Objective To compare trends in breast cancer mortality within three pairs of neighbouring European countries in relation to implementation of screening.
Design Retrospective trend analysis.
Setting Three country pairs (Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) v Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands v Belgium and Flanders (Belgian region south of the Netherlands), and Sweden v Norway).
Data sources WHO mortality database on cause of death and data sources on mammography screening, cancer treatment, and risk factors for breast cancer mortality.
Main outcome measures Changes in breast cancer mortality calculated from linear regressions of log transformed, age adjusted death rates. Joinpoint analysis was used to identify the year when trends in mortality for all ages began to change.
Results From 1989 to 2006, deaths from breast cancer decreased by 29% in Northern Ireland and by 26% in the Republic of Ireland; by 25% in the Netherlands and by 20% in Belgium and 25% in Flanders; and by 16% in Sweden and by 24% in Norway. The time trend and year of downward inflexion were similar between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Netherlands and Flanders. In Sweden, mortality rates have steadily decreased since 1972, with no downward inflexion until 2006. Countries of each pair had similar healthcare services and prevalence of risk factors for breast cancer mortality but differing implementation of mammography screening, with a gap of about 10-15 years.
Conclusions The contrast between the time differences in implementation of mammography screening and the similarity in reductions in mortality between the country pairs suggest that screening did not play a direct part in the reductions in breast cancer mortality.
The challenges posed by the rapidly ageing population, and the increased preponderance of disabled people in this group, coupled with the rising level of public expenditure required to service the complex organization of long term care (LTC) delivery are causing increased pressure on LTC systems in Europe. A pan-European survey was carried out to evaluate whether patterns of LTC can be identified across Europe and what are the trends of the countries along them.
An ecological study was conducted on the 27 EU Member States plus Norway and Iceland, referring to the period 2003-2007. Several variables related to organizational features, elderly needs and expenditure were drawn from OECD Health Data and the Eurostat Statistics database and combined using Multiple Factor Analysis (MFA).
Two global Principal Components were taken into consideration given that their expressed total variance was greater than 60%. They were interpreted according to the higher (more than 0.5) positive or negative correlation coefficients between them and the original variables; thus patterns of LTC were identified. High alignment between old age related expenditure and elderly needs characterizes Nordic and Western European countries, the former also having a higher level of formal care than the latter. Mediterranean as well as Central and South Eastern European countries show lower alignment between old age related expenditure and elderly needs, coupled with a level of provision of formal care that is around or slightly above the average European level. In the dynamic comparison, linear, stable or unclear trends were shown for the studied countries.
The analysis carried out is an explorative and descriptive study, which is an attempt to reveal patterns and trends of LTC in Europe, allowing comparisons between countries. It also stimulates further researches with lower aggregated data useful to gain meaningful policy-making evidence.
Please see related article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/9/124
Background and objective
Indicators to measure the quality of healthcare are increasingly used by healthcare professionals and policy makers. In the context of increasing antimicrobial resistance, this study aimed to develop valid drug‐specific quality indicators for outpatient antibiotic use in Europe, derived from European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC) data.
27 experts (15 countries), in a European Science Foundation workshop, built on the expertise within the European Drug Utilisation Research Group, the General Practice Respiratory Infections Network, the ESCMID Study Group on Primary Care Topics, the Belgian Antibiotic Policy Coordination Committee, the World Health Organization, ESAC, and other experts. A set of proposed indicators was developed using 1997–2003 ESAC data. Participants scored the relevance of each indicator to reducing antimicrobial resistance, patient health benefit, cost effectiveness and public health policy makers (scale: 1 (completely disagree) to 9 (completely agree)). The scores were processed according to the UCLA‐RAND appropriateness method. Indicators were judged relevant if the median score was not in the 1–6 interval and if there was consensus (number of scores within the 1–3 interval was fewer than one third of the panel). From the relevant indicators providing overlapping information, the one with the highest scores was selected for the final set of quality indicators—values were updated with 2004 ESAC data.
22 participants (12 countries) completed scoring of a set of 22 proposed indicators. Nine were rated as relevant antibiotic prescribing indicators on all four dimensions; five were rated as relevant if only relevance to reducing antimicrobial resistance and public health policy makers was taken into account. A final set of 12 indicators was selected.
12 of the proposed ESAC‐based quality indicators for outpatient antibiotic use in Europe have face validity and are potentially applicable. These indicators could be used to better describe antibiotic use in ambulatory care and assess the quality of national antibiotic prescribing patterns in Europe.
