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1.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
Introduction
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
2.  Prolonged Grief Disorder: Psychometric Validation of Criteria Proposed for DSM-V and ICD-11 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000121.
Holly Prigerson and colleagues tested the psychometric validity of criteria for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to enhance the detection and care of bereaved individuals at heightened risk of persistent distress and dysfunction.
Background
Bereavement is a universal experience, and its association with excess morbidity and mortality is well established. Nevertheless, grief becomes a serious health concern for a relative few. For such individuals, intense grief persists, is distressing and disabling, and may meet criteria as a distinct mental disorder. At present, grief is not recognized as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV or ICD-10. The goal of this study was to determine the psychometric validity of criteria for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) to enhance the detection and potential treatment of bereaved individuals at heightened risk of persistent distress and dysfunction.
Methods and Findings
A total of 291 bereaved respondents were interviewed three times, grouped as 0–6, 6–12, and 12–24 mo post-loss. Item response theory (IRT) analyses derived the most informative, unbiased PGD symptoms. Combinatoric analyses identified the most sensitive and specific PGD algorithm that was then tested to evaluate its psychometric validity. Criteria require reactions to a significant loss that involve the experience of yearning (e.g., physical or emotional suffering as a result of the desired, but unfulfilled, reunion with the deceased) and at least five of the following nine symptoms experienced at least daily or to a disabling degree: feeling emotionally numb, stunned, or that life is meaningless; experiencing mistrust; bitterness over the loss; difficulty accepting the loss; identity confusion; avoidance of the reality of the loss; or difficulty moving on with life. Symptoms must be present at sufficiently high levels at least six mo from the death and be associated with functional impairment.
Conclusions
The criteria set for PGD appear able to identify bereaved persons at heightened risk for enduring distress and dysfunction. The results support the psychometric validity of the criteria for PGD that we propose for inclusion in DSM-V and ICD-11.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Virtually everyone loses someone they love during their lifetime. Grief is an unavoidable and normal reaction to this loss. After the death of a loved one, bereaved people may feel sadness, anger, guilt, anxiety, and despair. They may think constantly about the deceased person and about the events that led up to the person's death. They often have physical reactions to their loss—problems sleeping, for example—and they may become ill. Socially, they may find it difficult to return to work or to see friends and family. For most people, these painful emotions and thoughts gradually diminish, usually within 6 months or so of the death. But for a few people, the normal grief reaction lingers and becomes increasingly debilitating. Experts call this complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder (PGD). Characteristically, people with PGD have intrusive thoughts and images of the deceased person and a painful yearning for his or her presence. They may also deny their loss, feel desperately lonely and adrift, and want to die themselves.
Why Was This Study Done?
PGD is not currently recognized as a mental disorder although it meets the requirements for one given in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) and in the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10thEdition (ICD-10). Before PGD can be recognized as a mental disorder (and included in DSM-V and ICD-11), bereavement and mental-health experts need to agree on standardized criteria for PGD. Such criteria would be useful because they would allow researchers and clinicians to identify risk factors for PGD and to find ways to prevent PGD. They would also help to ensure that people with PGD get appropriate treatments such as psychotherapy to help them change their way of thinking about their loss and re-engage with the world. Recently, a panel of experts agreed on a consensus list of symptoms for PGD. In this study, the researchers undertake a field trial to develop and evaluate algorithms (sets of rules) for diagnosing PGD based on these symptoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used “item response theory” (IRT) to derive the most informative PGD symptoms from structured interviews of nearly 300 people who had recently lost a close family member. These interviews contained questions about the consensus list of symptoms; each participant was interviewed two or three times during the two years after their spouse's death. The researchers then used “combinatoric” analysis to identify the most sensitive and specific algorithm for the diagnosis of PGD. This algorithm specifies that a bereaved person with PGD must experience yearning (physical or emotional suffering because of an unfulfilled desire for reunion with the deceased) and at least five of nine additional symptoms. These symptoms (which include emotional numbness, feeling that life is meaningless, and avoidance of the reality of the loss) must persist for at least 6 months after the bereavement and must be associated with functional impairment. Finally, the researchers show that individuals given a diagnosis of PGD 6–12 months after a death have a higher subsequent risk of mental health and functional impairment than people not diagnosed with PGD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings validate a set of symptoms and a diagnostic algorithm for PGD. Because most of the study participants were elderly women who had lost their husband, further validation is needed to check that these symptoms and algorithm also apply to other types of bereaved people such as individuals who have lost a child. For now, though, these findings support the inclusion of PGD in DSM-V and ICD-11 as a recognized mental disorder. Furthermore, the availability of a standardized way to diagnose PGD will help clinicians identify the minority of people who fail to adjust successfully to the loss of a loved one. Hopefully, by identifying these people and helping them to avoid the onset of PGD (perhaps by providing psychotherapy soon after a death) and/or providing better treatment for PGD, it should now be possible to reduce the considerable personal and societal costs associated with prolonged grief.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000121.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stephen Workman
The Dana Farber Cancer Institute has a page describing its Center for Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care Research
The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists has a leaflet on bereavement (in English, Welsh, Urdu, and Chinese)
The US National Cancer Institute also has information about coping with bereavement for patients and health professionals (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus has links to other information about bereavement (in English and Spanish)
The Journal of the American Medical Association has a patient page on abnormal grief
Harvard Medical School provides a short family health guide about complicated grief
Information on DSM-IV and ICD-10 is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000121
PMCID: PMC2711304  PMID: 19652695
3.  Risk Prediction for Breast, Endometrial, and Ovarian Cancer in White Women Aged 50 y or Older: Derivation and Validation from Population-Based Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001492.
Ruth Pfeiffer and colleagues describe models to calculate absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers for white, non-Hispanic women over 50 years old using easily obtainable risk factors.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers share some hormonal and epidemiologic risk factors. While several models predict absolute risk of breast cancer, there are few models for ovarian cancer in the general population, and none for endometrial cancer.
Methods and Findings
Using data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50+ y from two large population-based cohorts (the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial [PLCO] and the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study [NIH-AARP]), we estimated relative and attributable risks and combined them with age-specific US-population incidence and competing mortality rates. All models included parity. The breast cancer model additionally included estrogen and progestin menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) use, other MHT use, age at first live birth, menopausal status, age at menopause, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, benign breast disease/biopsies, alcohol consumption, and body mass index (BMI); the endometrial model included menopausal status, age at menopause, BMI, smoking, oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and an interaction term between BMI and MHT use; the ovarian model included oral contraceptive use, MHT use, and family history or breast or ovarian cancer. In independent validation data (Nurses' Health Study cohort) the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated; expected to observed cancer ratios were 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.96–1.04) for breast cancer and 1.08 (95% CI: 0.97–1.19) for ovarian cancer. The number of endometrial cancers was significantly overestimated, expected/observed = 1.20 (95% CI: 1.11–1.29). The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUCs; discriminatory power) were 0.58 (95% CI: 0.57–0.59), 0.59 (95% CI: 0.56–0.63), and 0.68 (95% CI: 0.66–0.70) for the breast, ovarian, and endometrial models, respectively.
Conclusions
These models predict absolute risks for breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers from easily obtainable risk factors and may assist in clinical decision-making. Limitations are the modest discriminatory ability of the breast and ovarian models and that these models may not generalize to women of other races.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, just three types of cancer accounted for 10% of global cancer-related deaths. That year, about 460,000 women died from breast cancer (the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death). Another 140,000 women died from ovarian cancer, and 74,000 died from endometrial (womb) cancer (the 14th and 20th most common causes of cancer-related death, respectively). Although these three cancers originate in different tissues, they nevertheless share many risk factors. For example, current age, age at menarche (first period), and parity (the number of children a woman has had) are all strongly associated with breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer risk. Because these cancers share many hormonal and epidemiological risk factors, a woman with a high breast cancer risk is also likely to have an above-average risk of developing ovarian or endometrial cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several statistical models (for example, the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool) have been developed that estimate a woman's absolute risk (probability) of developing breast cancer over the next few years or over her lifetime. Absolute risk prediction models are useful in the design of cancer prevention trials and can also help women make informed decisions about cancer prevention and treatment options. For example, a woman at high risk of breast cancer might decide to take tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention, but ideally she needs to know her absolute endometrial cancer risk before doing so because tamoxifen increases the risk of this cancer. Similarly, knowledge of her ovarian cancer risk might influence a woman's decision regarding prophylactic removal of her ovaries to reduce her breast cancer risk. There are few absolute risk prediction models for ovarian cancer, and none for endometrial cancer, so here the researchers develop models to predict the risk of these cancers and of breast cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Absolute risk prediction models are constructed by combining estimates for risk factors from cohorts with population-based incidence rates from cancer registries. Models are validated in an independent cohort by testing their ability to identify people with the disease in an independent cohort and their ability to predict the observed numbers of incident cases. The researchers used data on white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older that were collected during two large prospective US cohort studies of cancer screening and of diet and health, and US cancer incidence and mortality rates provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program to build their models. The models all included parity as a risk factor, as well as other factors. The model for endometrial cancer, for example, also included menopausal status, age at menopause, body mass index (an indicator of the amount of body fat), oral contraceptive use, menopausal hormone therapy use, and an interaction term between menopausal hormone therapy use and body mass index. Individual women's risk for endometrial cancer calculated using this model ranged from 1.22% to 17.8% over the next 20 years depending on their exposure to various risk factors. Validation of the models using data from the US Nurses' Health Study indicated that the endometrial cancer model overestimated the risk of endometrial cancer but that the breast and ovarian cancer models were well calibrated—the predicted and observed risks for these cancers in the validation cohort agreed closely. Finally, the discriminatory power of the models (a measure of how well a model separates people who have a disease from people who do not have the disease) was modest for the breast and ovarian cancer models but somewhat better for the endometrial cancer model.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer can all be predicted using information on known risk factors for these cancers that is easily obtainable. Because these models were constructed and validated using data from white, non-Hispanic women aged 50 years or older, they may not accurately predict absolute risk for these cancers for women of other races or ethnicities. Moreover, the modest discriminatory power of the breast and ovarian cancer models means they cannot be used to decide which women should be routinely screened for these cancers. Importantly, however, these well-calibrated models should provide realistic information about an individual's risk of developing breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer that can be used in clinical decision-making and that may assist in the identification of potential participants for research studies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lars Holmberg and Andrew Vickers
The US National Cancer Institute provides comprehensive information about cancer (in English and Spanish), including detailed information about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer;
Information on the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool, the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, and on the prospective cohort study of screening and the diet and health study that provided the data used to build the models is also available on the NCI site
Cancer Research UK, a not-for-profit organization, provides information about cancer, including detailed information on breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information and personal stories about breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer; the not-for-profit organization Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about dealing with breast cancer and ovarian cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001492
PMCID: PMC3728034  PMID: 23935463
4.  Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001331.
