential. The need for a preventative approach to health programming in Aboriginal communities is stressed.
Validation
recommendations were reviewed and revised by the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee, a panel of expert reviewers, and the SOGC Council. In addition, this document was also reviewed and supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Paediatric Society, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Metis National Council, National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Sponsor
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3653835  PMID: 23682204 CAMSID: cams2752
2.  Variation in outpatient oral antimicrobial use patterns among Canadian provinces, 2000 to 2010 
One of the most important ways to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance among disease-causing organisms is to ensure the prudent use of antimicrobial agents, thus avoiding selective pressures that drive the spread of resistance. Accordingly, it is important to perform regular surveillance of antibiotic prescribing patterns to identify areas for improvement as well as to act as a benchmark for the measurement of change in future studies. This article, the first of five complementary articles in the current issue of the Journal, summarizes the prescribing pattern of all classes of antibiotics according to time and province in Canada.
BACKGROUND:
The volume and patterns of antimicrobial drug use are key variables to consider when developing guidelines for prescribing, and programs to address stewardship and combat the increasing prevalence of antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Because drug programs are regulated at the provincial level, there is an expectation that antibiotic use may vary among provinces.
OBJECTIVE:
To assess these potential differences according to province and time.
METHODS:
Provincial antimicrobial prescribing data at the individual drug level were acquired from the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance for 2000 to 2010. Data were used to calculate two yearly metrics: prescriptions per 1000 inhabitant-days and the average defined daily doses per prescription. The proportion of liquid oral prescriptions of total prescriptions was also calculated as a proxy measure for the proportion of prescriptions given to children versus adults. To assess the significance of provincial antimicrobial use, linear mixed models were developed for each metric, accounting for repeated measurements over time.
RESULTS:
Significant differences among provinces were found, as well as significant changes in use over time. Newfoundland and Labrador was found to have significantly higher prescribing rates than all other provinces (P<0.001) in 2010, as well as the mean of all other provinces (P<0.001). In contrast, Quebec exhibited significantly lower prescribing than all other provinces (P<0.001 for all provinces except British Columbia, where P=0.024) and the mean of all other provinces (P<0.001).
DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION:
Reports of reductions in antimicrobial use at the Canadian level are promising, especially prescribing to children; however, care must be taken to avoid the pitfall of the ecological fallacy. Reductions are not consistent among the provinces or among the classes of antimicrobial drugs dispensed in Canada.
PMCID: PMC4028675  PMID: 24855477
Antimicrobial spending; Antimicrobial stewardship; Antimicrobial use; Prescribing patterns; Surveillance
3.  Public-Health and Individual Approaches to Antiretroviral Therapy: Township South Africa and Switzerland Compared 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e148.
Background
The provision of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in resource-limited settings follows a public health approach, which is characterised by a limited number of regimens and the standardisation of clinical and laboratory monitoring. In industrialized countries doctors prescribe from the full range of available antiretroviral drugs, supported by resistance testing and frequent laboratory monitoring. We compared virologic response, changes to first-line regimens, and mortality in HIV-infected patients starting HAART in South Africa and Switzerland.
Methods and Findings
We analysed data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and two HAART programmes in townships of Cape Town, South Africa. We included treatment-naïve patients aged 16 y or older who had started treatment with at least three drugs since 2001, and excluded intravenous drug users. Data from a total of 2,348 patients from South Africa and 1,016 patients from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study were analysed. Median baseline CD4+ T cell counts were 80 cells/μl in South Africa and 204 cells/μl in Switzerland. In South Africa, patients started with one of four first-line regimens, which was subsequently changed in 514 patients (22%). In Switzerland, 36 first-line regimens were used initially, and these were changed in 539 patients (53%). In most patients HIV-1 RNA was suppressed to 500 copies/ml or less within one year: 96% (95% confidence interval [CI] 95%–97%) in South Africa and 96% (94%–97%) in Switzerland, and 26% (22%–29%) and 27% (24%–31%), respectively, developed viral rebound within two years. Mortality was higher in South Africa than in Switzerland during the first months of HAART: adjusted hazard ratios were 5.90 (95% CI 1.81–19.2) during months 1–3 and 1.77 (0.90–3.50) during months 4–24.
Conclusions
Compared to the highly individualised approach in Switzerland, programmatic HAART in South Africa resulted in similar virologic outcomes, with relatively few changes to initial regimens. Further innovation and resources are required in South Africa to both achieve more timely access to HAART and improve the prognosis of patients who start HAART with advanced disease.
Comparing HIV treatment in Switzerland, where drug selection is individualized, and South Africa, where a programmatic approach is used, Matthias Egger and colleagues find similar virologic outcomes over two years.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first reported case in 1981, and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of becoming infected. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)—a combination of several antiretroviral drugs—was developed. Now, in resource-rich countries, clinicians provide individually tailored care for HIV-infected people by prescribing combinations of antiretroviral drugs chosen from more than 20 approved medicines. The approach to treatment of HIV in developed countries typically also includes frequent monitoring of the amount of virus in patients' blood (viral load), viral resistance testing (to see whether any viruses are resistant to specific antiretroviral drugs), and regular CD4 cell counts (an indication of immune-system health). Since the implementation of these interventions, the health and life expectancy of people with HIV has improved dramatically in these countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
The history of HIV care in resource-poor countries has been very different. Initially, these countries could not afford to provide HAART for their populations. In 2003, however, governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase HAART coverage in developing countries. By December 2006, more than a quarter of the HIV-infected people in low- and middle-income countries who urgently needed treatment were receiving HAART. However, instead of individualized treatment, HAART programs in developing countries follow a public-health approach developed by the World Health Organization. That is, drug regimens, clinical decision-making, and clinical and laboratory monitoring are all standardized. This public-health approach takes into account the realities of under-resourced health systems, but is it as effective as the individualized approach? The researchers addressed this question by comparing virologic responses (the effect of treatment on the viral load), changes to first-line (initial) therapy, and deaths in patients receiving HAART in South Africa (public-health approach) and in Switzerland (individualized approach).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected since 2001 from more than 2,000 patients enrolled in HAART programs in two townships (Gugulethu and Khayelitsha) in Cape Town, South Africa, and from more than 1,000 patients enrolled in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study, a nationwide study of HIV-infected people. The patients in South Africa, who had a lower starting CD4 cell count and were more likely to have advanced AIDS than the patients in Switzerland, started their treatment for HIV infection with one of four first-line therapies, and about a quarter changed to a second-line therapy during the study. By contrast, 36 first-line regimens were used in Switzerland and half the patients changed to a different regimen. Despite these differences, the viral load was greatly reduced within a year in virtually all the patients and viral rebound (an increased viral load after a low measurement) developed within 2 years in a quarter of the patients in both countries. However, more patients died in South Africa than in Switzerland, particularly during the first 3 months of therapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the public-health approach to HAART practiced in South Africa is as effective in terms of virologic outcomes as the individualized approach practiced in Switzerland. This is reassuring because it suggests that “antiretroviral anarchy” (the unregulated use of antiretroviral drugs, interruptions in drug supplies, and the lack of treatment monitoring), which is likely to lead to the emergence of viral resistance, is not happening in South Africa as some experts feared it might. Thus, these findings support the continued rollout of the public-health approach to HAART in resource-poor countries. Conversely, they also suggest that a more standardized approach to HAART could be taken in Switzerland (and in other industrialized countries) without compromising its effectiveness. Finally, the higher mortality in South Africa than in Switzerland, which partly reflects the many patients in South Africa in desperate need of HAART and their more advanced disease at the start of therapy, suggests that HIV-infected patients in South Africa and in other resource-limited countries would benefit from earlier initiation of therapy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148.
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for a public-health approach to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection
More details on the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and on the studies in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha are available
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information about antiretroviral therapy and links to treatment guidelines for various countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS around the world and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148
PMCID: PMC2443185  PMID: 18613745
4.  Canada Chair in hypertension prevention and control: A pilot project 
A five-year pilot project was initiated in Canada to fund an individual to lead the effort in improving hypertension prevention and control. As the initial recipient of the funding, the author’s objectives were to provide leadership to improve the management of hypertension through enhancements to the Canadian Hypertension Education Program, to increase public knowledge of hypertension, to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by reducing dietary sodium additives and to develop a comprehensive hypertension surveillance program. The initiative has received strong support from the hypertension community, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and many Canadian health care professional and scientific organizations. Progress has been made on all objectives. The pilot project was funded by The Canadian Hypertension Society, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and sanofi-aventis, in partnership with Blood Pressure Canada, and will finish in July 2011.
PMCID: PMC2650759  PMID: 17534462
Education; Epidemiology; High blood pressure; Hypertension; Knowledge translation; Public health; Sodium; Surveillance
5.  The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e211.
Background
In 2000, Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccines for the entire population aged 6 mo or older. Influenza immunization increased more rapidly in younger age groups in Ontario compared to other Canadian provinces, which all maintained targeted immunization programs. We evaluated the effect of Ontario's UIIP on influenza-associated mortality, hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to doctors' offices.
Methods and Findings
Mortality and hospitalization data from 1997 to 2004 for all ten Canadian provinces were obtained from national datasets. Physician billing claims for visits to EDs and doctors' offices were obtained from provincial administrative datasets for four provinces with comprehensive data. Since outcomes coded as influenza are known to underestimate the true burden of influenza, we studied more broadly defined conditions. Hospitalizations, ED use, doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza, and all-cause mortality from 1997 to 2004 were modelled using Poisson regression, controlling for age, sex, province, influenza surveillance data, and temporal trends, and used to estimate the expected baseline outcome rates in the absence of influenza activity. The primary outcome was then defined as influenza-associated events, or the difference between the observed events and the expected baseline events. Changes in influenza-associated outcome rates before and after UIIP introduction in Ontario were compared to the corresponding changes in other provinces. After UIIP introduction, influenza-associated mortality decreased more in Ontario (relative rate [RR] = 0.26) than in other provinces (RR = 0.43) (ratio of RRs = 0.61, p = 0.002). Similar differences between Ontario and other provinces were observed for influenza-associated hospitalizations (RR = 0.25 versus 0.44, ratio of RRs = 0.58, p < 0.001), ED use (RR = 0.31 versus 0.69, ratio of RRs = 0.45, p < 0.001), and doctors' office visits (RR = 0.21 versus 0.52, ratio of RRs = 0.41, p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses were carried out to assess consistency, specificity, and the presence of a dose-response relationship. Limitations of this study include the ecological study design, the nonspecific outcomes, difficulty in modeling baseline events, data quality and availability, and the inability to control for potentially important confounders.
Conclusions
Compared to targeted programs in other provinces, introduction of universal vaccination in Ontario in 2000 was associated with relative reductions in influenza-associated mortality and health care use. The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual burden of influenza.