To analyze the main indicators of income inequality, objective and subjective poverty, material deprivation, and the role of public social transfers in the reduction of poverty in 15 old and 10 new member states of the European Union (EU), undergoing post-communist socio-economic transition, as well as in Croatia, a candidate EU country.
Objective poverty rates, poverty reduction rates, poverty thresholds in purchasing power standards (PPS), total social expenditure, inequality indicators, and risks of poverty according to demographics were calculated using the data from the Eurostat databases (in particular, Household Budget Survey). For Croatia, Central Bureau of Statistics first releases on poverty indicators were used, as well as database of the Ministry of Finance (social expenditure). Subjective poverty rates and non-monetary deprivation index were calculated using the European Quality of Life Survey, which was carried out in 2003 in EU countries and in 2006 in Croatia.
According to the indicators of income inequality and objective poverty, there was a divide among old EU member states (EU15), with UK, Ireland and South European countries having higher and Continental and Nordic countries lower indicators of inequality and poverty. Among new member states (NMS10), Baltic countries and Poland had the highest and Slovenia and the Czech Republic the lowest indicators of inequality and poverty. In all EU15 countries, except Greece, subjective poverty rates were lower than objective ones, whereas in all NMS10 countries the levels of subjective poverty were much higher than those of objective poverty. With some exceptions, NMS10 countries had low or even decreasing social expenditures. The share of respondents who were deprived of more than 50% of items was 6 times higher in the NMS10 than in the EU15 countries. When standard of living was measured by income inequality, relative poverty rates, poverty reduction rates, total social protection expenditures, and non-monetary deprivation, only Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, out of the NMS10, were in the upper half of the distribution, while Croatia had a medium position among NMS10 states.
Our analysis demonstrated that poverty in countries undergoing post-socialist socioeconomic transition is widespread and could seriously limit human development. Continual research and monitoring of different aspects of poverty is needed for setting appropriate policies across the EU to effectively combat poverty and social exclusion and to promote convergence process.
Recently, interest has grown in the association between contextual factors and health outcomes. This study questions whether mental health complaints vary according to the socio-economic characteristics of the residential area where people live. The gender-specific patterns are studied.
Complaints of depression and generalized anxiety were measured by means of the relevant subscales of the Symptoms Checklist 90-Revised. Multilevel models were estimated with PASW statistics 18, based on a unique dataset, constructed by merging data from the Belgian Health Interview Surveys from 2001 and 2004 with data from 264 municipalities derived from Statistics Belgium and the General Socio-Economic Survey.
The results of this exploratory study indicate that the local unemployment rate is associated with complaints of depression among women.
This study suggests that policy should approach the male and female population differently when implementing mental health prevention campaigns.
A health technology assessment (HTA) of catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (CA-AF) was commissioned by the Belgian government and performed by the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE). In this context, a systematic review of the economic literature was performed to assess the procedure’s value for money.
A systematic search for economic literature about the cost-effectiveness of CA-AF was performed by consulting various databases: CRD (Centre for Reviews and Dissemination) HTA and CDSR (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews) Technology Assessment, websites of HTA institutes, NHS EED (NHS Economic Evaluation Database), Medline (OVID), EMBASE and EconLit. No time or language restrictions were imposed and pre-defined selection criteria were used. The two-step selection procedure was performed by two persons. References of the selected studies were checked for additional relevant citations.
Out of 697 references, seven relevant studies were selected. Based on current evidence and economic considerations, the rationale to support catheter ablation as first-line treatment was lacking.
The economic evaluations for second-line catheter ablation included several assumptions that make the results rather optimistic or subject to large uncertainty. First, overall AAD (antiarrhythmic drugs) use after ablation was higher in reality than assumed in the economic evaluations, which had its impact on costs and effects. Second, several models focused on the impact of ablation on preventing stroke. This was questionable because there was no direct hard evidence from RCTs to support this assumption. An indirect impact through stroke on mortality should also be regarded with caution. Furthermore, all models included an impact on quality of life (QoL)/utility and assumed a long-term impact. Unfortunately, none of the RCTs measured QoL with a generic utility instrument and information on the long-term impact on both mortality and QoL was lacking.
Catheter ablation is associated with high initial costs and may lead to life-threatening complications. Its cost-effectiveness depends on the belief one places on the impact on utility and/or preventing stroke, and the duration of these effects. Having no hard evidence for these important variables is rather troublesome. Although the technique is widely spread, the scientific evidence is insufficient for drawing conclusions about the intervention’s cost-effectiveness.