A systematic review of qualitative studies conducted by Frances Bunn and colleagues identifies and describes the experiences of patients and caregivers on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia.
Background
Early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia is increasingly considered a priority, but practitioners are concerned with the effects of earlier diagnosis and interventions on patients and caregivers. This systematic review evaluates the qualitative evidence about how people accommodate and adapt to the diagnosis of dementia and its immediate consequences, to guide practice.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed qualitative studies exploring experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia, and their carers, around diagnosis and the transition to becoming a person with dementia. We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index (all searched in May 2010 with no date restrictions; PubMed search updated in February 2012), checked reference lists, and undertook citation searches in PubMed and Google Scholar (ongoing to September 2011). We used thematic synthesis to identify key themes, commonalities, barriers to earlier diagnosis, and support identified as helpful. We identified 126 papers reporting 102 studies including a total of 3,095 participants. Three overarching themes emerged from our analysis: (1) pathways through diagnosis, including its impact on identity, roles, and relationships; (2) resolving conflicts to accommodate a diagnosis, including the acceptability of support, focusing on the present or the future, and the use or avoidance of knowledge; and (3) strategies and support to minimise the impact of dementia. Consistent barriers to diagnosis include stigma, normalisation of symptoms, and lack of knowledge. Studies report a lack of specialist support particularly post-diagnosis.
Conclusions
There is an extensive body of qualitative literature on the experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia. We present a thematic analysis that could be useful to professionals working with people with dementia. We suggest that research emphasis should shift towards the development and evaluation of interventions, particularly those providing support after diagnosis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer disease is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia usually have problems with two or more cognitive functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. Dementia is rare before the age of 65, but about a quarter of people over 85 have dementia. Because more people live longer these days, the number of patients with dementia is increasing. It is estimated that today between 40 and 50 million people live with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
One way to study what dementia means to patients and their carers (most often spouses or other family members) is through qualitative research. Qualitative research aims to develop an in-depth understanding of individuals' experiences and behavior, as well as the reasons for their feelings and actions. In qualitative studies, researchers interview patients, their families, and doctors. When the studies are published, they usually contain direct quotations from interviews as well as summaries by the scientists who designed the interviews and analyzed the responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was done to better understand the experiences and attitudes of patients and their carers surrounding dementia diagnosis. It focused on patients who lived and were cared for within the community (as opposed to people living in senior care facilities or other institutions). Most cases of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Diagnosis often happens at an advanced stage of the disease, and some patients never receive a formal diagnosis. This could have many possible reasons, including unawareness or denial of symptoms by patients and people close to them. The study was also trying to understand barriers to early diagnosis and what type of support is useful for newly diagnosed patients and carers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic search for published qualitative research studies that reported on the experience, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes surrounding dementia diagnosis. They identified and reviewed 102 such studies. Among the quotations and summaries of the individual studies, they looked for prominent and recurring themes. They also compared and contrasted the respective experiences of patients and carers.
Overall, they found that the complexity and variety of responses to a diagnosis of dementia means that making the diagnosis and conveying it to patients and carers is challenging. Negative connotations associated with dementia, inconsistent symptoms, and not knowing enough about the signs and symptoms were commonly reported barriers to early dementia diagnosis. It was often the carer who initiated the search for help from a doctor, and among patients, willingness and readiness to receive a diagnosis varied. Being told one had dementia had a big impact on a patient's identity and often caused feelings of loss, anger, fear, and frustration. Spouses had to adjust to increasingly unequal relationships and the transition to a role as carer. The strain associated with this often caused health problems in the carers as well. On the other hand, studies examining the experience of couples often reported that they found ways to continue working together as a team.
Adjusting to a dementia diagnosis is a complex process. Initially, most patients and carers experienced conflicts, for example, between autonomy and safety, between recognizing the need for help but reluctance to accept it, or between living in the present and dealing with anxiety about and preparing for the future. As these were resolved and as the disease progressed, the attitudes of patients and carers towards dementia often became more balanced and accepting. Many patients and their families adopted strategies to cope with the impact of dementia on their lives in order to manage the disease and maintain some sort of normal life. These included practical strategies involving reminders, social strategies such as relying on family support, and emotional strategies such as using humor. At some point many patients and carers reported that they were able to adopt positive mindsets and incorporate dementia in their lives.
The studies also pointed to an urgent need for support from outside the family, both right after diagnosis and subsequently. General practitioners and family physicians have important roles in helping patients and carers to get access to information, social and psychological support, and community care. The need for information was reported to be ongoing and varied, and meeting it required a variety of sources and formats. Key needs for patients and carers mentioned in the studies include information on financial aids and entitlements early on, and continued access to supportive professionals and specialists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Qualitative studies to date on how patients and carers respond to a diagnosis of dementia provide a fairly detailed picture of their experiences. The summary provided here should help professionals to understand better the challenges patients and carers face around the time of diagnosis as well as their immediate and evolving needs. The results also suggest that future research should focus on the development and evaluation of ways to meet those needs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331.
Wikipedia has pages on dementia and qualitative research (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organization of 34 Alzheimer associations from 30 countries across Europe, has a page on the different approaches to research
The UK Department of Health has pages on dementia, including guidelines for carers of people with dementia
MedlinePlus also has information about dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001331
PMCID: PMC3484131  PMID: 23118618
5.  Reinterpreting Ethnic Patterns among White and African American Men Who Inject Heroin: A Social Science of Medicine Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e452.
Background
Street-based heroin injectors represent an especially vulnerable population group subject to negative health outcomes and social stigma. Effective clinical treatment and public health intervention for this population requires an understanding of their cultural environment and experiences. Social science theory and methods offer tools to understand the reasons for economic and ethnic disparities that cause individual suffering and stress at the institutional level.
Methods and Findings
We used a cross-methodological approach that incorporated quantitative, clinical, and ethnographic data collected by two contemporaneous long-term San Francisco studies, one epidemiological and one ethnographic, to explore the impact of ethnicity on street-based heroin-injecting men 45 years of age or older who were self-identified as either African American or white. We triangulated our ethnographic findings by statistically examining 14 relevant epidemiological variables stratified by median age and ethnicity. We observed significant differences in social practices between self-identified African Americans and whites in our ethnographic social network sample with respect to patterns of (1) drug consumption; (2) income generation; (3) social and institutional relationships; and (4) personal health and hygiene. African Americans and whites tended to experience different structural relationships to their shared condition of addiction and poverty. Specifically, this generation of San Francisco injectors grew up as the children of poor rural to urban immigrants in an era (the late 1960s through 1970s) when industrial jobs disappeared and heroin became fashionable. This was also when violent segregated inner city youth gangs proliferated and the federal government initiated its “War on Drugs.” African Americans had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families. Most of the whites were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime. These historical-structural conditions generated distinct presentations of self. Whites styled themselves as outcasts, defeated by addiction. They professed to be injecting heroin to stave off “dopesickness” rather than to seek pleasure. African Americans, in contrast, cast their physical addiction as an oppositional pursuit of autonomy and pleasure. They considered themselves to be professional outlaws and rejected any appearance of abjection. Many, but not all, of these ethnographic findings were corroborated by our epidemiological data, highlighting the variability of behaviors within ethnic categories.