Comparing influenza-related mortality and health care use between Ontario and other Canadian provinces, Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues find evidence that Ontario's universal vaccination program has reduced the burden of influenza.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. These epidemics occur because of “antigenic drift”: small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Immunization can boost this natural immunity and reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. That is, an injection of killed influenza viruses can be used to prime the immune system so that it responds quickly and efficiently when exposed to live virus. However, because of antigenic drift, for influenza immunization to be effective, it has to be repeated annually with a vaccine that contains the major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public-health organizations recommend targeted vaccination programs, so that elderly people, infants, and chronically ill individuals—the people most likely to die from pneumonia and other complications of influenza—receive annual influenza vaccination. Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza, both directly by increasing the number of vaccinated people and indirectly through “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, so that even unvaccinated people are unlikely to become infected (because infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people). In this study, the researchers compare the effects of the world's first free universal influenza immunization program (UIIP), which started in 2000 in the Canadian province of Ontario, on influenza-associated deaths and health care use with the effects of targeted vaccine programs on the same outcomes elsewhere in Canada.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using national records, the researchers collected data on influenza vaccination, on all deaths, and on hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza in all Canadian provinces between 1997 and 2004. They also collected data on emergency department and doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza for Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. They then used a mathematical model to estimate the baseline rates for these outcomes in the absence of influenza activity, and from these calculated weekly rates for deaths and health care use specifically resulting from influenza. In 1996–1997, 18% of the population was vaccinated against influenza in Ontario whereas in the other provinces combined the vaccination rate was 13%. On average, since 2000—the year in which UIIP was introduced in Ontario—vaccination rates have risen to 38% and 24% in Ontario and the other provinces, respectively. Since the introduction of UIIP, the researchers report, influenza-associated deaths have decreased by 74% in Ontario but by only 57% in the other provinces combined. Influenza-associated use of health care facilities has also decreased more in Ontario than in the other provinces over the same period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by some aspects of the study design. For example, they depend on the accuracy of the assumptions made when calculating events due specifically to influenza, and on the availability and accuracy of vaccination and clinical outcome data. In addition, it is possible that influenza-associated deaths and health care use may have decreased more in Ontario than in the other Canadian provinces because of some unrecognized health care changes specific to Ontario but unrelated to the introduction of universal influenza vaccination. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that, compared to the targeted vaccination programs in the other Canadian provinces, the Ontarian UIIP is associated with reductions in influenza-associated deaths and health care use, particularly in people younger than 65 years old. This effect is seen at a level of vaccination unlikely to produce herd immunity so might be more marked if the uptake of vaccination could be further increased. Thus, although it is possible that Canada is a special case, these findings suggest that universal influenza vaccination might be an effective way to reduce the global burden of influenza.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211.
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Carline van den Dool and colleagues is also available
The Ontario Ministry of Health provides information on its universal influenza immunization program (in English and French)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about the science of immunization, including a simple explanatory animation of immunity
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050211
PMCID: PMC2573914  PMID: 18959473
6.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Adults
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Adults
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
Children
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Conclusions
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
7.  Antibiotic Selection Pressure and Macrolide Resistance in Nasopharyngeal Streptococcus pneumoniae: A Cluster-Randomized Clinical Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000377.
Jeremy Keenan and colleagues report that during a cluster-randomized clinical trial in Ethiopia, nasopharyngeal pneumococcal resistance to macrolides was significantly higher in communities randomized to receive azithromycin compared with untreated control communities.
Background
It is widely thought that widespread antibiotic use selects for community antibiotic resistance, though this has been difficult to prove in the setting of a community-randomized clinical trial. In this study, we used a randomized clinical trial design to assess whether macrolide resistance was higher in communities treated with mass azithromycin for trachoma, compared to untreated control communities.
Methods and Findings
In a cluster-randomized trial for trachoma control in Ethiopia, 12 communities were randomized to receive mass azithromycin treatment of children aged 1–10 years at months 0, 3, 6, and 9. Twelve control communities were randomized to receive no antibiotic treatments until the conclusion of the study. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from randomly selected children in the treated group at baseline and month 12, and in the control group at month 12. Antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed on Streptococcus pneumoniae isolated from the swabs using Etest strips. In the treated group, the mean prevalence of azithromycin resistance among all monitored children increased from 3.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.8%–8.9%) at baseline, to 46.9% (37.5%–57.5%) at month 12 (p = 0.003). In control communities, azithromycin resistance was 9.2% (95% CI 6.7%–13.3%) at month 12, significantly lower than the treated group (p<0.0001). Penicillin resistance was identified in 0.8% (95% CI 0%–4.2%) of isolates in the control group at 1 year, and in no isolates in the children-treated group at baseline or 1 year.
Conclusions
This cluster-randomized clinical trial demonstrated that compared to untreated control communities, nasopharyngeal pneumococcal resistance to macrolides was significantly higher in communities randomized to intensive azithromycin treatment. Mass azithromycin distributions were given more frequently than currently recommended by the World Health Organization's trachoma program. Azithromycin use in this setting did not select for resistance to penicillins, which remain the drug of choice for pneumococcal infections.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00322972
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria). By the early 1940s, scientists were able to make large quantities of penicillin and, in the following decades, several other classes of powerful antibiotics were discovered. For example, erythromycin—the first macrolide antibiotic—was developed in the early 1950s. For a time, it looked like bacteria and the diseases that they cause had been defeated. But bacteria rapidly become resistant to antibiotics. Under the “selective pressure” of an antibiotic, bacteria that have acquired a random change in their DNA that allows them to survive in the antibiotic's presence outgrow nonresistant bacteria. What's more, bacteria can transfer antibiotic resistance genes between themselves. Nowadays, antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern. Almost every type of disease-causing bacteria has developed resistance to one or more antibiotic in clinical use and multi-drug resistant bacteria are causing outbreaks of potentially fatal diseases in hospitals and in the community.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although epidemiological studies (investigations of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in population) show a correlation between antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in populations, such studies cannot prove that antibiotic use actually causes antibiotic resistance. It could be that the people who use more antibiotics share other characteristics that increase their chance of developing antibiotic resistance (so-called “confounding”). A causal link between antibiotic use and the development of antibiotic resistance can only be established by doing a randomized controlled trial. In such trials, groups of individuals are chosen at random to avoid confounding, given different treatments, and outcomes in the different groups compared. Here, the researchers undertake a randomized clinical trial to assess whether macrolide resistance is higher in communities treated with azithromycin for trachoma than in untreated communities. Azithromycin—an erythromycin derivative—is used to treat common bacterial infections such as middle ear infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. Trachoma—the world's leading infectious cause of blindness—is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. The World Health Organization's trachoma elimination strategy includes annual azithromycin treatment of at-risk communities.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this cluster-randomized trial (a study that randomly assigns groups of people rather than individuals to different treatments), 12 Ethiopian communities received mass azithromycin treatment of children aged 1–10 years old at 0, 3, 6, and 9 months, and 12 control communities received the antibiotic only at 12 months. The researchers took nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) swabs from randomly selected treated children at 0 and 12 months and from randomly selected control children at 12 months. They isolated S. pneumoniae from the swabs and tested the isolates for antibiotic susceptibility. 70%–80% of the children tested had S. pneumoniae in their nose or throat. In the treated group, 3.6% of monitored children were carrying azithromycin-resistant S. pneumoniae at 0 months, whereas 46.9% were doing so at 12 months—a statistically significant increase. Only 9.2% of the monitored children in the untreated group were carrying azithromycin-resistant S. pneumoniae at 12 months, a significantly lower prevalence than in the treated group. Importantly, there was no resistance to penicillin in any S. pneumoniae isolates obtained from the treated children at 0 or 12 months; one penicillin-resistant isolate was obtained from the control children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that macrolide resistance is higher in nasopharyngeal S. pneumoniae in communities receiving intensive azithromycin treatment than in untreated communities. Thus, they support the idea that frequent antibiotic use selects for antibiotic resistance in populations. Although the study was undertaken in Ethiopian communities with high rates of nasopharyngeal S. pneumoniae carriage, this finding is likely to be generalizable to other settings. Importantly, these findings have no bearing on current trachoma control activities, which use less frequent antibiotic treatments and are less likely to select for azithromycin resistance. The lack of any increase in penicillin resistance, which is usually the first-line therapy for S. pneumoniae infections, is also reassuring. However, although these findings suggest that the benefits of mass azithromycin treatment for trachoma outweigh any potential adverse affects, they nonetheless highlight the importance of continued monitoring for the secondary effects of mass antibiotic distributions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000377.
The Bugs and Drugs website provides information about antibiotic resistance and links to other resources
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on antimicrobial drug resistance and on diseases caused by S. pneumoniae (pneumococcal diseases)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also have information on antibiotic resistance (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization has information about the global threat of antimicrobial resistance and about trachoma (in several languages)
More information about the trial described in this paper is available on ClinicalTrials.gov
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000377
PMCID: PMC3001893  PMID: 21179434
8.  Internet-Based Device-Assisted Remote Monitoring of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices 
Executive Summary
Objective
The objective of this Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) report was to conduct a systematic review of the available published evidence on the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted remote monitoring systems (RMSs) for therapeutic cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The MAS evidence-based review was performed to support public financing decisions.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major cause of fatalities in developed countries. In the United States almost half a million people die of SCD annually, resulting in more deaths than stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. In Canada each year more than 40,000 people die from a cardiovascular related cause; approximately half of these deaths are attributable to SCD.
Most cases of SCD occur in the general population typically in those without a known history of heart disease. Most SCDs are caused by cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm caused by malfunctions of the heart’s electrical system. Up to half of patients with significant heart failure (HF) also have advanced conduction abnormalities.
Cardiac arrhythmias are managed by a variety of drugs, ablative procedures, and therapeutic CIEDs. The range of CIEDs includes pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Bradycardia is the main indication for PMs and individuals at high risk for SCD are often treated by ICDs.
Heart failure (HF) is also a significant health problem and is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in those over 65 years of age. Patients with moderate to severe HF may also have cardiac arrhythmias, although the cause may be related more to heart pump or haemodynamic failure. The presence of HF, however, increases the risk of SCD five-fold, regardless of aetiology. Patients with HF who remain highly symptomatic despite optimal drug therapy are sometimes also treated with CRT devices.
With an increasing prevalence of age-related conditions such as chronic HF and the expanding indications for ICD therapy, the rate of ICD placement has been dramatically increasing. The appropriate indications for ICD placement, as well as the rate of ICD placement, are increasingly an issue. In the United States, after the introduction of expanded coverage of ICDs, a national ICD registry was created in 2005 to track these devices. A recent survey based on this national ICD registry reported that 22.5% (25,145) of patients had received a non-evidence based ICD and that these patients experienced significantly higher in-hospital mortality and post-procedural complications.
