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1.  The Contribution of Primary Care Systems to Health Outcomes within Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Countries, 1970–1998 
Health Services Research  2003;38(3):831-865.
Objective
To assess the contribution of primary care systems to a variety of health outcomes in 18 wealthy Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries over three decades.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Data were primarily derived from OECD Health Data 2001 and from published literature. The unit of analysis is each of 18 wealthy OECD countries from 1970 to 1998 (total n=504).
Study Design
Pooled, cross-sectional, time-series analysis of secondary data using fixed effects regression.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Secondary analysis of public-use datasets. Primary care system characteristics were assessed using a common set of indicators derived from secondary datasets, published literature, technical documents, and consultation with in-country experts.
Principal Findings
The strength of a country's primary care system was negatively associated with (a) all-cause mortality, (b) all-cause premature mortality, and (c) cause-specific premature mortality from asthma and bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease (p<0.05 in fixed effects, multivariate regression analyses). This relationship was significant, albeit reduced in magnitude, even while controlling for macro-level (GDP per capita, total physicians per one thousand population, percent of elderly) and micro-level (average number of ambulatory care visits, per capita income, alcohol and tobacco consumption) determinants of population health.
Conclusions
(1) Strong primary care system and practice characteristics such as geographic regulation, longitudinality, coordination, and community orientation were associated with improved population health. (2) Despite health reform efforts, few OECD countries have improved essential features of their primary care systems as assessed by the scale used here. (3) The proposed scale can also be used to monitor health reform efforts intended to improve primary care.
doi:10.1111/1475-6773.00149
PMCID: PMC1360919  PMID: 12822915
Primary care; health system assessment; health reform
2.  The Brazil SimSmoke Policy Simulation Model: The Effect of Strong Tobacco Control Policies on Smoking Prevalence and Smoking-Attributable Deaths in a Middle Income Nation 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001336.
David Levy and colleagues use the SimSmoke model to estimate the effect of Brazil's recent stronger tobacco control policies on smoking prevalence and associated premature mortality, and the effect that additional policies may have.
Background
Brazil has reduced its smoking rate by about 50% in the last 20 y. During that time period, strong tobacco control policies were implemented. This paper estimates the effect of these stricter policies on smoking prevalence and associated premature mortality, and the effect that additional policies may have.
Methods and Findings
The model was developed using the SimSmoke tobacco control policy model. Using policy, population, and smoking data for Brazil, the model assesses the effect on premature deaths of cigarette taxes, smoke-free air laws, mass media campaigns, marketing restrictions, packaging requirements, cessation treatment programs, and youth access restrictions. We estimate the effect of past policies relative to a counterfactual of policies kept to 1989 levels, and the effect of stricter future policies. Male and female smoking prevalence in Brazil have fallen by about half since 1989, which represents a 46% (lower and upper bounds: 28%–66%) relative reduction compared to the 2010 prevalence under the counterfactual scenario of policies held to 1989 levels. Almost half of that 46% reduction is explained by price increases, 14% by smoke-free air laws, 14% by marketing restrictions, 8% by health warnings, 6% by mass media campaigns, and 10% by cessation treatment programs. As a result of the past policies, a total of almost 420,000 (260,000–715,000) deaths had been averted by 2010, increasing to almost 7 million (4.5 million–10.3 million) deaths projected by 2050. Comparing future implementation of a set of stricter policies to a scenario with 2010 policies held constant, smoking prevalence by 2050 could be reduced by another 39% (29%–54%), and 1.3 million (0.9 million–2.0 million) out of 9 million future premature deaths could be averted.
Conclusions
Brazil provides one of the outstanding public health success stories in reducing deaths due to smoking, and serves as a model for other low and middle income nations. However, a set of stricter policies could further reduce smoking and save many additional lives.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Tobacco kills up to half its users—more than 5 million smokers die every year from tobacco-related causes. It also kills more than half a million non-smokers annually who have been exposed to second-hand smoke. If current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths could increase to more than 8 million by 2030. In response to this global tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization has developed an international instrument for tobacco control called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Since it came into force in February 2005, 176 countries have become parties to the FCTC. As such, they agree to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertizing, promotion, and sponsorship; to ban misleading and deceptive terms on tobacco packaging; to protect people from exposure to cigarette smoke in public spaces and indoor workplaces; to implement tax policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption; and to combat illicit trade in tobacco products.
Why Was This Study Done?