Conclusions
Bringing quantitative and qualitative methodologies and perspectives into a collaborative dialog among cross-disciplinary researchers highlights the fact that clinical practice must go beyond simple racial or cultural categories. A clinical social science approach provides insights into how sociocultural processes are mediated by historically rooted and institutionally enforced power relations. Recognizing the logical underpinnings of ethnically specific behavioral patterns of street-based injectors is the foundation for cultural competence and for successful clinical relationships. It reduces the risk of suboptimal medical care for an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging patient population. Social science approaches can also help explain larger-scale patterns of health disparities; inform new approaches to structural and institutional-level public health initiatives; and enable clinicians to take more leadership in changing public policies that have negative health consequences.
Bourgois and colleagues found that the African American and white men in their study had a different pattern of drug use and risk behaviors, adopted different strategies for survival, and had different personal histories.
Editors' Summary
Background.
There are stark differences in the health of different ethnic groups in America. For example, the life expectancy for white men is 75.4 years, but it is only 69.2 years for African-American men. The reasons behind these disparities are unclear, though there are several possible explanations. Perhaps, for example, different ethnic groups are treated differently by health professionals (with some groups receiving poorer quality health care). Or maybe the health disparities are due to differences across ethnic groups in income level (we know that richer people are healthier). These disparities are likely to persist unless we gain a better understanding of how they arise.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to study the health of a very vulnerable community of people: heroin users living on the streets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The health status of this community is extremely poor, and its members are highly stigmatized—including by health professionals themselves. The researchers wanted to know whether African American men and white men who live on the streets have a different pattern of drug use, whether they adopt varying strategies for survival, and whether they have different personal histories. Knowledge of such differences would help the health community to provide more tailored and culturally appropriate interventions. Physicians, nurses, and social workers often treat street-based drug users, especially in emergency rooms and free clinics. These health professionals regularly report that their interactions with street-based drug users are frustrating and confrontational. The researchers hoped that their study would help these professionals to have a better understanding of the cultural backgrounds and motivations of their drug-using patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Over the course of six years, the researchers directly observed about 70 men living on the streets who injected heroin as they went about their usual lives (this type of research is called “participant observation”). The researchers specifically looked to see whether there were differences between the white and African American men. All the men gave their consent to be studied in this way and to be photographed. The researchers also studied a database of interviews with almost 7,000 injection drug users conducted over five years, drawing out the data on differences between white and African men. The researchers found that the white men were more likely to supplement their heroin use with inexpensive fortified wine, while African American men were more likely to supplement heroin with crack. Most of the white men were expelled from their families when they began engaging in drug-related crime, and these men tended to consider themselves as destitute outcasts. African American men had earlier and more negative contact with law enforcement but maintained long-term ties with their extended families, and these men tended to consider themselves as professional outlaws. The white men persevered less in attempting to find a vein in which to inject heroin, and so were more likely to inject the drug directly under the skin—this meant that they were more likely to suffer from skin abscesses. The white men generated most of their income from panhandling (begging for money), while the African American men generated most of their income through petty crime and/or through offering services such as washing car windows at gas stations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Among street-based heroin users, there are important differences between white men and African American men in the type of drugs used, the method of drug use, their social backgrounds, the way in which they identify themselves, and the health risks that they take. By understanding these differences, health professionals should be better placed to provide tailored and appropriate care when these men present to clinics and emergency rooms. As the researchers say, “understanding of different ethnic populations of drug injectors may reduce difficult clinical interactions and resultant physician frustration while improving patient access and adherence to care.” One limitation of this study is that the researchers studied one specific community in one particular area of the US—so we should not assume that their findings would apply to street-based heroin users elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a web page on HIV prevention among injection drug users
The World Health Organization has collected documents on reducing the risk of HIV in injection drug users and on harm reduction approaches
The International Harm Reduction Association has information relevant to a global audience on reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities
US-focused information on harm reduction is available via the websites of the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Chicago Recovery Alliance
Canada-focused information can be found at the Street Works Web site
The Harm Reduction Journal publishes open-access articles
The CDC has a web page on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities
The Drug Policy Alliance has a web page on drug policy in the United States
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030452
PMCID: PMC1621100  PMID: 17076569
6.  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
7.  Moving from Data on Deaths to Public Health Policy in Agincourt, South Africa: Approaches to Analysing and Understanding Verbal Autopsy Findings 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000325.
Peter Byass and colleagues compared two methods of assessing data from verbal autopsies, review by physicians or probabilistic modeling, and show that probabilistic modeling is the most efficient means of analyzing these data
Background
Cause of death data are an essential source for public health planning, but their availability and quality are lacking in many parts of the world. Interviewing family and friends after a death has occurred (a procedure known as verbal autopsy) provides a source of data where deaths otherwise go unregistered; but sound methods for interpreting and analysing the ensuing data are essential. Two main approaches are commonly used: either physicians review individual interview material to arrive at probable cause of death, or probabilistic models process the data into likely cause(s). Here we compare and contrast these approaches as applied to a series of 6,153 deaths which occurred in a rural South African population from 1992 to 2005. We do not attempt to validate either approach in absolute terms.
Methods and Findings
The InterVA probabilistic model was applied to a series of 6,153 deaths which had previously been reviewed by physicians. Physicians used a total of 250 cause-of-death codes, many of which occurred very rarely, while the model used 33. Cause-specific mortality fractions, overall and for population subgroups, were derived from the model's output, and the physician causes coded into comparable categories. The ten highest-ranking causes accounted for 83% and 88% of all deaths by physician interpretation and probabilistic modelling respectively, and eight of the highest ten causes were common to both approaches. Top-ranking causes of death were classified by population subgroup and period, as done previously for the physician-interpreted material. Uncertainty around the cause(s) of individual deaths was recognised as an important concept that should be reflected in overall analyses. One notably discrepant group involved pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of death in adults aged over 65, and these cases are discussed in more detail, but the group only accounted for 3.5% of overall deaths.
Conclusions
There were no differences between physician interpretation and probabilistic modelling that might have led to substantially different public health policy conclusions at the population level. Physician interpretation was more nuanced than the model, for example in identifying cancers at particular sites, but did not capture the uncertainty associated with individual cases. Probabilistic modelling was substantially cheaper and faster, and completely internally consistent. Both approaches characterised the rise of HIV-related mortality in this population during the period observed, and reached similar findings on other major causes of mortality. For many purposes probabilistic modelling appears to be the best available means of moving from data on deaths to public health actions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Whenever someone dies in a developed country, the cause of death is determined by a doctor and entered into a “vital registration system,” a record of all the births and deaths in that country. Public-health officials and medical professionals use this detailed and complete information about causes of death to develop public-health programs and to monitor how these programs affect the nation's health. Unfortunately, in many developing countries dying people are not attended by doctors and vital registration systems are incomplete. In most African countries, for example, less than one-quarter of deaths are recorded in vital registration systems. One increasingly important way to improve knowledge about the patterns of death in developing countries is “verbal autopsy” (VA). Using a standard form, trained personnel ask relatives and caregivers about the symptoms that the deceased had before his/her death and about the circumstances surrounding the death. Physicians then review these forms and assign a specific cause of death from a shortened version of the International Classification of Diseases, a list of codes for hundreds of diseases.
Why Was This Study Done?
Physician review of VA forms is time-consuming and expensive. Consequently, computer-based, “probabilistic” models have been developed that process the VA data and provide a likely cause of death. These models are faster and cheaper than physician review of VAs and, because they do not rely on the views of local doctors about the likely causes of death, they are more internally consistent. But are physician review and probabilistic models equally sound ways of interpreting VA data? In this study, the researchers compare and contrast the interpretation of VA data by physician review and by a probabilistic model called the InterVA model by applying these two approaches to the deaths that occurred in Agincourt, a rural region of northeast South Africa, between 1992 and 2005. The Agincourt health and sociodemographic surveillance system is a member of the INDEPTH Network, a global network that is evaluating the health and demographic characteristics (for example, age, gender, and education) of populations in low- and middle-income countries over several years.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers applied the InterVA probabilistic model to 6,153 deaths that had been previously reviewed by physicians. They grouped the 250 cause-of-death codes used by the physicians into categories comparable with the 33 cause-of-death codes used by the InterVA model and derived cause-specific mortality fractions (the proportions of the population dying from specific causes) for the whole population and for subgroups (for example, deaths in different age groups and deaths occurring over specific periods of time) from the output of both approaches. The ten highest-ranking causes of death accounted for 83% and 88% of all deaths by physician interpretation and by probabilistic modelling, respectively. Eight of the most frequent causes of death—HIV, tuberculosis, chronic heart conditions, diarrhea, pneumonia/sepsis, transport-related accidents, homicides, and indeterminate—were common to both interpretation methods. Both methods coded about a third of all deaths as indeterminate, often because of incomplete VA data. Generally, there was close agreement between the methods for the five principal causes of death for each age group and for each period of time, although one notable discrepancy was pulmonary (lung) tuberculosis, which accounted for 6.4% and 21.3% of deaths in this age group, respectively, according to the physicians and to the model. However, these deaths accounted for only 3.5% of all the deaths.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal no differences between the cause-specific mortality fractions determined from VA data by physician interpretation and by probabilistic modelling that might have led to substantially different public-health policy programmes being initiated in this population. Importantly, both approaches clearly chart the rise of HIV-related mortality in this South African population between 1992 and 2005 and reach similar findings on other major causes of mortality. The researchers note that, although preparing the amount of VA data considered here for entry into the probabilistic model took several days, the model itself runs very quickly and always gives consistent answers. Given these findings, the researchers conclude that in many settings probabilistic modeling represents the best means of moving from VA data to public-health actions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000325.