In addition to the increased ICD device placement and the upfront device costs, there is the need for lifelong follow-up or surveillance, placing a significant burden on patients and device clinics. In 2007, over 1.6 million CIEDs were implanted in Europe and the United States, which translates to over 5.5 million patient encounters per year if the recommended follow-up practices are considered. A safe and effective RMS could potentially improve the efficiency of long-term follow-up of patients and their CIEDs.
Technology
In addition to being therapeutic devices, CIEDs have extensive diagnostic abilities. All CIEDs can be interrogated and reprogrammed during an in-clinic visit using an inductive programming wand. Remote monitoring would allow patients to transmit information recorded in their devices from the comfort of their own homes. Currently most ICD devices also have the potential to be remotely monitored. Remote monitoring (RM) can be used to check system integrity, to alert on arrhythmic episodes, and to potentially replace in-clinic follow-ups and manage disease remotely. They do not currently have the capability of being reprogrammed remotely, although this feature is being tested in pilot settings.
Every RMS is specifically designed by a manufacturer for their cardiac implant devices. For Internet-based device-assisted RMSs, this customization includes details such as web application, multiplatform sensors, custom algorithms, programming information, and types and methods of alerting patients and/or physicians. The addition of peripherals for monitoring weight and pressure or communicating with patients through the onsite communicators also varies by manufacturer. Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs are intended to function as a surveillance system rather than an emergency system.
Health care providers therefore need to learn each application, and as more than one application may be used at one site, multiple applications may need to be reviewed for alarms. All RMSs deliver system integrity alerting; however, some systems seem to be better geared to fast arrhythmic alerting, whereas other systems appear to be more intended for remote follow-up or supplemental remote disease management. The different RMSs may therefore have different impacts on workflow organization because of their varying frequency of interrogation and methods of alerts. The integration of these proprietary RM web-based registry systems with hospital-based electronic health record systems has so far not been commonly implemented.
Currently there are 2 general types of RMSs: those that transmit device diagnostic information automatically and without patient assistance to secure Internet-based registry systems, and those that require patient assistance to transmit information. Both systems employ the use of preprogrammed alerts that are either transmitted automatically or at regular scheduled intervals to patients and/or physicians.
The current web applications, programming, and registry systems differ greatly between the manufacturers of transmitting cardiac devices. In Canada there are currently 4 manufacturers—Medtronic Inc., Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corp., and St Jude Medical Inc.—which have regulatory approval for remote transmitting CIEDs. Remote monitoring systems are proprietary to the manufacturer of the implant device. An RMS for one device will not work with another device, and the RMS may not work with all versions of the manufacturer’s devices.
All Internet-based device-assisted RMSs have common components. The implanted device is equipped with a micro-antenna that communicates with a small external device (at bedside or wearable) commonly known as the transmitter. Transmitters are able to interrogate programmed parameters and diagnostic data stored in the patients’ implant device. The information transfer to the communicator can occur at preset time intervals with the participation of the patient (waving a wand over the device) or it can be sent automatically (wirelessly) without their participation. The encrypted data are then uploaded to an Internet-based database on a secure central server. The data processing facilities at the central database, depending on the clinical urgency, can trigger an alert for the physician(s) that can be sent via email, fax, text message, or phone. The details are also posted on the secure website for viewing by the physician (or their delegate) at their convenience.
Research Questions
The research directions and specific research questions for this evidence review were as follows:
To identify the Internet-based device-assisted RMSs available for follow-up of patients with therapeutic CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To identify the potential risks, operational issues, or organizational issues related to Internet-based device-assisted RM for CIEDs.
To evaluate the safety, acceptability, and effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs compared to usual outpatient in-office monitoring strategies.
To evaluate the resource implications or budget impact of RMSs for CIEDs in Ontario, Canada.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The review included a systematic review of published scientific literature and consultations with experts and manufacturers of all 4 approved RMSs for CIEDs in Canada. Information on CIED cardiac implant clinics was also obtained from Provincial Programs, a division within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a mandate for cardiac implant specialty care. Various administrative databases and registries were used to outline the current clinical follow-up burden of CIEDs in Ontario. The provincial population-based ICD database developed and maintained by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) was used to review the current follow-up practices with Ontario patients implanted with ICD devices.
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on September 21, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from 1950 to September 2010. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for additional relevant literature until December 31, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search.
Inclusion Criteria
published between 1950 and September 2010;
English language full-reports and human studies;
original reports including clinical evaluations of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports including standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, cost, measures of health care utilization, morbidity, mortality, quality of life or patient satisfaction;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, cohort and controlled clinical studies.
Exclusion Criteria
non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials;
reports not involving standardized outcome events;
clinical reports not involving Internet-based device assisted RM systems for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports involving studies testing or validating algorithms without RM;
studies with small samples (<10 subjects).
Outcomes of Interest
The outcomes of interest included: technical outcomes, emergency department visits, complications, major adverse events, symptoms, hospital admissions, clinic visits (scheduled and/or unscheduled), survival, morbidity (disease progression, stroke, etc.), patient satisfaction, and quality of life.
Summary of Findings
The MAS evidence review was performed to review available evidence on Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs published until September 2010. The search identified 6 systematic reviews, 7 randomized controlled trials, and 19 reports for 16 cohort studies—3 of these being registry-based and 4 being multi-centered. The evidence is summarized in the 3 sections that follow.
1. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems of CIEDs for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Device Functioning
In total, 15 reports on 13 cohort studies involving investigations with 4 different RMSs for CIEDs in cardiology implant clinic groups were identified in the review. The 4 RMSs were: Care Link Network® (Medtronic Inc,, Minneapolis, MN, USA); Home Monitoring® (Biotronic, Berlin, Germany); House Call 11® (St Jude Medical Inc., St Pauls, MN, USA); and a manufacturer-independent RMS. Eight of these reports were with the Home Monitoring® RMS (12,949 patients), 3 were with the Care Link® RMS (167 patients), 1 was with the House Call 11® RMS (124 patients), and 1 was with a manufacturer-independent RMS (44 patients). All of the studies, except for 2 in the United States, (1 with Home Monitoring® and 1 with House Call 11®), were performed in European countries.
The RMSs in the studies were evaluated with different cardiac implant device populations: ICDs only (6 studies), ICD and CRT devices (3 studies), PM and ICD and CRT devices (4 studies), and PMs only (2 studies). The patient populations were predominately male (range, 52%–87%) in all studies, with mean ages ranging from 58 to 76 years. One study population was unique in that RMSs were evaluated for ICDs implanted solely for primary prevention in young patients (mean age, 44 years) with Brugada syndrome, which carries an inherited increased genetic risk for sudden heart attack in young adults.
Most of the cohort studies reported on the feasibility of RMSs in clinical settings with limited follow-up. In the short follow-up periods of the studies, the majority of the events were related to detection of medical events rather than system configuration or device abnormalities. The results of the studies are summarized below:
The interrogation of devices on the web platform, both for continuous and scheduled transmissions, was significantly quicker with remote follow-up, both for nurses and physicians.
In a case-control study focusing on a Brugada population–based registry with patients followed-up remotely, there were significantly fewer outpatient visits and greater detection of inappropriate shocks. One death occurred in the control group not followed remotely and post-mortem analysis indicated early signs of lead failure prior to the event.
Two studies examined the role of RMSs in following ICD leads under regulatory advisory in a European clinical setting and noted:
– Fewer inappropriate shocks were administered in the RM group.
– Urgent in-office interrogations and surgical revisions were performed within 12 days of remote alerts.
– No signs of lead fracture were detected at in-office follow-up; all were detected at remote follow-up.
Only 1 study reported evaluating quality of life in patients followed up remotely at 3 and 6 months; no values were reported.
Patient satisfaction was evaluated in 5 cohort studies, all in short term follow-up: 1 for the Home Monitoring® RMS, 3 for the Care Link® RMS, and 1 for the House Call 11® RMS.
– Patients reported receiving a sense of security from the transmitter, a good relationship with nurses and physicians, positive implications for their health, and satisfaction with RM and organization of services.
– Although patients reported that the system was easy to implement and required less than 10 minutes to transmit information, a variable proportion of patients (range, 9% 39%) reported that they needed the assistance of a caregiver for their transmission.
– The majority of patients would recommend RM to other ICD patients.
– Patients with hearing or other physical or mental conditions hindering the use of the system were excluded from studies, but the frequency of this was not reported.
Physician satisfaction was evaluated in 3 studies, all with the Care Link® RMS:
– Physicians reported an ease of use and high satisfaction with a generally short-term use of the RMS.
– Physicians reported being able to address the problems in unscheduled patient transmissions or physician initiated transmissions remotely, and were able to handle the majority of the troubleshooting calls remotely.
– Both nurses and physicians reported a high level of satisfaction with the web registry system.
2. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems in Heart Failure Patients for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Heart Failure Episodes
Remote follow-up of HF patients implanted with ICD or CRT devices, generally managed in specialized HF clinics, was evaluated in 3 cohort studies: 1 involved the Home Monitoring® RMS and 2 involved the Care Link® RMS. In these RMSs, in addition to the standard diagnostic features, the cardiac devices continuously assess other variables such as patient activity, mean heart rate, and heart rate variability. Intra-thoracic impedance, a proxy measure for lung fluid overload, was also measured in the Care Link® studies. The overall diagnostic performance of these measures cannot be evaluated, as the information was not reported for patients who did not experience intra-thoracic impedance threshold crossings or did not undergo interventions. The trial results involved descriptive information on transmissions and alerts in patients experiencing high morbidity and hospitalization in the short study periods.
3. Comparative Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems for CIEDs
Seven RCTs were identified evaluating RMSs for CIEDs: 2 were for PMs (1276 patients) and 5 were for ICD/CRT devices (3733 patients). Studies performed in the clinical setting in the United States involved both the Care Link® RMS and the Home Monitoring® RMS, whereas all studies performed in European countries involved only the Home Monitoring® RMS.
3A. Randomized Controlled Trials of Remote Monitoring Systems for Pacemakers
Two trials, both multicenter RCTs, were conducted in different countries with different RMSs and study objectives. The PREFER trial was a large trial (897 patients) performed in the United States examining the ability of Care Link®, an Internet-based remote PM interrogation system, to detect clinically actionable events (CAEs) sooner than the current in-office follow-up supplemented with transtelephonic monitoring transmissions, a limited form of remote device interrogation. The trial results are summarized below:
In the 375-day mean follow-up, 382 patients were identified with at least 1 CAE—111 patients in the control arm and 271 in the remote arm.
The event rate detected per patient for every type of CAE, except for loss of atrial capture, was higher in the remote arm than the control arm.
The median time to first detection of CAEs (4.9 vs. 6.3 months) was significantly shorter in the RMS group compared to the control group (P < 0.0001).
Additionally, only 2% (3/190) of the CAEs in the control arm were detected during a transtelephonic monitoring transmission (the rest were detected at in-office follow-ups), whereas 66% (446/676) of the CAEs were detected during remote interrogation.