Atrial fibrillation; Catheter ablation; Cost-Benefit analysis; Review
In this short essay, we would like to address a severe divergence observed in Italy between Life Expectancy (LE) and Healthy Life Expectancy (Healthy LE) and a unique trend of worsening in Healthy LE, compared to the other European countries. Both issues emerge in recent data by EUROSTAT Report.
The analysis used by the authors of the EUROSTAT report is based on Sullivan method which combines 2 type of variables: mortality and morbidity data.
While several European countries started to deal with comparable data about LE since 1960, in Italy, analogous data were available for the first time in EUROSTAT Report only in 1985. In Italy, in the period 1985-2008, there was a good progressive increase in L.E., following the best European values. Nevertheless, while until 2004 Italy was among the European best countries in terms of both LE and Healthy LE at birth, four years later in 2008 there was a shocking loss of 10 years of Healthy LE at birth in newborn girls. In the process, they lost their 2-years previous advantage with respect to males (the latter lost only 6 years of Healthy LE, in the same time span). Looking at healthy LE at age 65 in respect to 2004, Italian women in 2008 could expect to live healthy only about 7 years (as much as men) versus the almost 15 years of the European best values (14 years for men).
It is legitimate to wonder why no one official comment has been produced as a reaction after the first year of spectacular decline in Healthy Life Years in Italy: in counter-tendency with European values, from 2004 to 2008 there is a clear evidence of a 10 years drop in Healthy LE among newborn girls. The problem has not been taken into consideration even when the situation clearly appeared to worsen in the following years, dropping 4-6 more years for males and females in 2006 (for newborn babies); two more years of healthy life expectancy have been lost between 2006 and 2007 for each gender. One more year of Healthy Life Expectancy is lost in 2008. And data have not been made available any more, since then, from Italy.
Objective To investigate the impact of the 2008 global economic crisis on international trends in suicide and to identify sex/age groups and countries most affected.
Design Time trend analysis comparing the actual number of suicides in 2009 with the number that would be expected based on trends before the crisis (2000-07).
Setting Suicide data from 54 countries; for 53 data were available in the World Health Organization mortality database and for one (the United States) data came the CDC online database.
Population People aged 15 or above.
Main outcome measures Suicide rate and number of excess suicides in 2009.
Results There were an estimated 4884 (95% confidence interval 3907 to 5860) excess suicides in 2009 compared with the number expected based on previous trends (2000-07). The increases in suicide mainly occurred in men in the 27 European and 18 American countries; the suicide rates were 4.2% (3.4% to 5.1%) and 6.4% (5.4% to 7.5%) higher, respectively, in 2009 than expected if earlier trends had continued. For women, there was no change in European countries and the increase in the Americas was smaller than in men (2.3%). Rises in European men were highest in those aged 15-24 (11.7%), while in American countries men aged 45-64 showed the largest increase (5.2%). Rises in national suicide rates in men seemed to be associated with the magnitude of increases in unemployment, particularly in countries with low levels of unemployment before the crisis (Spearman’s rs=0.48).
Conclusions After the 2008 economic crisis, rates of suicide increased in the European and American countries studied, particularly in men and in countries with higher levels of job loss.
Lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to live in contaminated environments. This may partly explain socioeconomic health inequalities.
Does noise nuisance contribute to socio-economic inequalities in subjective health?
This research is based on the last Belgian census data carried out in 2001. We work on a 10% sample of the Belgian population. The data are processed through bivariate and multivariate analyses. We model poor subjective health in relation to exposure to noise nuisance and several socio-economic variables.
The risk of poor subjective health increases with noise nuisance and is higher in lower socio-economic groups. Noise nuisance does contribute to health inequalities, particularly regarding type of housing and activity. These relations are stronger in urban areas.
Noise nuisance affects the subjective health status and contributes to health inequalities, particularly in urban areas. This suggests that public policies, particularly those related to environmental planning, should be driven also by environmental equity considerations.
Health inequalities; noise nuisance; socio-economic factors; subjective health; urban health
The international nasopharynx cancer (NPC) burdens are masked due to the lack of integrated studies that examine epidemiological data based on up-to-date international disease databases such as the Cancer Information (CIN) databases provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
By analyzing the most recently updated NPC epidemiological data available from IARC, we tried to retrieve the worldwide NPC burden and patterns from combined analysis with GLOBOCAN2008 and the Cancer Incidence in Five Continents (CI5) databases. We provide age-standardized rates (ASR) for NPC mortality in 20 highest cancer registries from GLOBOCAN2008 and the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality databases, respectively. However, NPC incidence data can not be retrieved since it is not individually listed in CI5 database. The trend of NPC mortality was investigated with Joinpoint analysis in the selected countries/regions with high ASR.