The importance of accurate data on death is further discussed in a perspective previously published in PLoS Medicine Perspective by Colin Mathers and Ties Boerma
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on the vital registration of deaths and on the International Classification of Diseases; the WHO Health Metrics Network is a global collaboration focused on improving sources of vital statistics; and the WHO Global Health Observatory brings together core health statistics for WHO member states
The INDEPTH Network is a global collaboration that is collecting health statistics from developing countries; it provides more information about the Agincourt health and socio-demographic surveillance system and access to standard VA forms
Information on the Agincourt health and sociodemographic surveillance system is available on the University of Witwatersrand Web site
The InterVA Web site provides resources for interpreting verbal autopsy data and the Umeå Centre for Global Health Reseach, where the InterVA model was developed, is found at http://www.globalhealthresearch.net
A recent PLoS Medicine Essay by Peter Byass, lead author of this study, discusses The Unequal World of Health Data
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000325
PMCID: PMC2923087  PMID: 20808956
8.  Striving to be prepared for the painful: Management strategies following a family member's diagnosis of advanced cancer 
BMC Nursing  2011;10:18.
Background
Cancer has consequences not only for the sick person but also for those who have a close relationship with that person. Greater knowledge about how family members manage the situation in the period immediately following the diagnosis means greater opportunity to provide the best possible support for the family. The purpose of this study was to explore management strategies that family members use when the patient is in the early stage of treatment for advanced cancer.
Methods
Twenty family members of cancer patients were included in the study shortly after the diagnosis. The patients had been diagnosed 8-14 weeks earlier with advanced lung cancer or gastrointestinal cancer. The data were collected in interviews with family members and subjected to qualitative latent content analysis. Through the identification of similarities and dissimilarities in the units of meaning, abstraction into codes and sub-themes became possible. The sub-themes were then brought together in one overarching theme.
Results
The overall function of management strategies is expressed in the theme Striving to be prepared for the painful. The family members prepare themselves mentally for the anticipated tragedy. Family relationships become increasingly important, and family members want to spend all their time together. They try to banish thoughts of the impending death and want to live as normal a life as possible. It becomes important to family members to live in the present and save their energy for the time when they will need it the most. How participants handle their worries, anxiety and sadness can be categorized into seven sub-themes or management strategies: Making things easier in everyday life, Banishing thoughts about the approaching loss, Living in the present, Adjusting to the sick person's situation, Distracting oneself by being with others, Shielding the family from grief, and Attempting to maintain hope.
Conclusions
The findings revealed that the family members have their own resources for handling the early stage of the cancer trajectory in an acceptable way. There is a need for longitudinal studies to generate knowledge for designing evidence-based intervention programmes that can prevent future ill-health in these vulnerable family members.
doi:10.1186/1472-6955-10-18
PMCID: PMC3203032  PMID: 21970836
9.  Social integration and its value within the multiple setting in stroke care 
Purpose
To report the scope and illustrate the relevance of social integration among stroke patients.
Theory
Modern understanding of health has evolved over time and so nowadays aspects of health have moved beyond of what the health sector can handle on its own. Social integration is increasingly deemed to be associated with health outcomes and social networks and interactions with relatives have been considered important predictors of quality of life.
In 2006 the National Network of Continuous Integrated Care (RNCII) was established in Portugal, aiming, among others, to bridge the gap in interactions between health and social services. Nevertheless, and despite some acknowledged successes, the system maintains fragmented, especially in what the home care phase (after the acute and the eventual institutional convalescence phase) concerns. Social isolation, especially in older adults, the most subjected into stroke incidents at the same time, is currently considered a relevant and a very realistic threat to a person’s well-being. While for the elderly performing daily tasks and activities and driving within the health and social care system may already be difficult, social integration seems to be even more challenging, through emotional, psychological and motor limitations.
Methods
The study is based on Portuguese patients admitted to a stroke unit, randomized through an RCT into the intervention or the control group. Patients were followed during 6 months after discharge. The Lubben Social Network Scale-18 (LSNS-18) was applied, assessing perceived social support received from family, neighbors and friends. The intent behind this was to bring together and review strength, deepness, perceived availability and reliability of these interactions.
Results and conclusions
The conducted analysis established the dimension of social integration of stroke patients. Patients reported to have reasonably strong relationships with kin and non-kin, with a major role of family members. However, in line with what has been generally spoken in the public debate in recent years and with the perception of professionals engaged in the study, the traditional model of family and closeness of relationships in Portugal are fading away. We identified a number of patients who could not count on any family member, but yes, on non-kin, as well as patients who were left in a total solitude.
Discussion
Literature suggests that social networks are positively associated with functioning in several groups of patients. Social integration should then be considered by policy-makers and by health and social care programmes’ and initiatives’ designers. We conclude stressing the contribution of the society awareness for this issue.
PMCID: PMC3617740
social integration; networks; quality of life; stroke
10.  The Importance of Older Family Members in Providing Social Resources and Promoting Cancer Screening in Families With a Hereditary Cancer Syndrome 
The Gerontologist  2011;51(6):833-842.
Purpose: This study evaluates the role of older family members as providers of social resources within familial network systems affected by an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome. Design and Methods: Respondents who previously participated in a study that involved genetic counseling and testing for Lynch syndrome and their family network members were invited to participate in a onetime telephone interview about family communication. Results: A total of 206 respondents from 33 families identified 2,051 social relationships (dyads). Nineteen percent of the respondents and 25% of the network members were older (≥60 years). Younger respondents (≤59 years) were more likely to nominate older network members as providers of social resources than younger members: instrumental support (odds ratio [OR] = 1.68), emotional support (OR = 1.71), help in crisis situation (OR = 2.04), and dependability when needed (OR = 2.15). Compared with younger network members, older members were more likely to be listed as encouragers of colon cancer screening by both younger (OR = 3.40) and older respondents (OR = 1.90) independent of whether support exchange occurred in the relationship. Implications: Engaging older network members in health interventions to facilitate screening behaviors and emotional well-being of younger members within families affected by inherited conditions may be beneficial. Findings can be used to empower older individuals about their important social roles in enhancing the well-being of their family members and to inform younger individuals about their older relatives’ resourcefulness to facilitate positive social interactions.
doi:10.1093/geront/gnr049
PMCID: PMC3220664  PMID: 21562055
Social relationships; Social support; Cancer screening; Lynch syndrome; Communication
11.  Cancer Family Caregivers: A New Direction for Interventions 
Journal of Palliative Medicine  2012;15(7):775-783.
Abstract
Background
Descriptive studies of cancer family caregivers demonstrate role-related psychosocial and physical burden; however, little is known about which factors contribute to or obviate burden. Systematic reviews of caregiver intervention studies demonstrate mixed results, perhaps because some caregiver needs are still unknown and not adequately addressed. The purpose of our study was to explore the lived experience of being a caregiver for an adult with lung or colon cancer, so as to guide the development of future intervention studies.
Method
Using phenomenologic methods, open-ended interviews were conducted at a chemotherapy clinic, New Haven, CT with 135 caregivers to adults with lung or colon cancer. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was conducted with transcripts coded, reviewed, and recoded multiple times. The final 69 codes were reduced to 13 code clusters (thematic categories) distributed among 4 themes.
Results
Four inter-related themes emerged: 1) becoming a caregiver; 2) new and altered relationships; 3) personal responses to caregiving and 4) antecedents and social context. Caregivers describe hearing the cancer diagnosis as “life-changing”. The cancer creates the context for the caregiver's relationships (with the patient, self, others, and the healthcare system), and cognitive, behavioral, affective, and spiritual responses. The caregiver's antecedent experiences and social support network form the foundation for their perceptions of the diagnosis, relationships, and personal responses.
Conclusion
This study implicates several intervention components to be developed and tested as favorably supporting caregivers, namely, reinforcing positive aspects of caregiving, cultivating open communication, and acknowledging the prior experiences and social foundation of the caregiver's life that can be supportive or burdensome.
doi:10.1089/jpm.2012.0046
PMCID: PMC3387766  PMID: 22612407
12.  Complexity in Non-Pharmacological Caregiving Activities at the End of Life: An International Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001173.
In a qualitative study reported by Olav Lindqvist and colleagues, the range of nonpharmacological caregiving activities used in the last days of a patient's life are described.
Background
In late-stage palliative cancer care, relief of distress and optimized well-being become primary treatment goals. Great strides have been made in improving and researching pharmacological treatments for symptom relief; however, little systematic knowledge exists about the range of non-pharmacological caregiving activities (NPCAs) staff use in the last days of a patient's life.