The second study, the OEDIPE trial, was a smaller trial (379 patients) performed in France evaluating the ability of the Home Monitoring® RMS to shorten PM post-operative hospitalization while preserving the safety of conventional management of longer hospital stays.
Implementation and operationalization of the RMS was reported to be successful in 91% (346/379) of the patients and represented 8144 transmissions.
In the RM group 6.5% of patients failed to send messages (10 due to improper use of the transmitter, 2 with unmanageable stress). Of the 172 patients transmitting, 108 patients sent a total of 167 warnings during the trial, with a greater proportion of warnings being attributed to medical rather than technical causes.
Forty percent had no warning message transmission and among these, 6 patients experienced a major adverse event and 1 patient experienced a non-major adverse event. Of the 6 patients having a major adverse event, 5 contacted their physician.
The mean medical reaction time was faster in the RM group (6.5 ± 7.6 days vs. 11.4 ± 11.6 days).
The mean duration of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) for the RM group than the control group (3.2 ± 3.2 days vs. 4.8 ± 3.7 days).
Quality of life estimates by the SF-36 questionnaire were similar for the 2 groups at 1-month follow-up.
3B. Randomized Controlled Trials Evaluating Remote Monitoring Systems for ICD or CRT Devices
The 5 studies evaluating the impact of RMSs with ICD/CRT devices were conducted in the United States and in European countries and involved 2 RMSs—Care Link® and Home Monitoring ®. The objectives of the trials varied and 3 of the trials were smaller pilot investigations.
The first of the smaller studies (151 patients) evaluated patient satisfaction, achievement of patient outcomes, and the cost-effectiveness of the Care Link® RMS compared to quarterly in-office device interrogations with 1-year follow-up.
Individual outcomes such as hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly different between the study groups.
Except for a significantly higher detection of atrial fibrillation in the RM group, data on ICD detection and therapy were similar in the study groups.
Health-related quality of life evaluated by the EuroQoL at 6-month or 12-month follow-up was not different between study groups.
Patients were more satisfied with their ICD care in the clinic follow-up group than in the remote follow-up group at 6-month follow-up, but were equally satisfied at 12- month follow-up.
The second small pilot trial (20 patients) examined the impact of RM follow-up with the House Call 11® system on work schedules and cost savings in patients randomized to 2 study arms varying in the degree of remote follow-up.
The total time including device interrogation, transmission time, data analysis, and physician time required was significantly shorter for the RM follow-up group.
The in-clinic waiting time was eliminated for patients in the RM follow-up group.
The physician talk time was significantly reduced in the RM follow-up group (P < 0.05).
The time for the actual device interrogation did not differ in the study groups.
The third small trial (115 patients) examined the impact of RM with the Home Monitoring® system compared to scheduled trimonthly in-clinic visits on the number of unplanned visits, total costs, health-related quality of life (SF-36), and overall mortality.
There was a 63.2% reduction in in-office visits in the RM group.
Hospitalizations or overall mortality (values not stated) were not significantly different between the study groups.
Patient-induced visits were higher in the RM group than the in-clinic follow-up group.
The TRUST Trial
The TRUST trial was a large multicenter RCT conducted at 102 centers in the United States involving the Home Monitoring® RMS for ICD devices for 1450 patients. The primary objectives of the trial were to determine if remote follow-up could be safely substituted for in-office clinic follow-up (3 in-office visits replaced) and still enable earlier physician detection of clinically actionable events.
Adherence to the protocol follow-up schedule was significantly higher in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (93.5% vs. 88.7%, P < 0.001).
Actionability of trimonthly scheduled checks was low (6.6%) in both study groups. Overall, actionable causes were reprogramming (76.2%), medication changes (24.8%), and lead/system revisions (4%), and these were not different between the 2 study groups.
The overall mean number of in-clinic and hospital visits was significantly lower in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (2.1 per patient-year vs. 3.8 per patient-year, P < 0.001), representing a 45% visit reduction at 12 months.
The median time from onset of first arrhythmia to physician evaluation was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group than in the in-office follow-up group for all arrhythmias (1 day vs. 35.5 days).
The median time to detect clinically asymptomatic arrhythmia events—atrial fibrillation (AF), ventricular fibrillation (VF), ventricular tachycardia (VT), and supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)—was also significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group compared to the in-office follow-up group (1 day vs. 41.5 days) and was significantly quicker for each of the clinical arrhythmia events—AF (5.5 days vs. 40 days), VT (1 day vs. 28 days), VF (1 day vs. 36 days), and SVT (2 days vs. 39 days).
System-related problems occurred infrequently in both groups—in 1.5% of patients (14/908) in the RM group and in 0.7% of patients (3/432) in the in-office follow-up group.
The overall adverse event rate over 12 months was not significantly different between the 2 groups and individual adverse events were also not significantly different between the RM group and the in-office follow-up group: death (3.4% vs. 4.9%), stroke (0.3% vs. 1.2%), and surgical intervention (6.6% vs. 4.9%), respectively.
The 12-month cumulative survival was 96.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.5%–97.6%) in the RM group and 94.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 91.8%–96.6%) in the in-office follow-up group, and was not significantly different between the 2 groups (P = 0.174).
The CONNECT Trial
The CONNECT trial, another major multicenter RCT, involved the Care Link® RMS for ICD/CRT devices in a15-month follow-up study of 1,997 patients at 133 sites in the United States. The primary objective of the trial was to determine whether automatically transmitted physician alerts decreased the time from the occurrence of clinically relevant events to medical decisions. The trial results are summarized below:
Of the 575 clinical alerts sent in the study, 246 did not trigger an automatic physician alert. Transmission failures were related to technical issues such as the alert not being programmed or not being reset, and/or a variety of patient factors such as not being at home and the monitor not being plugged in or set up.
The overall mean time from the clinically relevant event to the clinical decision was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) by 17.4 days in the remote follow-up group (4.6 days for 172 patients) than the in-office follow-up group (22 days for 145 patients).
– The median time to a clinical decision was shorter in the remote follow-up group than in the in-office follow-up group for an AT/AF burden greater than or equal to 12 hours (3 days vs. 24 days) and a fast VF rate greater than or equal to 120 beats per minute (4 days vs. 23 days).
Although infrequent, similar low numbers of events involving low battery and VF detection/therapy turned off were noted in both groups. More alerts, however, were noted for out-of-range lead impedance in the RM group (18 vs. 6 patients), and the time to detect these critical events was significantly shorter in the RM group (same day vs. 17 days).
Total in-office clinic visits were reduced by 38% from 6.27 visits per patient-year in the in-office follow-up group to 3.29 visits per patient-year in the remote follow-up group.
Health care utilization visits (N = 6,227) that included cardiovascular-related hospitalization, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly higher in the remote follow-up group.
The overall mean length of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P = 0.002) for those in the remote follow-up group (3.3 days vs. 4.0 days) and was shorter both for patients with ICD (3.0 days vs. 3.6 days) and CRT (3.8 days vs. 4.7 days) implants.
The mortality rate between the study arms was not significantly different between the follow-up groups for the ICDs (P = 0.31) or the CRT devices with defribillator (P = 0.46).
Conclusions
There is limited clinical trial information on the effectiveness of RMSs for PMs. However, for RMSs for ICD devices, multiple cohort studies and 2 large multicenter RCTs demonstrated feasibility and significant reductions in in-office clinic follow-ups with RMSs in the first year post implantation. The detection rates of clinically significant events (and asymptomatic events) were higher, and the time to a clinical decision for these events was significantly shorter, in the remote follow-up groups than in the in-office follow-up groups. The earlier detection of clinical events in the remote follow-up groups, however, was not associated with lower morbidity or mortality rates in the 1-year follow-up. The substitution of almost all the first year in-office clinic follow-ups with RM was also not associated with an increased health care utilization such as emergency department visits or hospitalizations.
The follow-up in the trials was generally short-term, up to 1 year, and was a more limited assessment of potential longer term device/lead integrity complications or issues. None of the studies compared the different RMSs, particularly the different RMSs involving patient-scheduled transmissions or automatic transmissions. Patients’ acceptance of and satisfaction with RM were reported to be high, but the impact of RM on patients’ health-related quality of life, particularly the psychological aspects, was not evaluated thoroughly. Patients who are not technologically competent, having hearing or other physical/mental impairments, were identified as potentially disadvantaged with remote surveillance. Cohort studies consistently identified subgroups of patients who preferred in-office follow-up. The evaluation of costs and workflow impact to the health care system were evaluated in European or American clinical settings, and only in a limited way.
Internet-based device-assisted RMSs involve a new approach to monitoring patients, their disease progression, and their CIEDs. Remote monitoring also has the potential to improve the current postmarket surveillance systems of evolving CIEDs and their ongoing hardware and software modifications. At this point, however, there is insufficient information to evaluate the overall impact to the health care system, although the time saving and convenience to patients and physicians associated with a substitution of in-office follow-up by RM is more certain. The broader issues surrounding infrastructure, impacts on existing clinical care systems, and regulatory concerns need to be considered for the implementation of Internet-based RMSs in jurisdictions involving different clinical practices.
PMCID: PMC3377571  PMID: 23074419
9.  Modelling the evolution of drug resistance in the presence of antiviral drugs 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:300.
Background
The emergence of drug resistance in treated populations and the transmission of drug resistant strains to newly infected individuals are important public health concerns in the prevention and control of infectious diseases such as HIV and influenza. Mathematical modelling may help guide the design of treatment programs and also may help us better understand the potential benefits and limitations of prevention strategies.
Methods
To explore further the potential synergies between modelling of drug resistance in HIV and in pandemic influenza, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Mathematics for Information Technology and Complex Systems brought together selected scientists and public health experts for a workshop in Ottawa in January 2007, to discuss the emergence and transmission of HIV antiviral drug resistance, to report on progress in the use of mathematical models to study the emergence and spread of drug resistant influenza viral strains, and to recommend future research priorities.
Results
General lectures and round-table discussions were organized around the issues on HIV drug resistance at the population level, HIV drug resistance in Western Canada, HIV drug resistance at the host level (with focus on optimal treatment strategies), and drug resistance for pandemic influenza planning.
Conclusion
Some of the issues related to drug resistance in HIV and pandemic influenza can possibly be addressed using existing mathematical models, with a special focus on linking the existing models to the data obtained through the Canadian HIV Strain and DR Surveillance Program. Preliminary statistical analysis of these data carried out at PHAC, together with the general model framework developed by Dr. Blower and her collaborators, should provide further insights into the mechanisms behind the observed trends and thus could help with the prediction and analysis of future trends in the aforementioned items. Remarkable similarity between dynamic, compartmental models for the evolution of wild and drug resistance strains of both HIV and pandemic influenza may provide sufficient common ground to create synergies between modellers working in these two areas. One of the key contributions of mathematical modeling to the control of infectious diseases is the quantification and design of optimal strategies, combining techniques of operations research with dynamic modeling would enhance the contribution of mathematical modeling to the prevention and control of infectious diseases.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-300
PMCID: PMC2148062  PMID: 17953775
10.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Background
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
Conclusions
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001124
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
11.  Public health preparedness in Alberta: a systems-level study 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:313.