GLOBOCAN 2008 revealed that the highest NPC incidence rates in 2008 were in registries from South-Eastern Asia, Micronesia and Southern Africa with Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore ranking the top 3. WHO mortality database analysis revealed that China Hong Kong, Singapore and Malta ranks the top 3 regions with the highest 5-year mortality rates.
NPC mortality rate is about 2–3 times higher in male than that in female, and shows decrease tendency in those selected countries/regions during the analyzed periods. However, the integrated analyses of the current IARC CIN databases may not be suitable to retrieve epidemiological data of NPC. Much effort is required to improve the local cancer entry and regional death-reporting systems so as to aid similar studies.
To study the predictive validity of the instrument used in the International Hospital Outcomes Study (IHOS) for an upcoming EU-funded project (RN4CAST), which will indicate the effect of the nursing work environment and nursing staff deployment on nurse recruitment, retention, and productivity; and on patient outcomes in 11 European countries.
Cross-sectional analysis of data from 179 nurses (75% response rate) who completed an IHOS-like nurse survey questionnaire, which included the Revised Nursing Work Index and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The nurses worked in four Belgian acute-care hospitals. Logistic regression modeling was performed to explore associations between nurse-perceived outcomes and nursing work environment factors that were checked with confirmatory factor analysis.
We confirmed associations between nurse-perceived outcomes and the following nursing work environment factors: nurse-physician relationship; staffing, and resource adequacy; and nurse manager ability, leadership, and support of nurses. A 1-point increase in the rating of the factor nurse-physician relationship was significantly associated with a 2.5-fold (OR, 2.53; 95% CI, 1.29–4.93; p<0.01) increase in the odds of reporting high job satisfaction and with a fourfold (OR, 4.02; 95% CI, 1.85–8.70; p<0.001) increase in the odds of reporting excellent nurse-perceived quality of care. A 1-point increase in the rating of the factor staffing and resource adequacy was significantly associated with an approximate threefold (OR, 2.81; 95% CI, 1.38–5.72; p<0.01) increase in the odds of reporting high job satisfaction and with a fourfold (OR, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.12–0.47; p<0.001) decrease in the odds of reporting burnout.
The predictive validity of the IHOS instrument was supported by the confirmation of key factors, which were previously identified by previous international research, and by the finding of similar associations between these factors and nurse-perceived outcomes. The IHOS questionnaire that will be used in the RN4CAST project is robust and psychometrically sound.
The RN4CAST consortium, consisting of members from 15 countries, will use a similar instrument to that used in the International Hospital Outcomes study to measure the nursing work environment. This information will be linked with patients’ experiences and data extracted from routinely collected hospital discharge data. RN4CAST will show the important role of nursing staff in providing high quality care and allow refinement of current forecasting models for personnel planning in nursing.
Work environment-working conditions; quality improvement-quality of care-quality of services; health policy; survey methodology-data collection
The aim of the study was to delineate rates of surgery, length of hospital stay, return to work, iterative surgery rates and cost to society of spinal tumor (ST) and spinal fracture (SF) surgery in Belgium. Overall surgery rates were obtained from the National Institute for Health Care and Disability Insurance. Medical and financial claims data were abstracted from the administrative database of the Alliance of Christian Sickness Funds which includes data of 42% of the mandatory insured Belgian population. All records including the reimbursement codes for ST and SF surgery in 2005 were identified. A logistic regression model was developed to determine the socio-demographic, surgery-related and sick leave predictors of return to work. Our database contained information about 3.791 patients who underwent surgery for SF and 2.322 patients who had surgery for ST. Year-to-year surgery rate growth for SF was estimated at 15%. The yearly increase in surgery rates for ST was calculated at 11%. The return to work rate was 90% 1 year after surgery for both SF and ST. Sixty percent of patients who underwent radiotherapy and surgery for ST were still alive 1 year after surgery. Length of hospital stay ranged from 1 to 27 days after surgery for ST and from 1 to 16 days after surgery for SF. Repeat surgery was performed in 8% of the ST cases and in 12% of the SF patients. Return to work rate remained significantly lower for blue collar workers, self-employed workers and patients with a longer sick leave before surgery. Patients who were absent from work for more than 3 months at time of surgery represent a high-risk group with regard to successful functional recovery.