Methods and Findings
Within a European Commission Seventh Framework Programme project to optimize research and clinical care in the last days of life for patients with cancer, OPCARE9, we used a free-listing technique to identify the variety of NPCAs performed in the last days of life. Palliative care staff at 16 units in nine countries listed in detail NPCAs they performed over several weeks. In total, 914 statements were analyzed in relation to (a) the character of the statement and (b) the recipient of the NPCA. A substantial portion of NPCAs addressed bodily care and contact with patients and family members, with refraining from bodily care also described as a purposeful caregiving activity. Several forms for communication were described; information and advice was at one end of a continuum, and communicating through nonverbal presence and bodily contact at the other. Rituals surrounding death and dying included not only spiritual/religious issues, but also more subtle existential, legal, and professional rituals. An unexpected and hitherto under-researched area of focus was on creating an aesthetic, safe, and pleasing environment, both at home and in institutional care settings.
Conclusions
Based on these data, we argue that palliative care in the last days of life is multifaceted, with physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and existential care interwoven in caregiving activities. Providing for fundamental human needs close to death appears complex and sophisticated; it is necessary to better distinguish nuances in such caregiving to acknowledge, respect, and further develop end-of-life care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
End-of-life care is a major public health issue, yet despite the inevitability of death, issues related to death and dying are often taboo, and, if mentioned, are often referred to as “palliative care.” There are detailed definitions of palliative care, but in essence, the purpose of palliative care is to relieve any suffering in patients who are dying from progressive illness and to provide the best possible quality of life for both the patient and his or her family. In order to achieve this aim, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological management is necessary, with the latter taking a central role. Recently, a European Commission Seventh Framework Programme project, OPCARE9, aimed to improve the care of dying patients in Europe and beyond by optimizing research and clinical care for patients with cancer in the last days of their life, especially regarding well-being and comfort as death becomes imminent.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is now a growing literature base in non-pharmacological management at the end of an individual's life, particularly in relation to psychological, ethical, and communication issues as well as family-focused and culturally appropriate care. Despite this progress, there is currently little systematic knowledge in how health workers use such non-pharmacological approaches in their efforts to maximize well-being and comfort in patients experiencing their very last days of life. Therefore, in order to advance knowledge in this important clinical area, in this study the researchers reviewed and identified the variety of non-pharmacological caregiving activities performed by different professionals in the last days and hours of life for patients with cancer (and their families) in palliative care settings in the countries that participated in OPCARE9.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers modified an anthropological approach to collect relevant information in participating European countries—Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK—and Argentina and New Zealand. Staff in palliative care settings generated a list of non-pharmacological caregiving activities after discussion about which interventions and activities they carried out with patients and families during the last days of life. This preliminary list of statements was added to if staff performed a new activity when in contact with patients or the patients' family during the last days of life. The researchers then used computer-assisted qualitative data analysis to code the statements.
Using this methodology, the researchers analyzed 914 statements of caregiving activities from 16 different facilities in nine countries. The greatest number of activities described some type of caregiving for an individual carried out through contact with his or her body, such as attending to diverse bodily needs (such as cleaning and moisturizing) while maintaining comfort and dignity. Listening, talking with, and understanding (particularly between professionals and the family) was the next most frequent activity, followed by creating an esthetical, safe, and pleasing environment for the dying person and his or her family, and necessary “backstage” activities, such as organizing paperwork or care plans. Other common activities included observing and assessing, which were often described as being carried out simultaneously with other interventions; just being present (described as increasingly important close to death); performing rituals surrounding death and dying (usually directed to families); guiding and facilitating (encompassing support in a compassionate manner); and finally, giving oral and written information and advice (usually to families).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that providing for fundamental human needs close to death is complex and sophisticated but ultimately integrated into a common theme of caregiving. This study also identifies a number of areas needing further investigation, such as enhancing the sensory and general environment for the patient and family. Finally, this study suggests that developing a greater level of detail, such as improved terminology for end-of-life care, would enhance appreciation of the nuances and complexity present in non-pharmacological care provision during the last days of life, with potential benefit for clinical practice, teaching, and research.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001173.
The OPCARE9 website details more information about this end-of-life care initiative
The World Health Organization website defines palliative care, and Wikipedia gives more information (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
NHS Choices also provides information about end-of-life care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001173
PMCID: PMC3279347  PMID: 22347815
13.  The challenge of social networking in the field of environment and health 
Environmental Health  2012;11(Suppl 1):S15.
Background
The fields of environment and health are both interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary, and until recently had little engagement in social networking designed to cross disciplinary boundaries. The EU FP6 project HENVINET aimed to establish integrated social network and networking facilities for multiple stakeholders in environment and health. The underlying assumption is that increased social networking across disciplines and sectors will enhance the quality of both problem knowledge and problem solving, by facilitating interactions. Inter- and trans-disciplinary networks are considered useful for this purpose. This does not mean that such networks are easily organized, as openness to such cooperation and exchange is often difficult to ascertain.
Methods
Different methods may enhance network building. Using a mixed method approach, a diversity of actions were used in order to investigate the main research question: which kind of social networking activities and structures can best support the objective of enhanced inter- and trans-disciplinary cooperation and exchange in the fields of environment and health. HENVINET applied interviews, a role playing session, a personal response system, a stakeholder workshop and a social networking portal as part of the process of building an interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary network.
Results
The interviews provided support for the specification of requirements for an interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary network. The role playing session, the personal response system and the stakeholder workshop were assessed as useful tools in forming such network, by increasing the awareness by different disciplines of other’s positions. The social networking portal was particularly useful in delivering knowledge, but the role of the scientist in social networking is not yet clear.
Conclusions
The main challenge in the field of environment and health is not so much a lack of scientific problem knowledge, but rather the ability to effectively communicate, share and use available knowledge for policy making. Structured social network facilities can be useful by policy makers to engage with the research community. It is beneficial for scientists to be able to integrate the perspective of policy makers in the research agenda, and to assist in co-production of policy-relevant information. A diversity of methods need to be applied for network building: according to the fit-for-purpose-principle. It is useful to know which combination of methods and in which time frame produces the best results.
Networking projects such as HENVINET are created not only for the benefit of the network itself, but also because the applying of the different methods is a learning tool for future network building. Finally, it is clear that the importance of specialized professionals in enabling effective communication between different groups should not be underestimated.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-S1-S15
PMCID: PMC3388437  PMID: 22759497
14.  Is social support associated with improved clinical outcomes in geriatric lung cancer patients? Observations from North Central Cancer Treatment Group Studies N9921 and N0222 
Background:
Social support is defined as a network of family/friends who provide practical and emotional help. A sizable literature describes a direct relationship between social support and improved cancer clinical outcomes. This study explored the extent of social support and its potential association with survival and adverse events in geriatric lung cancer patients.
Methods:
One hundred thirteen patients, who were aged 65 years or older, had incurable cancer, and were enrolled in one of two chemotherapy trials, completed the Lubben Social Network Scale, a validated instrument that measures social support. All were followed for survival and chemotherapy-related adverse events.
Results:
The median age (range) of the cohort was 74 years (65–91), and performance scores of 0, 1, or 2 were observed in 29%, 55%, and 16%, respectively. Forty-two percent were women. This cohort had a high level of social support: 81% reported they “always” had someone to take them to medical appointments. However, there were no gender-based differences in social support and no associations between social support and either survival or adverse events.
Conclusion:
In this cohort of geriatric lung cancer patients – all of whom were treated during a clinical trial – there was a high level of social support. However, there were no gender-based differences in extent of social support, and the latter did not predict clinical outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3004667  PMID: 21188124
social support; lung cancer; elderly; adverse events; survival
15.  Early-Life Family Structure and Microbially Induced Cancer Risk 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e7.
Background
Cancer may follow exposure to an environmental agent after many decades. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori, known to be acquired early in life, increases risk for gastric adenocarcinoma, but other factors are also important. In this study, we considered whether early-life family structure affects the risk of later developing gastric cancer among H. pylori+ men.
Methods and Findings
We examined a long-term cohort of Japanese-American men followed for 28 y, and performed a nested case-control study among those carrying H. pylori or the subset carrying the most virulent cagA+ H. pylori strains to address whether family structure predicted cancer development. We found that among the men who were H. pylori+ and/or cagA+ (it is possible to be cagA+ and H. pylori− if the H. pylori test is falsely negative), belonging to a large sibship or higher birth order was associated with a significantly increased risk of developing gastric adenocarcinoma late in life. For those with cagA+ strains, the risk of developing gastric cancer was more than twice as high (odds ratio 2.2; 95% confidence interval 1.2–4.0) among those in a sibship of seven or more individuals than in a sibship of between one and three persons.
Conclusions
These results provide evidence that early-life social environment plays a significant role in risk of microbially induced malignancies expressing five to eight decades later, and these findings lead to new models to explain these interactions.