Background
Recent international and national events have brought critical attention to the Canadian public health system and how prepared the system is to respond to various types of contemporary public health threats. This article describes the study design and methods being used to conduct a systems-level analysis of public health preparedness in the province of Alberta, Canada. The project is being funded under the Health Research Fund, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.
Methods/Design
We use an embedded, multiple-case study design, integrating qualitative and quantitative methods to measure empirically the degree of inter-organizational coordination existing among public health agencies in Alberta, Canada. We situate our measures of inter-organizational network ties within a systems-level framework to assess the relative influence of inter-organizational ties, individual organizational attributes, and institutional environmental features on public health preparedness. The relative contribution of each component is examined for two potential public health threats: pandemic influenza and West Nile virus.
Discussion
The organizational dimensions of public health preparedness depend on a complex mix of individual organizational characteristics, inter-agency relationships, and institutional environmental factors. Our study is designed to discriminate among these different system components and assess the independent influence of each on the other, as well as the overall level of public health preparedness in Alberta. While all agree that competent organizations and functioning networks are important components of public health preparedness, this study is one of the first to use formal network analysis to study the role of inter-agency networks in the development of prepared public health systems.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-313
PMCID: PMC1779785  PMID: 17194305
12.  Alcohol Sales and Risk of Serious Assault 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e104.
Background
Alcohol is a contributing cause of unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes. Prior research on the association between alcohol use and violent injury was limited to survey-based data, and the inclusion of cases from a single trauma centre, without adequate controls. Beyond these limitations was the inability of prior researchers to comprehensively capture most alcohol sales. In Ontario, most alcohol is sold through retail outlets run by the provincial government, and hospitals are financed under a provincial health care system. We assessed the risk of being hospitalized due to assault in association with retail alcohol sales across Ontario.
Methods and Findings
We performed a population-based case-crossover analysis of all persons aged 13 years and older hospitalized for assault in Ontario from 1 April 2002 to 1 December 2004. On the day prior to each assault case's hospitalization, the volume of alcohol sold at the store in closest proximity to the victim's home was compared to the volume of alcohol sold at the same store 7 d earlier. Conditional logistic regression analysis was used to determine the associated relative risk (RR) of assault per 1,000 l higher daily sales of alcohol. Of the 3,212 persons admitted to hospital for assault, nearly 25% were between the ages of 13 and 20 y, and 83% were male. A total of 1,150 assaults (36%) involved the use of a sharp or blunt weapon, and 1,532 (48%) arose during an unarmed brawl or fight. For every 1,000 l more of alcohol sold per store per day, the relative risk of being hospitalized for assault was 1.13 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.26). The risk was accentuated for males (1.18, 95% CI 1.05–1.33), youth aged 13 to 20 y (1.21, 95% CI 0.99–1.46), and those in urban areas (1.19, 95% CI 1.06–1.35).
Conclusions
The risk of being a victim of serious assault increases with alcohol sales, especially among young urban men. Akin to reducing the risk of driving while impaired, consideration should be given to novel methods of preventing alcohol-related violence.
In a population-based case-crossover analysis, Joel Ray and colleagues find that the risk of being a victim of serious assault increases with retail alcohol sales, especially among young urban men.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Alcohol has been produced and consumed around the world since prehistoric times. In the Western world it is now the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug (a substance that changes mood, behavior, and thought processes). The World Health Organization reports that there are 76.3 million persons with alcohol use disorders worldwide. Alcohol consumption is an important factor in unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, and in violent criminal behavior. In the United Kingdom, for example, a higher proportion of heavy drinkers than light drinkers cause violent criminal offenses. Other figures suggest that people (in particular, young men) have an increased risk of committing a criminally violent offense within 24 h of drinking alcohol. There is also some evidence that suggests that the victims as well as the perpetrators of assaults have often been drinking recently, possibly because alcohol impairs the victim's ability to judge potentially explosive situations.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to know more about the relationship between alcohol and intentional violence. The recognition of a clear link between driving when impaired by alcohol and motor vehicle crashes has led many countries to introduce public awareness programs that stigmatize drunk driving. If a clear link between alcohol consumption by the people involved in violent crime could also be established, similar programs might reduce alcohol-related assaults. The researchers tested the hypothesis that the risk of being hospitalized due to a violent assault increases when there are increased alcohol sales in the immediate vicinity of the victim's place of residence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did their study in Ontario, Canada for three reasons. First, Ontario is Canada's largest province. Second, the province keeps detailed computerized medical records, including records of people hospitalized from being violently assaulted. Third, most alcohol is sold in government-run shops, and the district has the infrastructure to allow daily alcohol sales to be tracked. The researchers identified more than 3,000 people over the age of 13 y who were hospitalized in the province because of a serious assault during a 32-mo period. They compared the volume of alcohol sold at the liquor store nearest to the victim's home the day before the assault with the volume sold at the same store a week earlier (this type of study is called a “case-crossover” study). For every extra 1,000 l of alcohol sold per store per day (a doubling of alcohol sales), the overall risk of being hospitalized for assault increased by 13%. The risk was highest in three subgroups of people: men (18% increased risk), youths aged 13 to 20 y (21% increased risk), and those living in urban areas (19% increased risk). At peak times of alcohol sales, the risk of assault was 41% higher than at times when alcohol sales were lowest.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the risk of being seriously assaulted increases with the amount of alcohol sold locally the day before the assault and show that the individuals most at risk are young men living in urban areas. Because the study considers only serious assaults and alcohol sold in shops (i.e., not including alcohol sold in bars), it probably underestimates the association between alcohol and assault. It also does not indicate whether the victim or perpetrator of the assault (or both) had been drinking, and its findings may not apply to countries with different drinking habits. Nevertheless, these findings support the idea that the consumption of alcohol contributes to the occurrence of medical injuries from intentional violence. Increasing the price of alcohol or making alcohol harder to obtain might help to reduce the occurrence of alcohol-related assaults. The researchers suggest that a particularly effective approach may be to stigmatize alcohol-related brawling, analogous to the way that driving under the influence of alcohol has been made socially unacceptable.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050104.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Bennetts and Seabrook
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides information on all aspects of alcohol abuse, including an article on alcohol use and violence among young adults
Alcohol-related assault is examined in the British Crime Survey
Alcohol Concern, the UK national agency on alcohol misuse, provides fact sheets on the health impacts of alcohol, young people's drinking, and alcohol and crime
The Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto provides information about alcohol addiction (in English and French)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050104
PMCID: PMC2375945  PMID: 18479181
13.  Mortality and Hospital Stay Associated with Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli Bacteremia: Estimating the Burden of Antibiotic Resistance in Europe 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(10):e1001104.
The authors calculate excess mortality, excess hospital stay, and related hospital expenditure associated with antibiotic-resistant bacterial bloodstream infections (Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli) in Europe.
Background
The relative importance of human diseases is conventionally assessed by cause-specific mortality, morbidity, and economic impact. Current estimates for infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not sufficiently supported by quantitative empirical data. This study determined the excess number of deaths, bed-days, and hospital costs associated with blood stream infections (BSIs) caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Escherichia coli (G3CREC) in 31 countries that participated in the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS).
Methods and Findings
The number of BSIs caused by MRSA and G3CREC was extrapolated from EARSS prevalence data and national health care statistics. Prospective cohort studies, carried out in hospitals participating in EARSS in 2007, provided the parameters for estimating the excess 30-d mortality and hospital stay associated with BSIs caused by either MRSA or G3CREC. Hospital expenditure was derived from a publicly available cost model. Trends established by EARSS were used to determine the trajectories for MRSA and G3CREC prevalence until 2015. In 2007, 27,711 episodes of MRSA BSIs were associated with 5,503 excess deaths and 255,683 excess hospital days in the participating countries, whereas 15,183 episodes of G3CREC BSIs were associated with 2,712 excess deaths and 120,065 extra hospital days. The total costs attributable to excess hospital stays for MRSA and G3CREC BSIs were 44.0 and 18.1 million Euros (63.1 and 29.7 million international dollars), respectively. Based on prevailing trends, the number of BSIs caused by G3CREC is likely to rapidly increase, outnumbering the number of MRSA BSIs in the near future.
Conclusions
Excess mortality associated with BSIs caused by MRSA and G3CREC is significant, and the prolongation of hospital stay imposes a considerable burden on health care systems. A foreseeable shift in the burden of antibiotic resistance from Gram-positive to Gram-negative infections will exacerbate this situation and is reason for concern.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Antimicrobial resistance—a consequence of the use and misuse of antimicrobial medicines—occurs when a microorganism becomes resistant (usually by mutation or acquiring a resistance gene) to an antimicrobial drug to which it was previously sensitive. Then standard treatments become ineffective, leading to persistent infections, which may spread to other people. With some notable exceptions such as TB, HIV, malaria, and gonorrhea, most of the disease burden attributable to antimicrobial resistance is caused by hospital-associated infections due to opportunistic bacterial pathogens. These bacteria often cause life-threatening or difficult-to-manage conditions such as deep tissue, wound, or bone infections, or infections of the lower respiratory tract, central nervous system, or blood stream. The two most frequent causes of blood stream infections encountered worldwide are Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although hospital-associated infections have gained much attention over the past decade, the overall effect of this growing phenomenon on human health and medical services has still to be adequately quantified. The researchers proposed to fill this information gap by estimating the impact—morbidity, mortality, and demands on health care services—of antibiotic resistance in Europe for two types of resistant organisms that are typically associated with resistance to multiple classes of antibiotics and can be regarded as surrogate markers for multi-drug resistance—methicillin-resistant S. aureus and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Recently, the Burden of Resistance and Disease in European Nations project collected representative data on the clinical impact of antimicrobial resistance throughout Europe. Using and combining this information with 2007 prevalence data from the European Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance System, the researchers calculated the burden of disease associated with methicillin-resistant S. aureus and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli blood stream infections. This burden of disease was expressed as excess number of deaths, excess number of days in hospital, and excess costs. Using statistical models, the researchers predicted trend-based resistance trajectories up to 2015 for the 31 participating countries in the European region.