Spinal fractures; Spinal tumors; Surgery rates; Return to work; Cost of surgery
In Belgium, the construction of the national electronic point-of-care information service, EBMPracticeNet, was initiated in 2011 to optimize quality of care by promoting evidence-based decision-making. The collaboration of the government, healthcare providers, Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) partners, and vendors of Electronic Health Records (EHR) is unique to this project. All Belgian healthcare professionals get free access to an up-to-date database of validated Belgian and nearly 1,000 international guidelines, incorporated in a portal that also provides EBM information from sources other than guidelines, including computerized clinical decision support that is integrated in the EHRs.
The EBMeDS system is the electronic evidence-based decision support system of EBMPracticeNet. The EBMeDS system covers all clinical areas of diseases and could play a crucial role in response to the emerging challenge posed by chronic conditions. Diabetes was chosen as the analysis topic of interest. The objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness of EBMeDS use in improving diabetes care. This objective will be enhanced by a formal process evaluation to provide crucial information on the feasibility of using the system in daily Belgian family medicine.
The study is a cluster-randomized trial with before/after measurements conducted in Belgian family medicine. Physicians’ practices will be randomly assigned to the intervention or control group in a 1:1 ratio, to receive either the EBMeDS reminders or to follow the usual care process. Randomization will be performed by a statistical consultant with an electronic random list generator, anonymously for the researchers. The follow-up period of the study will be 12 months with interim analysis points at 3, 6 and 9 months. Primary outcome is the one-year pre- to post-implementation change in HbA1c. Patients will not be informed about the intervention. Data analysts will be kept blinded to the allocation.
The knowledge obtained in this study will be useful for further integration in other Belgian software packages. Users’ perceptions and process evaluation will provide information for improving the feasibility of the system.
The trial is registered with the ClinicalTrials.gov registry: NCT01830569.
Diabetes mellitus; Decision support systems; Clinical; Point-of-care systems; Electronic health records; Guideline implementation
Warfarin, an inexpensive drug that has been available for over half a century, has been the mainstay of anticoagulant therapy for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Recently, rivaroxaban, a novel oral anticoagulant (NOAC) which offers some distinct advantages over warfarin, the standard of care in a world without NOACs, has been introduced and is now recommended by international guidelines.
The aim of this study was to evaluate, from a Belgian healthcare payer perspective, the cost-effectiveness of rivaroxaban versus use of warfarin for the treatment of patients with non-valvular AF at moderate to high risk.
A Markov model was designed and populated with local cost estimates, safety-on-treatment clinical results from the pivotal phase III ROCKET AF trial and utility values obtained from the literature.
Rivaroxaban treatment was associated with fewer ischemic strokes and systemic embolisms (0.308 vs. 0.321 events), intracranial bleeds (0.048 vs. 0.063), and myocardial infarctions (0.082 vs. 0.095) per patient compared with warfarin. Over a lifetime time horizon, rivaroxaban led to a reduction of 0.042 life-threatening events per patient, and increases of 0.111 life-years and 0.094 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) versus warfarin treatment. This resulted in an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of €8,809 per QALY or €7,493 per life-year gained. These results are based on valuated data from 2010. Sensitivity analysis indicated that these results were robust and that rivaroxaban is cost-effective compared with warfarin in 87 % of cases should a willingness-to-pay threshold of €35,000/QALY gained be considered.
The present analysis suggests that rivaroxaban is a cost-effective alternative to warfarin therapy for the prevention of stroke in patients with AF in the Belgian healthcare setting.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40273-013-0087-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Existing studies concerning the health care use of homeless people describe higher utilisation rates for hospital-based care and emergency care, and lower rates for primary care by homeless people compared to the general population. Homeless people are importantly hindered and/or steered in their health care use by barriers directly related to the organisation of care. Our goal is to describe the accessibility of primary health care services, secondary care and emergency care for homeless people living in an area with a universal primary health care system and active guidance towards this unique system.
Observational, cross-sectional study design. Data from the Belgian National health survey were merged with comparable data collected by means of a face-to-face interview from homeless people in Ghent. 122 homeless people who made use of homeless centres and shelters in Ghent were interviewed using a reduced version of the Belgian National Health survey over a period of 5 months. 2-dimensional crosstabs were built in order to study the bivariate relationship between health care use (primary health care, secondary and emergency care) and being homeless. To determine the independent association, a logistic model was constructed adjusting for age and sex.
Results and Discussion
Homeless people have a higher likelihood to consult a GP than the non-homeless people in Ghent, even after adjusting for age and sex. The same trend is demonstrated for secondary and emergency care.
Homeless people in Ghent do find the way to primary health care and make use of it. It seems that the universal primary health care system in Ghent with an active guidance by social workers contributes to easier GP access.