This study suggests that early-life social environment has a significant role in risk of microbially induced malignancies such as gastric adenocarcinoma occuring five to eight decades later.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Although the theory that certain cancers might be caused by infectious agents (such as bacteria and viruses) has been around for some time, concrete evidence linking specific cancers and infections is only recently beginning to emerge. There is now very good evidence that stomach cancer, once one of the frequent types worldwide but now less common, is strongly associated with a particular infection of the stomach lining. This specific bacterium colonizing the stomach, Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori), often infects people early in childhood through close contact with other people, and tends to stay in the body throughout life. However, most people do not suffer any symptoms as a result of being colonized with H. pylori. Researchers are interested in the relationship between stomach cancer and aspects of someone's upbringing, for example whether an individual has a large number of sisters and brothers and whether they are the youngest or oldest in a large group of siblings. One reason for being interested in this topic is that if H. pylori is mainly spread from one child to another in the home, we might expect children from large sibling groups, and the youngest children in a group, to be at greater risk of being infected, and then more likely to get stomach cancer later in life. Furthermore—and this was the primary reason for the study—the researchers wished to determine whether, among H. pylori+ people, the structure of the family affects the risk of developing stomach cancer much later in life. With all study participants being H. pylori+, the essential comparison was between people of high and low birth order.
Why Was This Study Done?
This group of researchers had already done a previous study that had shown that people who carry H. pylori in their stomachs are more likely to get stomach cancer, and also that younger children in a sibling group are more likely to get stomach cancer. In the period following that study, the examined population has become older and more of the people concerned have developed stomach cancer. This meant that the researchers could go back and extend their previous work to see, more reliably, whether stomach cancer was linked to family structure. It also meant that the researchers could look at the effects of each factor not only in isolation, but also the combined effect of all the different factors. The researchers also stratified for the most virulent strains (those that were cagA+).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In this study, the researchers started out with a pool of 7,429 Japanese-American men living in Hawaii, USA, who had donated blood samples between 1967 and 1975. Of these men, 261 eventually developed stomach cancer. Each of the 261 men was then matched with a similarly aged man from the original pool of 7,429 men who did not have stomach cancer. The researchers then went back to the original blood samples taken many years before and tested the samples to see if the men were infected with H. pylori at the time the sample was taken and, if so, whether a particular strain of the bacterium, cagA, was present. The researchers then looked at whether the risk of getting stomach cancer was associated with the number of siblings a man had and whether he was older or younger than the other siblings.
Similar to the prior study, they found that men who had stomach cancer were three times more likely to carry H. pylori compared to men who did not develop stomach cancer. In men who had H. pylori, those with large numbers of siblings were more likely to get stomach cancer, and this was especially true for men who had the cagA strain of H. pylori. In the whole group of men with cancer, the order of birth (whether a man was older or younger in his sibling group) did not seem to be particularly linked to development of stomach cancer. However, in men who had the cagA strain of H. pylori, those from the largest sibships were at highest risk of developing gastric cancer; in this group, one particular type of cancer (the most common type—intestinal-type gastric cancer) was also associated with later birth order.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers initially thought that men with H. pylori would be at a higher risk of getting stomach cancer if they had a large number of sisters and brothers, and especially if they were a younger sibling in a large group. This idea was supported by their data. These findings support the idea that people often get H. pylori from their older sisters and brothers, but there is not conclusive proof of this. There might be some other factor that explains the association between large family size and stomach cancer, for example that people from large families might be poorer and more at risk from stomach cancer for some other reason. Currently, most doctors do not recommend routinely testing people without any symptoms to see if they have H. pylori, but people with pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen would generally be screened for H. pylori and then treated to eliminate the infection if it is found. The main novel idea is that those people who are born in a large sibship, and/or are of higher birth order, are more likely to acquire their H. pylori from a genetically related person (a sibling) than from an unrelated person (friend/classmate). This “family-structure effect” could be the explanation as to why there is a higher risk of stomach cancer developing later—the strain from a genetically related person already is “preadapted” to the new host, and has a “head-start” on immunity, compared to a strain from an unrelated person. The researchers hypothesize that it is the nature of that initial interaction with the host that sets the stage for the kind of events that lead to cancers decades later.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040007.
A Perspective article by Dimitrios Trichopoulos and Pagona Lagiou discusses these findings further
MedLine Plus encyclopedia entry on stomach cancer
Wikipedia entry on Helicobacter pylori (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The US National Cancer Institute publishes information about stomach cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040007
PMCID: PMC1769414  PMID: 17227131
16.  Patient-Reported Outcome Measures in Safety Event Reporting: PROSPER Consortium Guidance 
Drug Safety  2013;36(12):1129-1149.
The Patient-Reported Outcomes Safety Event Reporting (PROSPER) Consortium was convened to improve safety reporting by better incorporating the perspective of the patient. PROSPER comprises industry, regulatory authority, academic, private sector and patient representatives who are interested in the area of patient-reported outcomes of adverse events (PRO-AEs). It has developed guidance on PRO-AE data, including the benefits of wider use and approaches for data capture and analysis. Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) encompass the full range of self-reporting, rather than only patient reports collected by clinicians using validated instruments. In recent years, PROs have become increasingly important across the spectrum of healthcare and life sciences. Patient-centred models of care are integrating shared decision making and PROs at the point of care; comparative effectiveness research seeks to include patients as participatory stakeholders; and industry is expanding its involvement with patients and patient groups as part of the drug development process and safety monitoring. Additionally, recent pharmacovigilance legislation from regulatory authorities in the EU and the USA calls for the inclusion of patient-reported information in benefit–risk assessment of pharmaceutical products. For patients, technological advancements have made it easier to be an active participant in one’s healthcare. Simplified internet search capabilities, electronic and personal health records, digital mobile devices, and PRO-enabled patient online communities are just a few examples of tools that allow patients to gain increased knowledge about conditions, symptoms, treatment options and side effects. Despite these changes and increased attention on the perceived value of PROs, their full potential has yet to be realised in pharmacovigilance. Current safety reporting and risk assessment processes remain heavily dependent on healthcare professionals, though there are known limitations such as under-reporting and discordant perspectives between patient reports and clinician perceptions of adverse outcomes. PROSPER seeks to support the wider use of PRO-AEs. The scope of this guidance document, which was completed between July 2011 and March 2013, considered a host of domains related to PRO-AEs, including definitions and suitable taxonomies, the range of datasets that could be used, data collection mechanisms, and suitable analytical methodologies. PROSPER offers an innovative framework to differentiate patient populations. This framework considers populations that are prespecified (such as those in clinical trials, prospective observational studies and some registries) and non-prespecified populations (such as those in claims databases, PRO-enabled online patient networks, and social websites in general). While the main focus of this guidance is on post-approval PRO-AEs from both prespecified and non-prespecified population groups, PROSPER has also considered pre-approval, prespecified populations. The ultimate aim of this guidance is to ensure that the patient ‘voice’ and perspective feed appropriately into collection of safety data. The guidance also covers a minimum core dataset for use by industry or regulators to structure PRO-AEs (accessible in the online appendix) and how data, once collected, might be evaluated to better inform on the safe and effective use of medicinal products. Structured collection of such patient data can be considered both a means to an end (improving patient safety) as well as an end in itself (expressing the patient viewpoint). The members of the PROSPER Consortium therefore direct this PRO-AE guidance to multiple stakeholders in drug safety, including industry, regulators, prescribers and patients. The use of this document across the entirety of the drug development life cycle will help to better define the benefit–risk profile of new and existing medicines. Because of the clinical relevance of ‘real-world’ data, PROs have the potential to contribute important new knowledge about the benefits and risks of medicinal products, communicated through the voice of the patient.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40264-013-0113-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s40264-013-0113-z
PMCID: PMC3834161  PMID: 24092596
17.  In spite of good intentions: patients' perspectives on problematic social support interactions 
Background
In the setting of an acute coronary syndrome, the natural inclination of friends and family members is to provide social support. However, their efforts may be perceived as being problematic or unhelpful. The objective of this study was to identify the characteristics of problematic social support interactions from the perspectives of patients.
Methods
This was a qualitative study among a purposive sample of 59 patients who had been hospitalized for an acute coronary syndrome. Patients were asked: "Can you describe the types of things that your family members, close friends, and health care providers did during this period to try to be helpful or supportive but you felt was unhelpful or felt that it caused you more stress." Responses were analyzed using qualitative techniques and reviewed by two independent corroborators.
Results
The types of behaviors performed by social network members that were perceived as being unhelpful were grouped under 5 themes: (1) excessive telephone contact, (2) high expression of emotions, (3) unsolicited advice, (4) information without means for implementation, and (5) taking over.
Conclusion
Patients in this study described actions of their social network members that were intended to be supportive but instead were perceived as problematic because they were in excess of what was needed, they were incongruous with what was desired, or they contributed to negative feelings. Helping social networks to understand the potential problematic aspects of social support can aid in tailoring effective social support interventions.
doi:10.1186/1477-7525-3-52
PMCID: PMC1236950  PMID: 16143038
Qualitative study; Social support; Social networks; Coronary artery disease
18.  Online Social and Professional Support for Smokers Trying to Quit: An Exploration of First Time Posts From 2562 Members 
Background
Both intratreatment and extratreatment social support are associated with increased rates of smoking cessation. Internet-based social support groups have the capability of connecting widely dispersed groups of people trying to quit smoking, making social support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at minimal cost. However, to date there has been little research to guide development of this particular feature of Web-assisted tobacco interventions (WATIs).