The researchers included 1,293 hospitals from the 31 countries, typically covering 47% of all available acute care hospital beds in most countries, in their analysis. For S. aureus, the estimated number of blood stream infections totaled 108,434, of which 27,711 (25.6%) were methicillin-resistant. E. coli caused 163,476 blood stream infections, of which 15,183 (9.3%) were resistant to third-generation cephalosporins. An estimated 5,503 excess deaths were associated with blood stream infections caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus (with the UK and France predicted to experience the highest excess mortality), and 2,712 excess deaths with blood stream infections caused by third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli (predicted to be the highest in Turkey and the UK). The researchers also found that blood stream infections caused by both methicillin-resistant S. aureus and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli contributed respective excesses of 255,683 and 120,065 extra bed-days, accounting for an estimated extra cost of 62.0 million Euros (92.8 million international dollars). In their trend analysis, the researchers found that 97,000 resistant blood stream infections and 17,000 associated deaths could be expected in 2015, along with increases in the lengths of hospital stays and costs. Importantly, the researchers estimated that in the near future, the burden of disease associated with third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli is likely to surpass that associated with methicillin-resistant S. aureus.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that even though the blood stream infections studied represent only a fraction of the total burden of disease associated with antibiotic resistance, excess mortality associated with these infections caused by methicillin-resistant S. aureus and third-generation cephalosporin-resistant E. coli is high, and the associated prolonged length of stays in hospital imposes a considerable burden on health care systems in Europe. Importantly, a possible shift in the burden of antibiotic resistance from Gram-positive to Gram-negative infections is concerning. Such forecasts suggest that despite anticipated gains in the control of methicillin-resistant S. aureus, the increasing number of infections caused by third-generation cephalosporin-resistant Gram-negative pathogens, such as E. coli, is likely to outweigh this achievement soon. This increasing burden will have a big impact on already stretched health systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001104.
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on general antimicrobial resistance
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage on antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance includes information on educational campaigns and resources
The European Centre for Disease Control provides data about the prevalence of resistance in Europe through an interactive database
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001104
PMCID: PMC3191157  PMID: 22022233
14.  How much are we spending? The estimation of research expenditures on cardiovascular disease in Canada 
Background
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death in Canada and is a priority area for medical research. The research funding landscape in Canada has changed quite a bit over the last few decades, as have funding levels. Our objective was to estimate the magnitude of expenditures on CVD research for the public and charitable (not-for profit) sectors in Canada between 1975 and 2005.
Methods
To estimate research expenditures for the public and charitable sectors, we compiled a complete list of granting agencies in Canada, contacted each agency and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and extracted data from the organizations’ annual reports and the Reference Lists of health research in Canada. Two independent reviewers scanned all grant and fellowship/scholarship titles (and summary/key words, when available) of all research projects funded to determine their inclusion in our analysis; only grants and fellowships/scholarships that focused on heart and peripheral vascular diseases were selected.
Results
Public/charitable sector funding increased 7.5 times, from close to $13 million (in constant dollars) in 1975 to almost $96 million (in constant dollars) in 2005 (base year). The Medical Research Council of Canada (MRCC)/CIHR and the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada have been the main founders of this type of research during our analysis period; the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Quebec have played major roles at the provincial level. The Indirect Costs Research Program and Canada Foundation for Innovation have played major roles in terms of funding in the last years of our analysis.
Conclusion
Public/charitable-funded research expenditures devoted to CVD have increased substantially over the last three decades. By international standards, the evidence suggests Canada spends less on health-related research than the UK and the US, at least in absolute terms. However, this may not be too problematic as Canada is likely to free-ride from research undertaken elsewhere. Understanding these past trends in research funding may provide decision makers with important information for planning future research efforts. Future work in this area should include the use of our coding methods to obtain estimates of funded research for other diseases in Canada.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-281
PMCID: PMC3469373  PMID: 22929001
Cardiovascular disease; Research expenditures; Health policy
15.  Geographic Distribution of Staphylococcus aureus Causing Invasive Infections in Europe: A Molecular-Epidemiological Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000215.
Hajo Grundmann and colleagues describe the development of a new interactive mapping tool for analyzing the spatial distribution of invasive Staphylococcus aureus clones.
Background
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most important human pathogens and methicillin-resistant variants (MRSAs) are a major cause of hospital and community-acquired infection. We aimed to map the geographic distribution of the dominant clones that cause invasive infections in Europe.
Methods and Findings
In each country, staphylococcal reference laboratories secured the participation of a sufficient number of hospital laboratories to achieve national geo-demographic representation. Participating laboratories collected successive methicillin-susceptible (MSSA) and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection using an agreed protocol. All isolates were sent to the respective national reference laboratories and characterised by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of the staphylococcal spa gene (spa typing), and data were uploaded to a central database. Relevant genetic and phenotypic information was assembled for interactive interrogation by a purpose-built Web-based mapping application. Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 countries collected 2,890 MSSA and MRSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infection. A wide geographical distribution of spa types was found with some prevalent in all European countries. MSSA were more diverse than MRSA. Genetic diversity of MRSA differed considerably between countries with dominant MRSA spa types forming distinctive geographical clusters. We provide evidence that a network approach consisting of decentralised typing and visualisation of aggregated data using an interactive mapping tool can provide important information on the dynamics of MRSA populations such as early signalling of emerging strains, cross border spread, and importation by travel.
Conclusions
In contrast to MSSA, MRSA spa types have a predominantly regional distribution in Europe. This finding is indicative of the selection and spread of a limited number of clones within health care networks, suggesting that control efforts aimed at interrupting the spread within and between health care institutions may not only be feasible but ultimately successful and should therefore be strongly encouraged.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus lives on the skin and in the nose of about a third of healthy people. Although S. aureus usually coexists peacefully with its human carriers, it is also an important disease-causing organism or pathogen. If it enters the body through a cut or during a surgical procedure, S. aureus can cause minor infections such as pimples and boils or more serious, life-threatening infections such as blood poisoning and pneumonia. Minor S. aureus infections can be treated without antibiotics—by draining a boil, for example. Invasive infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many of the S. aureus clones (groups of bacteria that are all genetically related and descended from a single, common ancestor) that are now circulating are resistant to methicillin and several other antibiotics. Invasive methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections are a particular problem in hospitals and other health care facilities (so-called hospital-acquired MRSA infections), but they can also occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been admitted to a hospital (community-acquired MRSA infections).
Why Was This Study Done?
The severity and outcome of an S. aureus infection in an individual depends in part on the ability of the bacterial clone with which the individual is infected to cause disease—the clone's “virulence.” Public-health officials and infectious disease experts would like to know the geographic distribution of the virulent S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections, because this information should help them understand how these pathogens spread and thus how to control them. Different clones of S. aureus can be distinguished by “molecular typing,” the determination of clone-specific sequences of nucleotides in variable regions of the bacterial genome (the bacterium's blueprint; genomes consist of DNA, long chains of nucleotides). In this study, the researchers use molecular typing to map the geographic distribution of MRSA and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) clones causing invasive infections in Europe; a MRSA clone emerges when an MSSA clone acquires antibiotic resistance from another type of bacteria so it is useful to understand the geographic distribution of both MRSA and MSSA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between September 2006 and February 2007, 357 laboratories serving 450 hospitals in 26 European countries collected almost 3,000 MRSA and MSSA isolates from patients with invasive S. aureus infections. The isolates were sent to the relevant national staphylococcal reference laboratory (SRL) where they were characterized by quality-controlled sequence typing of the variable region of a staphylococcal gene called spa (spa typing). The spa typing data were entered into a central database and then analyzed by a public, purpose-built Web-based mapping tool (SRL-Maps), which provides interactive access and easy-to-understand illustrations of the geographical distribution of S. aureus clones. Using this mapping tool, the researchers found that there was a wide geographical distribution of spa types across Europe with some types being common in all European countries. MSSA isolates were more diverse than MRSA isolates and the genetic diversity (variability) of MRSA differed considerably between countries. Most importantly, major MRSA spa types occurred in distinct geographical clusters.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the first representative snapshot of the genetic population structure of S. aureus across Europe. Because the researchers used spa typing, which analyzes only a small region of one gene, and characterized only 3,000 isolates, analysis of other parts of the S. aureus genome in more isolates is now needed to build a complete portrait of the geographical abundance of the S. aureus clones that cause invasive infections in Europe. However, the finding that MRSA spa types occur mainly in geographical clusters has important implications for the control of MRSA, because it indicates that a limited number of clones are spreading within health care networks, which means that MRSA is mainly spread by patients who are repeatedly admitted to different hospitals. Control efforts aimed at interrupting this spread within and between health care institutions may be feasible and ultimately successful, suggest the researchers, and should be strongly encouraged. In addition, this study shows how, by sharing typing results on a Web-based platform, an international surveillance network can provide clinicians and infection control teams with crucial information about the dynamics of pathogens such as S. aureus, including early warnings about emerging virulent clones.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000215.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Franklin D. Lowy
The UK Health Protection Agency provides information about Staphylococcus aureus
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has pages on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has information about MRSA
The US Centers for Disease Control and Infection provides information about MRSA for the public and professionals
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on staphylococcal infections and on MRSA (in English and Spanish)
SRL-Maps can be freely accessed
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000215
PMCID: PMC2796391  PMID: 20084094
16.  Antimicrobial resistance programs in Canada 1995-2010: a critical evaluation 
Background
In Canada, systematic efforts for controlling antibiotic resistance began in 1997 following a national Consensus Conference. The Canadian strategy produced 27 recommendations, one of which was the formation of the Canadian Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (CCAR). In addition several other organizations began working on a national or provincial basis over the ensuing years on one or more of the 3 identified core areas of the strategy. Critical evaluation of the major programs within Canada which focused on antimicrobial resistance and the identified core components has not been previously conducted.
Findings
Data was collected from multiple sources to determine the components of four major AMR programs that were considered national based on their scope or in the delivery of their mandates. Assessment of program components was adapted from the report from the International Forum on Antibiotic Resistance colloquium. Most of the programs used similar tools but only the Do Bugs Need Drugs Program (DBND) had components directed towards day cares and schools. Surveillance programs for antimicrobial resistant pathogens have limitations and/or significant sources of bias. Overall, there has been a 25.3% decrease in oral antimicrobial prescriptions in Canada since 1995, mainly due to decreases in β lactams, sulphonamides and tetracyclines in temporal association with multiple programs with the most comprehensive and sustained national programs being CCAR and DBND.
Conclusions
Although there has been a substantial decrease in oral antimicrobial prescriptions in Canada since 1995, there remains a lack of leadership and co-ordination of antimicrobial resistance activities.
doi:10.1186/2047-2994-1-10
PMCID: PMC3436608  PMID: 22958783
antimicrobial resistance; stewardship; antibiotic; scripts; prescribing; population; program components
17.  Antimicrobial susceptibility of hazard analysis critical control point Escherichia coli isolates from federally inspected beef processing plants in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario 
The Canadian Veterinary Journal  2003;44(9):723-728.
A survey to estimate the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in Escherichia coli was conducted in 7 Canadian federally inspected processing plants during 2001. Escherichia coli isolates were recovered during routine hazard analysis critical control point sampling from beef carcasses and trim and subsequently tested for their antimicrobial susceptibility by using susceptibility panels.