Health claims may contribute to better informed and healthier food choices and to improved industrial competitiveness by marketing foods that support healthier lifestyles in line with consumer preferences. With the more stringent European Union regulation of nutrition and health claims, insights into consumers’ health-related goal patterns and their reactions towards such claims are needed to influence the content of lawful claims. This study investigated how consumers’ explicit and implicit health-related motive orientations (HRMOs) together with the type of calcium-claim (nutrition claim, health claim and reduction of disease risk claim) influence perceived credibility and purchasing intention of calcium-enriched fruit juice. Data were collected in April 2006 through a consumer survey with 341 Belgian adults. The findings indicate that stronger implicit HRMOs (i.e., indirect benefits of calcium for personal health) are associated with higher perceived credibility, which is not (yet) translated into a higher purchasing intention. Consumers’ explicit HRMOs, which refer to direct benefits or physiological functions of calcium in the body—as legally permitted in current calcium-claims in the EU—do not associate with reactions to the claims. Independently of consumers’ HRMOs, the claim type significantly affects the perceived credibility and purchasing intention of the product. Implications for nutrition policy makers and food industries are discussed.
nutrition and health claims; calcium; enriched fruit juice; consumer; health-related motive orientations; motives
Little work has been done to assess the quality of health care and the use of evidence-based methods by occupational physicians in Belgium. Therefore, the main objective is to describe one aspect of occupational health assessments, namely the common use of dipstick urinalysis, and to compare the current practice with international guidelines.
A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 211 members of the Scientific Association of Occupational Medicine in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.
A total of 120 occupational physicians responded, giving a response rate of 57%. Dipstick urinalysis was a routine investigation for the vast majority of physicians (69%). All test strips screened for protein and in 90% also for blood. Occupational health services offered clinical tests to satisfy customer wants as international guidelines do not recommend screening for haematuria and proteinuria in asymptomatic adults. A lack of knowledge concerning positive testing and referral criteria was demonstrated in almost half of the study participants.
Belgian occupational physicians still routinely perform dipstick testing although there is no evidence to support this screening in healthy workers. To practice evidence-based medicine, occupational physicians need more instruction and training. Development and implementation of more guidelines is not only of use for the individual practitioner, it may also enhance professionalization and efficiency of occupational health care.
Evidence-based practice; Occupational health; Guidelines; Health surveillance
Most of the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) aim to ensure equitable access to health care. This is often interpreted as requiring that care be available on the basis of need and not willingness or ability to pay. We sought to examine equity in physician utilization in 21 OECD countries for the year 2000.
Using data from national surveys or from the European Community Household Panel, we extracted the number of visits to a general practitioner or medical specialist over the previous 12 months. Visits were standardized for need differences using age, sex and reported health levels as proxies. We measured inequity in doctor utilization by income using concentration indices of the need-standardized use.
We found inequity in physician utilization favouring patients who are better off in about half of the OECD countries studied. The degree of pro-rich inequity in doctor use is highest in the United States and Mexico, followed by Finland, Portugal and Sweden. In most countries, we found no evidence of inequity in the distribution of general practitioner visits across income groups, and where it does occur, it often indicates a pro-poor distribution. However, in all countries for which data are available, after controlling for need differences, people with higher incomes are significantly more likely to see a specialist than people with lower incomes and, in most countries, also more frequently. Pro-rich inequity is especially large in Portugal, Finland and Ireland.
Although in most OECD countries general practitioner care is distributed fairly equally and is often even pro-poor, the very pro-rich distribution of specialist care tends to make total doctor utilization somewhat pro-rich. This phenomenon appears to be universal, but it is reinforced when private insurance or private care options are offered.
Even though total abstinence of alcohol for pregnant and lactating women is recommended, consumption prevalences ranging from 12% up to 30% have been reported. No Belgian data on alcohol consumption in pregnant women were recently published.
First, a literature search on the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy and lactation was performed in the MEDLINE database using Pubmed. Secondly, in a prospective study the alcohol consumption of 215 Belgian women was evaluated every trimester through 7-day food records. The international standard unit for alcohol or 1 standard glass equals 13.5 g pure ethanol. Binge drinking was defined as drinking more than 50 g on one occasion.
Prenatal exposure of the foetus to alcohol can lead to a broad range of anomalies, including pre- and postnatal growth retardation, preterm delivery, central or craniofacial dysmorphia, neurological and behavioural disorders and disorders of cognitive function, which can persist throughout adulthood. In the Belgian study population, total abstinence of alcohol was seen in 76% of the women. Of the 24% of women who consumed alcohol, 13.9% consumed alcohol during 1 of the 3 weeks. These women were considered to be low consumers. Five women (2.5%) reported drinking during all 3 weeks of recording. This could suggest that these women drink more regularly. No binge drinking was recorded. The maximum amount was 5 consumptions per week.