Brazil has played a pioneering role in providing support for tobacco control measures in low and middle income countries. It introduced its first cigarette-specific tax in 1990 and, in 1996, it placed the first warnings on cigarette packages and introduced smoke-free air laws. Many of these measures have subsequently been strengthened. Over the same period, the prevalence of smoking among adults (the proportion of the population that smokes) has halved in Brazil, falling from 34.8% in 1989 to 18.5% in 2008. But did the introduction of tobacco control policies contribute to this decline, and if so, which were the most effective policies? In this study, the researchers use a computational model called the SimSmoke tobacco control policy model to investigate this question and to examine the possible effect of introducing additional control policies consistent with the FCTC, which Brazil has been a party to since 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed Brazil SimSmoke by incorporating policy, population, and smoking data for Brazil into the SimSmoke simulation model; Brazil SimSmoke estimates smoking prevalence and smoking-attributable deaths from 1989 forwards. They then compared smoking prevalences and smoking-attributable deaths estimated by Brazil SimSmoke for 2010 with and without the inclusion of the tobacco control policies that were introduced between 1989 and 2010. The model estimated that the smoking prevalence in Brazil in 2010 was reduced by 46% by the introduction of tobacco control measures. Almost half of this reduction was explained by price increases, 14% by smoke-free laws, 14% by marketing restrictions, 8% by health warnings, 6% by anti-smoking media campaigns, and 10% by cessation treatment programs. Moreover, as a result of past policies, the model estimated that almost 420,000 tobacco-related deaths had been averted by 2010 and that almost 7 million deaths will have been averted by 2050. Finally, using the model to compare the effects of a scenario that includes stricter policies (for example, an increase in tobacco tax) with a scenario that includes the 2010 policies only, indicated that stricter control policies would reduce the estimated smoking prevalence by an extra 39% between 2010 and 2050 and avert about 1.3 million additional premature deaths.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the introduction of tobacco control policies has been a critical factor in the rapid decline in smoking prevalence in Brazil over the past 20 years. They also suggest that the introduction of stricter policies that are fully consistent with the FCTC has the potential to reduce the prevalence of smoking further and save many additional lives. Although the reduction in smoking prevalence in Brazil between 1989 and 2010 predicted by the Brazil SimSmoke model is close to the recorded reduction over that period, these findings need to be interpreted with caution because of the many assumptions incorporated in the model. Moreover, the accuracy of the model's predictions depends on the accuracy of the data fed into it, some of which was obtained from other countries and may not accurately reflect the situation in Brazil. Importantly, however, these findings show that, even for a middle income nation, reducing tobacco use is a “winnable battle” that carries huge dividends in terms of reducing illness and death without requiring unlimited resources.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001336.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages), about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and about tobacco control in Brazil
The Framework Convention Alliance provides more information about the FCTC
The Brazilian National Cancer Institute (INCA) provides information on tobacco control policies in Brazil; additional information about tobacco control laws in Brazil is available on the Tobacco Control Laws interactive website, which provides information about tobacco control legislation worldwide
More information on the SimSmoke model of tobacco control policies is available in document or slideshow form
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001336
PMCID: PMC3491001  PMID: 23139643
3.  The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000058.
Majid Ezzati and colleagues examine US data on risk factor exposures and disease-specific mortality and find that smoking and hypertension, which both have effective interventions, are responsible for the largest number of deaths.
Background
Knowledge of the number of deaths caused by risk factors is needed for health policy and priority setting. Our aim was to estimate the mortality effects of the following 12 modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors in the United States (US) using consistent and comparable methods: high blood glucose, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood pressure; overweight–obesity; high dietary trans fatty acids and salt; low dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids (seafood), and fruits and vegetables; physical inactivity; alcohol use; and tobacco smoking.
Methods and Findings
We used data on risk factor exposures in the US population from nationally representative health surveys and disease-specific mortality statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics. We obtained the etiological effects of risk factors on disease-specific mortality, by age, from systematic reviews and meta-analyses of epidemiological studies that had adjusted (i) for major potential confounders, and (ii) where possible for regression dilution bias. We estimated the number of disease-specific deaths attributable to all non-optimal levels of each risk factor exposure, by age and sex. In 2005, tobacco smoking and high blood pressure were responsible for an estimated 467,000 (95% confidence interval [CI] 436,000–500,000) and 395,000 (372,000–414,000) deaths, accounting for about one in five or six deaths in US adults. Overweight–obesity (216,000; 188,000–237,000) and physical inactivity (191,000; 164,000–222,000) were each responsible for nearly 1 in 10 deaths. High dietary salt (102,000; 97,000–107,000), low dietary omega-3 fatty acids (84,000; 72,000–96,000), and high dietary trans fatty acids (82,000; 63,000–97,000) were the dietary risks with the largest mortality effects. Although 26,000 (23,000–40,000) deaths from ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes were averted by current alcohol use, they were outweighed by 90,000 (88,000–94,000) deaths from other cardiovascular diseases, cancers, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, alcohol use disorders, road traffic and other injuries, and violence.