Objective
Our objectives were to compare the characteristics of smokers who post in an online smoking cessation support group with smokers who do not post, conduct a qualitative analysis of discussion board content, and determine the time it takes for new users to receive feedback from existing members or moderators.
Methods
Data were collected from StopSmokingCenter.net version 5.0, a WATI equipped with an online social support network moderated by trained program health educators that was operational from November 6, 2004, to May 15, 2007. Demographic and smoking characteristics for both users and nonusers of the online social support network were analyzed, and qualitative analyses were conducted to explore themes in message content. Posting patterns and their frequency were also analyzed.
Results
During the study period, 16,764 individuals registered; of these, 70% (11,723) reported being American. The mean age of registrants was 38.9 years and 65% (10,965) were female. The mean number of cigarettes smoked was 20.6 per day. The mean score for the 41% (6849) of users who completed the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence was 5.6. Of all registered members, 15% (2562) made at least one post in the online social support network; 25% of first posts received a response from another member within 12 minutes, 50% within 29 minutes. The most frequent first posts were from recent quitters who were struggling with their quit attempts, and most responses were from members who had quit for a month or more. Differences in demographic and smoking characteristics between members who posted on the support group board at least once and those who did not post were statistically but not clinically significant.
Conclusions
Peer responses to new users were rapid, indicating that online social support networks may be particularly beneficial to smokers requiring more immediate assistance with their cessation attempt. This function may be especially advantageous for relapse prevention. Accessing this kind of rapid in-person support from a professional would take an inordinate amount of time and money. Further research regarding the effectiveness of WATIs with online social support networks is required to better understand the contribution of this feature to cessation, for both active users (posters) and passive users (“lurkers”) alike.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1340
PMCID: PMC2956324  PMID: 20719739
Internet; social support; addiction; treatment; tobacco; WATI
19.  The influence of social networks on self-management support: a metasynthesis 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:719.
Background
There is increasing recognition that chronic illness management (CIM) is not just an individual but a collective process where social networks can potentially make a considerable contribution to improving health outcomes for people with chronic illness. However, the mechanisms (processes, activities) taking place within social networks are insufficiently understood. The aim of this review was to focus on identifying the mechanisms linking social networks with CIM. Here we consider network mechanisms as located within a broader social context that shapes practices, behaviours, and the multiplicity of functions and roles that network members fulfil.
Methods
A systematic search of qualitative studies was undertaken on Medline, Embase, and Web for papers published between 1st January 2002 and 1st December 2013. Eligible for inclusion were studies dealing with diabetes, and with conditions or health behaviours relevant for diabetes management; and studies exploring the relationship between social networks, self-management, and deprivation. 25 papers met the inclusion criteria. A qualitative metasynthesis was undertaken and the review followed a line of argument synthesis.
Results
The main themes identified were: 1) sharing knowledge and experiences in a personal community; 2) accessing and mediation of resources; 3) self-management support requires awareness of and ability to deal with network relationships. These translated into line of argument synthesis in which three network mechanisms were identified. These were network navigation (identifying and connecting with relevant existing resources in a network), negotiation within networks (re-shaping relationships, roles, expectations, means of engagement and communication between network members), and collective efficacy (developing a shared perception and capacity to successfully perform behaviour through shared effort, beliefs, influence, perseverance, and objectives). These network mechanisms bring to the fore the close interdependence between social and psychological processes in CIM, and the intertwining of practical and moral dilemmas in identifying, offering, accepting, and rejecting support.
Conclusions
CIM policy and interventions could be extended towards: raising awareness about the structure and organisation of personal communities; building individual and network capacity for navigating and negotiating relationships and CIM environments; maximising the possibilities for social engagement as a way of increasing the effectiveness of individual and network efforts for CIM.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-719
PMCID: PMC4223639  PMID: 25023948
Social network; Self-management; Chronic illness; Network mechanisms; Metasynthesis
20.  A qualitative investigation of the roles and perspectives of older patients with advanced cancer and their family caregivers in managing pain in the home 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:39.
Background
Pain in advanced cancer is complex and multifaceted. In older patients comorbidities and age-related functional decline add to the difficulties in managing cancer pain. The current emphasis on care in the community, and preference by patients with life-limiting disease to receive care in the home, has meant that patients and their family caregivers have become increasingly responsible for the day-to-day management of cancer pain. An appreciation of patients’ and caregivers’ roles and perspectives managing pain is, therefore, fundamental to addressing cancer pain in this setting. Consequently, we sought to explore and describe their perspectives and roles.
Methods
A qualitative descriptive approach was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of patient- family caregiver dyads. Participants included 18 patients aged 65 years and over, with advanced cancer, receiving palliative care at home, and 15 family caregivers. The interview data were analysed using thematic analyses. Strategies were used to establish rigour.
Results
Two main themes were identified. The first theme, "Communicating the pain", represented pain assessment and incorporated four subthemes in which participants described: their roles in pain assessment, the identification and expression of pain, and the communication of pain between patients and caregivers. The second theme, "Finding a solution", comprised of four subthemes that reflected participants’ roles and approaches in controlling pain; as well as their beliefs about cancer pain control, experience with side effects, and perspectives on the goals of treatment.
Conclusions
The findings support other studies in identifying knowledge and attitudinal barriers to pain control; while adding to the literature by highlighting practical and relational barriers faced by older patients and their family caregivers. Health care professionals can do much to address the barriers identified by: correcting misconceptions regarding cancer pain, facilitating the communication of pain within dyads, and ensuring that patients and family caregivers have the knowledge, skills, and ability to assess and implement pain treatment strategies. This support needs to be individually tailored to meet the ongoing needs of both members of the dyad so that the shared goals of pain management are accomplished.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-13-39
PMCID: PMC4137110  PMID: 25140119
Cancer; Pain; Palliative care; Family caregivers; Aging
21.  One Hundred Intentional Acts of Kindness Toward a Pregnant Woman: Building Reproductive Social Capital in Los Angeles 
Ethnicity & disease  2010;20(1 0 2):S2-36-40.
This article describes the development of an innovative community-based program, One Hundred Intentional Acts of Kindness toward a Pregnant Woman© (100 Acts), which seeks to increase reproductive social capital for pregnant women in south and central Los Angeles communities. Reproductive social capital includes features such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate optimal reproductive health within a community. 100 Acts was designed and developed by the Healthy African American Families project, using community participatory methods, to increase local community and social network support for pregnant women. Dialog groups with pregnant women identified specific actions that families, friends, and strangers might do to support pregnancies. Participants primarily wanted emotional and instrumental support from family and friends. From strangers, they wanted respect for personal space and common courtesy. Based on these results, the 100 Acts was created for use in the Los Angeles community. 100 Acts encourages and engages active participation from community members in promoting healthy pregnancies. By seeking to increase community-level reproductive social capital, 100 Acts shifts the provision of social support during pregnancy from a high-risk approach to a population approach. 100 Acts also establishes new social norms about how pregnant women are valued, treated and respected.
PMCID: PMC3787313  PMID: 20629245
22.  Social Networks in Improvement of Health Care 
Materia Socio-Medica  2012;24(1):48-53.
Social network is a social structure made of individuals or organizations associated with one or more types of interdependence (friendship, common interests, work, knowledge, prestige, etc.) which are the “nodes” of the network. Networks can be organized to exchange information, knowledge or financial assistance under the various interest groups in universities, workplaces and associations of citizens. Today the most popular and widely used networks are based on application of the Internet as the main ICT. Depending on the method of connection, their field of activity and expertise of those who participate in certain networks, the network can be classified into the following groups: a) Social Networks with personal physical connectivity (the citizens’ associations, transplant networks, etc.), b) Global social internet network (Facebook, Twitter, Skype), c) specific health internet social network (forums, Health Care Forums, Healthcare Industry Forum), d) The health community internet network of non professionals (DailyStrength, CaringBridge, CarePages, MyFamilyHealth), e) Scientific social internet network (BiomedExperts, ResearchGate, iMedExchange), f) Social internet network which supported professionals (HealthBoards, Spas and Hope Association of Disabled and diabetic Enurgi), g) Scientific medical internet network databases in the system of scientific and technical information (CC, Pubmed/Medline, Excerpta Medica/EMBASE, ISI Web Knowledge, EBSCO, Index Copernicus, Social Science Index, etc.). The information in the network are exchanged in real time and in a way that has until recently been impossible in real life of people in the community. Networks allow tens of thousands of specific groups of people performing a series of social, professional and educational activities in the place of living and housing, place of work or other locations where individuals are. Network provides access to information related to education, health, nutrition, drugs, procedures, etc., which gives a special emphasis on public health aspects of information, especially in the field of medicine and health care. The authors of this paper discuss the role and practical importance of social networks in improving the health and solving of health problems without the physical entrance into the health care system. Social networks have their advantages and disadvantages, benefits and costs, especially when it comes to information which within the network set unprofessional people from unreliable sources, without an adequate selection. The ethical aspect of the norms in this segment is still not adequately regulated, so any sanctions for the unauthorized and malicious use of social networks in private and other purposes in order to obtain personal gain at the expense of individuals or groups (sick or healthy, owners of certain businesses and companies, health organizations and pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc.), for which there is still no global or European codes and standards of conduct. Cyber crime is now one of the mostly present types of crime in modern times, as evidenced by numerous scandals that are happening both globally and locally.
doi:10.5455/msm.2012.24.48-53
PMCID: PMC3732339  PMID: 23922516
social networks; health care; public aspects of health information.