Even though total abstinence of alcohol for pregnant and lactating women is recommended, at least 25% of pregnant women still consumes alcohol. Health care providers have to be aware of the underreporting of alcohol use by pregnant women, especially if they drink heavily since they fear of being stigmatised.
In the face of rising demand for medical services due to ageing populations, physician migration flows are increasingly affecting the supply of physicians in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD) countries. This paper offers an integrated perspective on the impact of physician migration on home and host countries and discusses international regulation and policy approaches governing physician migration.
Information about migration flows, international regulation and policies governing physician migration were derived from two questionnaires sent to OECD countries, a secondary analysis of EUROSTAT Labour Force Surveys, a literature review and official policy documents of OECD countries.
OECD countries increasingly perceive immigration of foreign physicians as a way of sustaining their physician workforce. As a result, countries have entered into international agreements regulating physician migration, although their success has been limited due to the imposition of licensing requirements and the protection of vested interests by domestic physicians. OECD countries have therefore adopted specific policies designed to stimulate the immigration of foreign physicians, whilst minimising its negative impact on the home country. Measures promoting immigration have included international recruitment campaigns, less strict immigration requirements and arrangements that foster shared learning between health care systems. Policies restricting the societal costs of physician emigration from developing countries such as good practice guidelines and taxes on host countries have not yet produced their expected effect or in some cases have not been established at all.
Although OECD countries generally favour long-term policies of national self-sufficiency to sustain their physician workforce, such policies usually co-exist with short-term or medium-term policies to attract foreign physicians. As this is likely to continue, there is a need to create a global framework that enforces physician migration policies that confer benefits on home and host countries. In the long term, OECD countries need to put in place appropriate education and training policies rather than rely on physician migration to address their future needs.
Little information is available in Belgium on the number and characteristics of alcohol abusers who contact treatment agencies and on the effectiveness of these services. International research has identified some determinants of relapse and recovery after treatment, but additional research is needed in order to better tailor services to the needs of service users.
This study aimed at measuring abstinence and relapse among alcohol abusers (n = 249) after intensive, residential treatment in specialized units in five Belgian psychiatric hospitals. Six month outcomes concerning substance use, psychological health, social support and integration were studied using the EuropASI. Logistic regression analyses were performed to identify predictors of relapse and readmission.
Significant reductions in the severity of alcohol and psychological problems were observed, but six months after the initial treatment episode more than half of all respondents (54%) had been using alcohol regularly. The domains 'psychiatric problems' and 'patients' personal perspectives' were the best predictors of relapse and readmission. Also, 'patients' living situations' predicted relapse. Specific variables that independently predicted relapse were 'satisfaction with day activities' and 'number of days with problems due to alcohol'. Less severe psychiatric problems at the start of treatment and more severe psychiatric problems and negative feelings of wellbeing at the time of follow-up were independent predictors of readmission.
We conclude that treatment agencies need to recognize the relapsing nature of alcohol abuse and have to organize their services from a continuing care perspective, including specific attention for individuals' psychological needs and day/leisure activities.
Alcohol abuse; treatment; relapse; recovery; continuity of care; aftercare; case management
The diabetes epidemic is associated with huge human and economic costs, with some groups, such as indigenous populations in industrialised countries, being at especially high risk. Monitoring and improving diabetes care at a population level are important to reduce diabetes-related morbidity and mortality. A set of diabetes indicators has been developed collaboratively among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to monitor performance of diabetes care. The aim of this review was to provide an overview of diabetes management in five selected OECD countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK), based on data available for general and indigenous populations where appropriate.
We searched websites of health departments and leading national organisations related to diabetes care in each of the five countries to identify publicly released reports relevant to diabetes care. We collected data relevant to 6 OECD diabetes indicators on processes of diabetes care (annual HbA1c testing, lipid testing, renal function screening and eye examination) and proximal outcomes (HbA1c and lipid control).
Data were drawn from 29 websites, with 14 reports and 13 associated data sources included in this review. Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK had national data available to construct most of the 6 OECD diabetes indicators, but Canadian data were limited to two indicators. New Zealand and the US had national level diabetes care data for indigenous populations, showing relatively poorer care among these groups when compared with general populations. The US and UK performed well across the four process indicators when compared with Australia and New Zealand. For example, annual HbA1c testing and lipid testing were delivered to 70-80% of patients in the US and UK; the corresponding figures for Australia and New Zealand were 50-60%. Regarding proximal outcomes, HbA1c control for patients in Australia and New Zealand tended to be relatively better than patients in the US and UK.