Of the 2653 isolates analyzed, 68% were sensitive to all 18 antimicrobials tested. For 14 of the 18 antimicrobials evaluated, the percentage of resistant isolates was ≤ 1. Twenty-five percent of the isolates were resistant to tetracycline, 9% to sulfamethoxazole, 7% to streptomycin, and 3% to ampicillin. Multiple resistance was found in 12% of the isolates, with 7% showing resistance to 2 antimicrobials, 2% to 3 antimicrobials, 2% to 4 antimicrobials, and 1% to 5 or more antimicrobials. Forty-five different antimicrobial resistance patterns were observed. The reasons for the development of the antimicrobial resistance were not investigated in this study.
This study was useful as a pilot to help to develop a national antimicrobial resistance surveillance program in Canada. This study indicates that laboratory standardization is possible for consistent results across the country and that the indicator organism, E. coli, is fairly easy to obtain for surveillance but Salmonella are not, due to their low prevalence in beef.
PMCID: PMC340267  PMID: 14524625
18.  Regulating compassion: an overview of Canada's federal medical cannabis policy and practice 
Background
In response to a number of court challenges brought forth by Canadian patients who demonstrated that they benefited from the use of medicinal cannabis but remained vulnerable to arrest and persecution as a result of its status as a controlled substance, in 1999 Canada became the second nation in the world to initiate a centralized medicinal cannabis program. Over its six years of existence, this controversial program has been found unconstitutional by a number of courts, and has faced criticism from the medical establishment, law enforcement, as well as the patient/participants themselves.
Methods
This critical policy analysis is an evidence-based review of court decisions, government records, relevant studies and Access to Information Act data related to the three main facets of Health Canada's medicinal cannabis policy – the Marihuana Medical Access Division (MMAD); the Canadians Institute of Health Research Medical Marijuana Research Program; and the federal cannabis production and distribution program. This analysis also examines Canada's network of unregulated community-based dispensaries.
Results
There is a growing body of evidence that Health Canada's program is not meeting the needs of the nation's medical cannabis patient community and that the policies of the Marihuana Medical Access Division may be significantly limiting the potential individual and public health benefits achievable though the therapeutic use of cannabis. Canada's community-based dispensaries supply medical cannabis to a far greater number of patients than the MMAD, but their work is currently unregulated by any level of government, leaving these organizations and their clients vulnerable to arrest and prosecution.
Conclusion
Any future success will depend on the government's ability to better assess and address the needs and legitimate concerns of end-users of this program, to promote and fund an expanded clinical research agenda, and to work in cooperation with community-based medical cannabis dispensaries in order to address the ongoing issue of safe and timely access to this herbal medicine.
doi:10.1186/1477-7517-5-5
PMCID: PMC2267789  PMID: 18226254
19.  Oncology drug health technology assessment recommendations: Canadian versus UK experiences 
Background
Canada has two health technology assessment (HTA) agencies responsible for oncology drug funding recommendations: the Institut National d’Excellence en Santé et Services Sociaux (INESSS) for the province of Québec and the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review for the rest of Canada. The objective of the research was to review and compare the recommendations of these two agencies alongside an international comparator – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom – with respect to their recommendations records and the influence of clinical and cost-effectiveness evidence on the recommendations.
Methods
Recommendations were identified from the three agencies from January 1, 2002 to June 1, 2013. Recommendations were limited to five cancer sites (lung, breast, colon, kidney, blood) and to metastatic/advanced settings. Descriptive analyses examined the frequency of positive recommendations and factors related to a positive recommendation. For each recommendation, only publicly available information posted on the agency website was used to abstract data.
Results
There was a wide variation in the rate of positive recommendations, ranging from 48% for NICE to 95% for Canada’s national process (among the 74% of its recommendations that were publicly posted). Interagency agreement was low, with full agreement for only six of the 14 drugs commonly reviewed by all three agencies. Evidence of a survival gain was not necessary for a positive recommendation; progression-free survival was acceptable. Different approaches were taken when addressing unacceptable cost-effectiveness. NICE was most likely to yield a negative recommendation on these grounds, whereas Canada’s national process was most likely to yield a positive recommendation with a required pricing arrangement.
Conclusion
In this analysis, the primary reason for the observed divergence between agency recommendations appeared to be the availability of mechanisms in each jurisdiction to address cost-effectiveness subsequent to the HTA assessment process. Furthermore, caution is needed when interpreting cross-agency comparisons between HTA agencies, as recommendations may not correspond directly to subsequent funding decisions and actual patient access. This may be a concern, given the high international profile of assessments conducted by the reviewed HTA agencies.
doi:10.2147/CEOR.S66309
PMCID: PMC4106959  PMID: 25075196
reimbursement; decision-making; oncology; health technology assessment; funding decisions; metastatic/advanced cancer
20.  How research funding agencies support science integration into policy and practice: An international overview 
Background
Funding agencies constitute one essential pillar for policy makers, researchers and health service delivery institutions. Such agencies are increasingly providing support for science implementation. In this paper, we investigate health research funding agencies and how they support the integration of science into policy, and of science into practice, and vice versa.
Methods
We selected six countries: Australia, The Netherlands, France, Canada, England and the United States. For 13 funding agencies, we compared their intentions to support, their actions related to science integration into policy and practice, and the reported benefits of this integration. We did a qualitative content analysis of the reports and information provided on the funding agencies’ websites.
Results
Most funding agencies emphasized the importance of science integration into policy and practice in their strategic orientation, and stated how this integration was structured. Their funding activities were embedded in the push, pull, or linkage/exchange knowledge transfer model. However, few program funding efforts were based on all three models. The agencies reported more often on the benefits of integration on practice, rather than on policy. External programs that were funded largely covered science integration into policy and practice at the end of grant stage, while overlooking the initial stages. Finally, external funding actions were more prominent than internally initiated bridging activities and training activities on such integration.
Conclusions
This paper contributes to research on science implementation because it goes beyond the two community model of researchers versus end users, to include funding agencies. Users of knowledge may be end users in health organizations like hospitals; civil servants assigned to decision making positions within funding agencies; civil servants outside of the Ministry of Health, such as the Ministry of the Environment; politicians deciding on health-related legislation; or even university researchers whose work builds on previous research. This heterogeneous sample of users may require different user-specific mechanisms for research initiation, development and dissemination. This paper builds the foundation for further discussion on science implementation from the perspective of funding agencies in the health field. In general, case studies can help in identifying best practices for evidence-informed decision making.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-9-28
PMCID: PMC3939639  PMID: 24565209
Knowledge management system; Knowledge funding agencies; Knowledge use/utilization; International; Science; Policy; Funding agency
21.  Donor Funding for Newborn Survival: An Analysis of Donor-Reported Data, 2002–2010 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001332.
With recent increases in development assistance money for maternal and child health, Catherine Pitt and colleagues examine whether foreign aid specifically for newborns has changed, whether it's on par with the burden of newborn deaths worldwide, and how such funding can be tracked.
Background
Neonatal mortality accounts for 43% of global under-five deaths and is decreasing more slowly than maternal or child mortality. Donor funding has increased for maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH), but no analysis to date has disaggregated aid for newborns. We evaluated if and how aid flows for newborn care can be tracked, examined changes in the last decade, and considered methodological implications for tracking funding for specific population groups or diseases.
Methods and Findings
We critically reviewed and categorised previous analyses of aid to specific populations, diseases, or types of activities. We then developed and refined key terms related to newborn survival in seven languages and searched titles and descriptions of donor disbursement records in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Creditor Reporting System database, 2002–2010. We compared results with the Countdown to 2015 database of aid for MNCH (2003–2008) and the search strategy used by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Prior to 2005, key terms related to newborns were rare in disbursement records but their frequency increased markedly thereafter. Only two mentions were found of “stillbirth” and only nine references were found to “fetus” in any spelling variant or language. The total value of non-research disbursements mentioning any newborn search terms rose from US$38.4 million in 2002 to US$717.1 million in 2010 (constant 2010 US$). The value of non-research projects exclusively benefitting newborns fluctuated somewhat but remained low, at US$5.7 million in 2010. The United States and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provided the largest value of non-research funding mentioning and exclusively benefitting newborns, respectively.
Conclusions
Donor attention to newborn survival has increased since 2002, but it appears unlikely that donor aid is commensurate with the 3.0 million newborn deaths and 2.7 million stillbirths each year. We recommend that those tracking funding for other specific population groups, diseases, or activities consider a key term search approach in the Creditor Reporting System along with a detailed review of their data, but that they develop their search terms and interpretations carefully, taking into account the limitations described.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 1990, 12 million children—most of them living in developing countries—died before they reached their fifth birthday. Faced with this largely avoidable loss of young lives, in 2000, world leaders set a target of reducing under-five mortality (deaths) to one-third of its 1990 level by 2015 as Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4); this goal, together with seven others, aims to eradicate extreme poverty globally. In recent years, progress towards reducing child mortality has accelerated but remains insufficient to achieve MDG4, in part, because progress towards reducing neonatal mortality—deaths during the first 28 days of life—has been particularly slow. Neonatal deaths now account for a greater proportion of global child deaths than in 1990—43% of the 7 million children who died before their fifth birthday in 2011 died during the neonatal period. The major causes of neonatal deaths are complications of preterm and term delivery and infections. Simple interventions such as improved hygiene at birth and advice on breastfeeding can substantially reduce neonatal deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
To achieve MDG4, more must be done to prevent deaths among newborn babies. One reason that progress in reducing neonatal mortality is slow could be insufficient donor funding (aid) for newborn health. Previous analyses by, for example, Countdown to 2015 (which tracks coverage levels for health interventions that reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality) indicate that donor funding has increased for maternal, newborn, and child health over the past decade, but how much of this aid directly benefits newborns is unknown. Here, the researchers develop a method for tracking aid flows for newborns and examine changes in this flow over the past decade by applying their new strategy to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS) Aid Activity database. This database collects information about official development assistance for health given (disbursed) to developing countries by member countries of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, international organizations, and some private donors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a comprehensive set of search terms related to newborn survival by piloting it on the Countdown to 2015 official development assistance database, which covers the years 2003–2008. They then used their list of 24 key terms to search the CRS database from 2002 (the first year for which relatively complete disbursement data are available) to 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available) and classified each retrieved project according to whether its funding activities aimed to benefit newborns exclusively or to improve the health of other population groups as well. The researchers found that key terms related to newborns were rare in disbursement records before 2005 but that their frequency increased markedly thereafter. The total value of non-research disbursements (aid provided for programmatic or advocacy activities) that mentioned any newborn search terms increased from US$38.4 million in 2002 to US$717.1 million in 2010. The value of non-research projects that exclusively benefitted newborns fluctuated; in 2010, it was $US5.7 million. Finally, the US and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provided the largest value of non-research funding mentioning newborns and exclusively benefitting newborns, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the value of aid disbursements mentioning newborns or an activity likely to benefit newborns increased 20-fold between 2002 and 2010 and constituted an increasing proportion of aid for maternal, newborn, and child health. Although this increase may partly reflect increased detail in aid disbursement reporting, it is also likely to reflect an increase in donor attention to newborn survival. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by limitations in the search strategy and in the CRS database, which does not capture aid flows from emerging donors such as China or from many private foundations. Moreover, because these findings take no account of domestic expenditure, they do not provide a comprehensive estimate of the value of resources available in developing countries for newborn health. Nevertheless, investment in newborn survival is unlikely to be commensurate with global newborn mortality. Thus, an expansion of programmatic funding from donors as well as increased governmental support for newborn health in developing countries is urgently needed to catalyze the scale-up of cost-effective interventions to save newborn lives and to meet MDG4.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001332.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health, including the 2012 report of UN Inter-agency Group of Child Mortality Estimation; its Committing to Child Survival: a Promise Renewed webpage includes links to its 2012 progress report, to a video about progress made in reducing child deaths worldwide, and to stories about child survival in the field
The World Health Organization has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and about maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (some information in several languages)
Countdown to 2015 provides additional information on maternal, newborn, and child survival, including its 2012 report Building a Future for Women and Children
The Healthy Newborn Network (HNN) is a community of more than 70 partner organizations addressing critical knowledge gaps for newborn health providing recent data on newborn survival and analyses of country programs
Information on and access to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development Creditor Reporting System Aid Activities database is available
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001332
PMCID: PMC3484125  PMID: 23118619
22.  Longitudinal surveillance of outpatient quinolone antimicrobial use in Canada 
INTRODUCTION:
Because antimicrobial use is commonly associated with the development of antimicrobial resistance, monitoring the volume and patterns of use of these agents is important.