23.  Proactive recruitment of cancer patients’ social networks into a smoking cessation trial 
Contemporary clinical trials  2011;32(4):498-504.
Background
This report describes the characteristics associated with successful enrollment of smokers in the social networks (i.e., family and close friends) of patients with lung cancer into a smoking cessation intervention.
Methods
Lung cancer patients from four clinical sites were asked to complete a survey enumerating their family members and close friends who smoke, and provide permission to contact these potential participants. Family members and close friends identified as smokers were interviewed and offered participation in a smoking cessation intervention. Repeated measures logistic regression model examined characteristics associated with enrollment.
Results
A total of 1,062 eligible lung cancer patients were identified and 516 patients consented and completed the survey. These patients identified 1,325 potentially eligible family and close friends. Of these, 496 consented and enrolled in the smoking cessation program. Network enrollment was highest among patients who were white and had late-stage disease. Social network members enrolled were most likely to be female, a birth family, immediate family, or close friend, and live in close geographic proximity to the patient.
Conclusions
Proactive recruitment of smokers in the social networks of lung cancer patients is challenging. In this study, the majority of family members and friends declined to participate. Enlisting immediate female family members and friends, who live close to the patient as agents to proactively recruit other network members into smoking cessation trials could be used to extend reach of cessation interventions to patients’ social networks. Moreover, further consideration should be given to the appropriate timing of approaching network smokers to consider cessation.
doi:10.1016/j.cct.2011.03.006
PMCID: PMC3104120  PMID: 21382509
recruitment; social network; smoking cessation; lung cancer
24.  Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-Term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective of Analysis
The objective of this analysis was to review empirical qualitative research on the experiences of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), informal caregivers (“carers”), and health care providers—from the point of diagnosis, through daily living and exacerbation episodes, to the end of life.
Clinical Need and Target Population
Qualitative empirical studies (from social sciences, clinical, and related fields) can offer important information about how patients experience their condition. This exploration of the qualitative literature offers insights into patients’ perspectives on COPD, their needs, and how interventions might affect their experiences. The experiences of caregivers are also explored.
Research Question
What do patients with COPD, their informal caregivers (“carers”), and health care providers experience over the course of COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
Literature searches for studies published from January 1, 2000, to November 2010 were performed on November 29, 2010, using OVID MEDLINE; on November 26, 2010, using ISI Web of Science; and on November 28, 2010, using EBSCO Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL). Titles and abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. One additional report, highly relevant to the synthesis, appeared in early 2011 during the drafting of this analysis and was included post hoc.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language full reports
studies published between January 1, 2000, and November 2010
primary qualitative empirical research (using any descriptive or interpretive qualitative methodology, including the qualitative component of mixed-methods studies) and secondary syntheses of primary qualitative empirical research
studies addressing any aspect of the experiences of living or dying with COPD from the perspective of persons at risk, patients, health care providers, or informal carers; studies addressing multiple conditions were included if COPD was addressed explicitly
Exclusion Criteria
studies addressing topics other than the experiences of living or dying with COPD from the perspective of persons at risk, patients, health care providers, or informal carers
studies labelled “qualitative” but not using a qualitative descriptive or interpretive methodology (e.g., case studies, experiments, or observational analysis using qualitative categorical variables)
quantitative research (i.e., using statistical hypothesis testing, using primarily quantitative data or analyses, or expressing results in quantitative or statistical terms)
studies that did not pose an empirical research objective or question, or involve the primary or secondary analysis of empirical data
Outcomes of Interest
qualitative descriptions and interpretations (narrative or theoretical) of personal and social experiences of COPD
Summary of Findings
Experiences at Diagnosis
Patients typically seek initial treatment for an acute episode rather than for chronic early symptoms of COPD.
Many patients initially misunderstand terms such as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or exacerbation.
Patients may not realize that COPD is incurable and fatal; some physicians themselves do not consider early COPD to be a fatal disease.
Smokers may not readily understand or agree with the idea that smoking caused or worsens their COPD. Those who believe there is a causal link may feel regret or shame.
Experiences of Living Day to Day
COPD patients experience alternating good days and bad days. A roller-coaster pattern of ups and downs becomes apparent, and COPD becomes a way of life.
Patients use many means (social, psychological, medical, organizational) to control what they can, and to cope with what they cannot. Economic hardship, comorbidities, language barriers, and low health literacy can make coping more difficult.
Increasing vulnerability and unpredictable setbacks make patients dependent on others for practical assistance, but functional limitations, institutional living or self-consciousness can isolate patients from the people they need.
For smokers, medical advice to quit can conflict with increased desire to smoke as a coping strategy.
Many of the factors that isolate COPD patients from social contact also isolate them from health care.
Experiences of Exacerbations
Patients may not always attribute repeated exacerbations to advancing disease, instead seeing them as temporary setbacks caused by activities, environmental factors, faltering self-management, or infection.
Lack of confidence in community-based services leads some patients to seek hospital admission, but patients also feel vulnerable when hospitalized. They may feel dependent on others for care or traumatized by hospital care routines.
Upon hospital discharge following an exacerbation, patients may face new levels of uncertainty about their illness, prognosis, care providers, and supports.
Experiences of the End of Life
Patients tend to be poorly informed about the long-term prognosis of COPD and what to expect toward the end of life; this lack of understanding impairs quality of life as the disease progresses.
As the end of life approaches, COPD patients face the usual challenges of daily living, but in a context of increasing exacerbations and deepening dependency. Activities and mobility decrease, and life may become confined.
Some clinicians have difficulty identifying the beginning of “the end of life,” given the unpredictable course of COPD. Long-term physician-patient relationships, familiarity and understanding, trust, good communication skills, sensitivity, and secure discussion settings can help facilitate end-of-life discussions.
Divergent meanings and goals of palliative care in COPD lead to confusion about whether such services are the responsibility of home care, primary care, specialty care, or even critical care. Palliative end-of-life care may not be anticipated prior to referral for such care. A palliative care referral can convey the demoralizing message that providers have “given up.”
Experiences of Carers
Carers’ challenges often echo patients’ challenges, and include anxiety, uncertainty about the future, helplessness, powerlessness, depression, difficulties maintaining employment, loss of mobility and freedoms, strained relationships, and growing social isolation.
Carers feel pressured by their many roles, struggling to maintain patience when they feel overwhelmed, and often feeling guilty about not doing enough.
Carers often face their own health problems and may have difficulty sustaining employment.
Synthesis: A Disease Trajectory Reflecting Patient Experiences
The flux of needs in COPD calls for service continuity and flexibility to allow both health care providers and patients to respond to the unpredictable yet increasing demands of the disease over time.
PMCID: PMC3384365  PMID: 23074423
25.  Types of social capital resources and self-rated health among the Norwegian adult population 
Background
Social inequalities in health are large in Norway. In part, these inequalities may stem from differences in access to supportive social networks - since occupying disadvantaged positions in affluent societies has been associated with disposing poor network resources. Research has demonstrated that social networks are fundamental resources in the prevention of mental and physical illness. However, to determine potentials for public health action one needs to explore the health impact of different types of network resources and analyze if the association between socioeconomic position and self-rated health is partially explained by social network factors. That is the aim of this paper.
Methods
Cross-sectional data were collected in 2007, through a postal survey from a gross sample of 8000 Norwegian adults, of which 3,190 (about 40%) responded. The outcome variable was self-rated health. Our main explanatory variables were indicators of socioeconomic positions and social capital indicators that was measured by different indicators that were grouped under 'bonding', 'bridging' and 'linking' social capital. Demographic data were collected for statistical control. Generalized ordered logistic regression analysis was performed.
Result
Results indicated that those who had someone to talk to when distressed were more likely to rate their health as good compared to those deprived of such person(s) (OR: 2.17, 95% CI: 1.55, 3.02). Similarly, those who were active members in two or more social organisations (OR: 1.73, 95% CI: 1.34, 2.22) and those who count a medical doctor among their friends (OR: 1.51, 95% CI: 1.13, 2.00) report better health. The association between self-rated health and socio-economic background indicators were marginally attenuated when social network indicators were added into the model.
Conclusion
Among different types of network resources, close and strong friendship-based ties are of importance for people's health in Norway. Networks linking people to high-educated persons are also of importance. Measures aiming at strengthening these types of network resources for socially disadvantaged groups might reduce social inequalities in health.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-9-8
PMCID: PMC2848659  PMID: 20236523

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