Substantial efforts have been made in the five countries to develop routine data collection systems to monitor performance of diabetes management. Available performance data identify considerable gaps in clinical care of diabetes across countries. Policy makers and health service providers across countries can learn from each other to improve data collection and delivery of diabetes care at the population level.
Background: The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing seeks an increase of two healthy life years (HLY) at birth in the EU27 for the next 10 years. We assess the feasibility of doing so between 2010 and 2020 and the differential impact among countries by applying different scenarios to current trends in HLY. Methods: Data comprised HLY and life expectancy (LE) at birth 2004–09 from Eurostat. We estimated HLY in 2010 in each country by multiplying the Eurostat projections of LE in 2010 by the ratio HLY/LE obtained either from country and sex-specific linear regression models of HLY/LE on year (seven countries retaining same HLY question) or extrapolating the average of HLY/LE in 2008 and 2009 to 2010 (20 countries and EU27). The first scenario continued these trends with three other scenarios exploring different HLY gap reductions between 2010 and 2020. Results: The estimated gap in HLY in 2010 was 17.5 years (men) and 18.9 years (women). Assuming current trends continue, EU27 HLY increased by 1.4 years (men) and 0.9 years (women), below the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing target, with the HLY gap between countries increasing to 18.3 years (men) and 19.5 years (women). To eliminate the HLY gap in 20 years, the EU27 must gain 4.4 HLY (men) and 4.8 HLY (women) in the next decade, which, for some countries, is substantially more than what the current trends suggest. Conclusion: Global targets for HLY move attention from inter-country differences and, alongside the current economic crisis, may contribute to increase health inequalities.
The estimated prevalence rate of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) in children is 6 per 1.000. Parenting children who are intellectually impaired and have PDDs is known to be linked to the impaired well-being of the parents themselves. However, there is still little available data on health-related quality of life (HRQL) in parents of children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA), or other PDD diagnoses in children of normal intelligence. The present study aimed to evaluate aspects of HRQL in parents of school-age children with AS/HFA and the correlates with child behaviour characteristics.
The sample consisted of 31 mothers and 30 fathers of 32 children with AS/HFA and 30 mothers and 29 fathers of 32 age and gender matched children with typical development. Parental HRQL was surveyed by the use of the 12 Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) which measures physical and mental well-being. The child behaviour characteristics were assessed using the structured questionnaires: The High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ) and The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).
The mothers of children with AS/HFA had lower SF-12 scores than the controls, indicating poorer physical health. The mothers of children with AS/HFA also had lower physical SF-12 scores compared to the fathers. In the AS/HFA group, maternal health was related to behaviour problems such as hyperactivity and conduct problems in the child.
Mothers but not fathers of children with AS/HFA reported impaired HRQL, and there was a relationship between maternal well-being and child behaviour characteristics.
In Belgium, the construction of a national electronic point-of-care information service, EBMPracticeNet, was initiated in 2011 to optimize quality of care by promoting evidence-based decision-making. The collaboration of the government, health care providers, evidence-based medicine (EBM) partners, and vendors of electronic health records (EHR) is unique to this project. All Belgian health care professionals get free access to an up-to-date database of validated Belgian and nearly 1000 international guidelines, incorporated in a portal that also provides EBM information from other sources than guidelines, including computerized clinical decision support that is integrated in the EHRs.
The objective of this paper was to describe the development strategy, the overall content, and the management of EBMPracticeNet which may be of relevance to other health organizations creating national or regional electronic point-of-care information services.
Several candidate providers of comprehensive guideline solutions were evaluated and one database was selected. Translation of the guidelines to Dutch and French was done with translation software, post-editing by translators and medical proofreading. A strategy is determined to adapt the guideline content to the Belgian context. Acceptance of the computerized clinical decision support tool has been tested and a randomized controlled trial is planned to evaluate the effect on process and patient outcomes.
Currently, EBMPracticeNet is in "work in progress" state. Reference is made to the results of a pilot study and to further planned research including a randomized controlled trial.
The collaboration of government, health care providers, EBM partners, and vendors of EHRs is unique. The potential value of the project is great. The link between all the EHRs from different vendors and a national database held on a single platform that is controlled by all EBM organizations in Belgium are the strengths of EBMPracticeNet.
evidence-based medicine; practice guidelines as topic; decision support systems; clinical; point-of-care systems; biomedical technology; medical informatics; information storage and retrieval; information management; ambulatory care information systems