OBJECTIVE:
To assess the use of quinolone antimicrobials within Canadian provinces over time.
METHODS:
Antimicrobial prescribing data collected by IMS Health Canada were acquired from the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance and the Canadian Committee for Antimicrobial Resistance, and were used to calculate two yearly metrics: prescriptions per 1000 inhabitant-days and the mean defined daily doses (DDDs) per prescription. These measures were used to produce linear mixed models to assess differences among provinces and over time, while accounting for repeated measurements.
RESULTS:
The quinolone class of antimicrobials is used similarly among Canadian provinces. Year-to-year increases in quinolone prescribing occurred from 1995 to 2010, with a levelling off in the latter years. Year-to-year decreases in the DDDs per prescription were found to be significant from 2000 to 2010.
DISCUSSION:
Although the overall use of antimicrobials differs significantly among Canadian provinces, the use of the quinolone class does not vary at the provincial level. Results suggest that prescribing of ciprofloxacin may be a potential target for antimicrobial stewardship programs; however, decreases in the average DDDs per prescription suggest continued uptake of appropriate treatment guidelines.
PMCID: PMC4028676  PMID: 24855478
Antimicrobial use; Drug utilization; Quinolones; Surveillance
23.  Configuring Balanced Scorecards for Measuring Health System Performance: Evidence from 5 Years' Evaluation in Afghanistan 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001066.
Anbrasi Edward and colleagues report the results of a balanced scorecard performance system used to examine 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period in Afghanistan, between 2004 and 2008.
Background
In 2004, Afghanistan pioneered a balanced scorecard (BSC) performance system to manage the delivery of primary health care services. This study examines the trends of 29 key performance indicators over a 5-year period between 2004 and 2008.
Methods and Findings
Independent evaluations of performance in six domains were conducted annually through 5,500 patient observations and exit interviews and 1,500 provider interviews in >600 facilities selected by stratified random sampling in each province. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were used to assess trends in BSC parameters. There was a progressive improvement in the national median scores scaled from 0–100 between 2004 and 2008 in all six domains: patient and community satisfaction of services (65.3–84.5, p<0.0001); provider satisfaction (65.4–79.2, p<0.01); capacity for service provision (47.4–76.4, p<0.0001); quality of services (40.5–67.4, p<0.0001); and overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services (52.0–52.6). The financial domain also showed improvement until 2007 (84.4–95.7, p<0.01), after which user fees were eliminated. By 2008, all provinces achieved the upper benchmark of national median set in 2004.
Conclusions
The BSC has been successfully employed to assess and improve health service capacity and service delivery using performance benchmarking during the 5-year period. However, scorecard reconfigurations are needed to integrate effectiveness and efficiency measures and accommodate changes in health systems policy and strategy architecture to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness as a comprehensive health system performance measure. The process of BSC design and implementation can serve as a valuable prototype for health policy planners managing performance in similar health care contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Traditionally, the performance of a health system (the complete network of health care agencies, facilities, and providers in a defined geographical region) has been measured in terms of health outcomes: how many people have been treated, how many got better, and how many died. But, nowadays, with increased demand for improved governance and accountability, policy makers are seeking comprehensive performance measures that show in detail how innovations designed to strengthen health systems are affecting service delivery and health outcomes. One such performance measure is the “balanced scorecard,” an integrated management and measurement tool that enables organizations to clarify their vision and strategy and translate them into action. The balanced scorecard—essentially a list of key performance indicators and performance benchmarks in several domains—was originally developed for industry but is now becoming a popular strategic management tool in the health sector. For example, balanced scorecards have been successfully integrated into the Dutch and Italian public health care systems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Little is known about the use of balanced scorecards in the national public health care systems of developing countries but the introduction of performance management into health system reform in fragile states in particular (developing countries where the state fails to perform the fundamental functions necessary to meet its citizens' basic needs and expectations) could help to promote governance and leadership, and facilitate essential policy changes. One fragile state that has introduced the balanced scorecard system for public health care management is Afghanistan, which emerged from decades of conflict in 2002 with some of the world's worst health indicators. To deal with an extremely high burden of disease, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) designed a Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), which is delivered by nongovernmental organizations and MOPH agencies. In 2004, the MOPH introduced the National Health Service Performance Assessment (NHSPA), an annual country-wide assessment of service provision and patient satisfaction and pioneered a balanced scorecard, which uses data collected in the NHSPA, to manage the delivery of primary health care services. In this study, the researchers examine the trends between 2004 and 2008 of the 29 key performance indicators in six domains included in this balanced scorecard, and consider the potential and limitations of the scorecard as a management tool to measure and improve health service delivery in Afghanistan and other similar countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each year of the study, a random sample of 25 facilities (district hospitals and comprehensive and basic health centers) in 28 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces was chosen (one province did not have functional facilities in 2004 and the other five missing provinces were inaccessible because of ongoing conflicts). NHSPA surveyors collected approximately 5,000 patient observations, 5,000 exit interviews with patients or their caregivers, and 1,500 health provider interviews by observing consultations involving five children under 5 years old and five patients over 5 years old in each facility. The researchers then used this information to evaluate the key performance indicators in the balanced scorecard and a statistical method called generalized estimating equation modeling to assess trends in these indicators. They report that there was a progressive improvement in national average scores in all six domains (patients and community satisfaction with services, provider satisfaction, capacity for service provision, quality of services, overall vision for pro-poor and pro-female health services, and financial systems) between 2004 and 2008.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the balanced scorecard was successfully used to improve health system capacity and service delivery through performance benchmarking over the 5-year study period. Importantly, the use of the balanced scorecard helped to show the effects of investments, facilitate policy change, and create a more evidence-based decision-making culture in Afghanistan's primary health care system. However, the researchers warn that the continuing success of the balanced scorecard in Afghanistan will depend on its ability to accommodate changes in health systems policy. Furthermore, reconfigurations of the scorecard are needed to include measures of the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the health system such as mortality rates. More generally, the researchers conclude that the balanced scorecard offers a promising measure of health system performance that could be used to examine the effectiveness of health care strategies and innovations in other fragile and developing countries.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066.
A 2010 article entitled An Afghan Success Story: The Balanced Scorecard and Improved Health Services in The Globe, a newsletter produced by the Department of International Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provides a detailed description of the balanced scorecard used in this study
Wikipedia has a page on health systems and on balanced scorecards (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The World Health Organization country profile of Afghanistan provides information on the country's health system and burden of disease (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001066
PMCID: PMC3144209  PMID: 21814499
24.  Moving research into practice: lessons from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's IDSRN program 
Background
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Integrated Delivery Systems Research Network (IDSRN) program was established to foster public-private collaboration between health services researchers and health care delivery systems. Its broad goal was to link researchers and delivery systems to encourage implementation of research into practice. We evaluated the program to address two primary questions: 1) How successful was IDSRN in generating research findings that could be applied in practice? and 2) What factors facilitate or impede such success?
Methods
We conducted in-person and telephone interviews with AHRQ staff and nine IDSRN partner organizations and their collaborators, reviewed program documents, analyzed projects funded through the program, and developed case studies of four IDSRN projects judged promising in supporting research implementation.
Results
Participants reported that the IDSRN structure was valuable in creating closer ties between researchers and participating health systems. Of the 50 completed projects studied, 30 had an operational effect or use. Some kinds of projects were more successful than others in influencing operations. If certain conditions were met, a variety of partnership models successfully supported implementation. An internal champion was necessary for partnerships involving researchers based outside the delivery system. Case studies identified several factors important to success: responsiveness of project work to delivery system needs, ongoing funding to support multiple project phases, and development of applied products or tools that helped users see their operational relevance. Factors limiting success included limited project funding, competing demands on potential research users, and failure to reach the appropriate audience.
Conclusion
Forging stronger partnerships between researchers and delivery systems has the potential to make research more relevant to users, but these benefits require clear goals and appropriate targeting of resources. Trade-offs are inevitable. The health services research community can best consider such trade-offs and set priorities if there is more dialogue to identify areas and approaches where such partnerships may have the most promise. Though it has unique features, the IDSRN experience is relevant to research implementation in diverse settings.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-2-9
PMCID: PMC1851710  PMID: 17394644
25.  Riding the knowledge translation roundabout: lessons learned from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Summer Institute in knowledge translation 
Background
Funding the education and training of the next generation of health researchers is a key mandate of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) knowledge translation (KT) portfolio. The field of KT is growing daily; thus, the training and development of a new generation of KT researchers is essential.
Methods
Using curriculum documents, participant evaluations, and self-reflection, this paper describes a unique Summer Institute hosted by the CIHR in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. We outline the key aspects of a successful training initiative that could inform organizations and agencies worldwide with an interest in or who have a mandate for KT.
Results
This work provides potential funders, faculty, and students with an inside look into the purpose, process, and outcomes of such training initiatives.
Conclusion
National and international KT organizations, research institutions, and funding agencies are encouraged to consider replicating the training model employed here, as investment into KT personnel will foster the advancement of the field within and beyond local borders.
'To the individual who devotes his/her life to science, nothing can give more happiness than when the results immediately find practical application. There are not two sciences. There is science and the application of science, and these two are linked as the fruit is to the tree.' – Louis Pasteur, 1871 (from presentation by Ian Graham, 2008 CIHR Knowledge Translation Summer Institute)
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-33
PMCID: PMC2700786  PMID: 19523216

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