Conclusions
Smoking and high blood pressure, which both have effective interventions, are responsible for the largest number of deaths in the US. Other dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors for chronic diseases also cause a substantial number of deaths in the US.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A number of modifiable factors are responsible for many premature or preventable deaths. For example, being overweight or obese shortens life expectancy, while half of all long-term tobacco smokers in Western populations will die prematurely from a disease directly related to smoking. Modifiable risk factors fall into three main groups. First, there are lifestyle risk factors. These include tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use (small amounts of alcohol may actually prevent diabetes and some types of heart disease and stroke). Second, there are dietary risk factors such as a high salt intake and a low intake of fruits and vegetables. Finally, there are “metabolic risk factors,” which shorten life expectancy by increasing a person's chances of developing cardiovascular disease (in particular, heart problems and strokes) and diabetes. Metabolic risk factors include having high blood pressure or blood cholesterol and being overweight or obese.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce preventable deaths by changing modifiable risk factors through introducing public health policies, programs and regulations that reduce exposures to these risk factors. However, it is important to know how many deaths are caused by each risk factor before developing policies and programs that aim to improve a nation's health. Although previous studies have provided some information on the numbers of premature deaths caused by modifiable risk factors, there are two problems with these studies. First, they have not used consistent and comparable methods to estimate the number of deaths attributable to different risk factors. Second, they have rarely considered the effects of dietary and metabolic risk factors. In this new study, the researchers estimate the number of deaths due to 12 different modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors for the United States population. They use a method called “comparative risk assessment.” This approach estimates the number of deaths that would be prevented if current distributions of risk factor exposures were changed to hypothetical optimal distributions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data on exposures to these 12 selected risk factors from US national health surveys, and they obtained information on deaths from difference diseases for 2005 from the US National Center for Health Statistics. They used previously published studies to estimate how much each risk factor increases the risk of death from each disease. The researchers then used a mathematical formula to estimate the numbers of deaths caused by each risk factor. Of the 2.5 million US deaths in 2005, they estimate that nearly half a million were associated with tobacco smoking and about 400,000 were associated with high blood pressure. These two risk factors therefore each accounted for about 1 in 5 deaths in US adults. Overweight–obesity and physical inactivity were each responsible for nearly 1 in 10 deaths. Among the dietary factors examined, high dietary salt intake had the largest effect, being responsible for 4% of deaths in adults. Finally, while alcohol use prevented 26,000 deaths from ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, and diabetes, the researchers estimate that it caused 90,000 deaths from other types of cardiovascular diseases, other medical conditions, and road traffic accidents and violence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that smoking and high blood pressure are responsible for the largest number of preventable deaths in the US, but that several other modifiable risk factors also cause many deaths. Although the accuracy of some of the estimates obtained in this study will be affected by the quality of the data used, these findings suggest that targeting a handful of risk factors could greatly reduce premature mortality in the US. The findings might also apply to other countries, although the risk factors responsible for most preventable deaths may vary between countries. Importantly, effective individual-level and population-wide interventions are already available to reduce people's exposure to the two risk factors responsible for most preventable deaths in the US. The researchers also suggest that combinations of regulation, pricing, and education have the potential to reduce the exposure of US residents to other risk factors that are likely to shorten their lives.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000058.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on healthy living (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living
Healthy People 2010 is a national framework designed to improve the health of people living in the US. The Healthy People 2020 Framework is due to be launched in January 2010
The World Health Report 2002Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life provides a global analysis of how healthy life expectancy could be increased
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is “a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's site Smoking and Tobacco Use offers a large number of informational and data resources on this important risk factor
The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society provide a rich resource for patients and caregivers on many important risk factors including diet, sodium intake, and smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000058
PMCID: PMC2667673  PMID: 19399161
4.  Drivers of Inequality in Millennium Development Goal Progress: A Statistical Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000241.
David Stuckler and colleagues examine the impact of the HIV and noncommunicable disease epidemics on low-income countries' progress toward the Millennium Development Goals for health.
Background
Many low- and middle-income countries are not on track to reach the public health targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We evaluated whether differential progress towards health MDGs was associated with economic development, public health funding (both overall and as percentage of available domestic funds), or health system infrastructure. We also examined the impact of joint epidemics of HIV/AIDS and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which may limit the ability of households to address child mortality and increase risks of infectious diseases.
Methods and Findings
We calculated each country's distance from its MDG goals for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality targets for the year 2005 using the United Nations MDG database for 227 countries from 1990 to the present. We studied the association of economic development (gross domestic product [GDP] per capita in purchasing-power-parity), the relative priority placed on health (health spending as a percentage of GDP), real health spending (health system expenditures in purchasing-power-parity), HIV/AIDS burden (prevalence rates among ages 15–49 y), and NCD burden (age-standardised chronic disease mortality rates), with measures of distance from attainment of health MDGs. To avoid spurious correlations that may exist simply because countries with high disease burdens would be expected to have low MDG progress, and to adjust for potential confounding arising from differences in countries' initial disease burdens, we analysed the variations in rates of change in MDG progress versus expected rates for each country. While economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure did not explain more than one-fifth of the differences in progress to health MDGs among countries, burdens of HIV and NCDs explained more than half of between-country inequalities in child mortality progress (R2-infant mortality  = 0.57, R2-under 5 mortality  = 0.54). HIV/AIDS and NCD burdens were also the strongest correlates of unequal progress towards tuberculosis goals (R2 = 0.57), with NCDs having an effect independent of HIV/AIDS, consistent with micro-level studies of the influence of tobacco and diabetes on tuberculosis risks. Even after correcting for health system variables, initial child mortality, and tuberculosis diseases, we found that lower burdens of HIV/AIDS and NCDs were associated with much greater progress towards attainment of child mortality and tuberculosis MDGs than were gains in GDP. An estimated 1% lower HIV prevalence or 10% lower mortality rate from NCDs would have a similar impact on progress towards the tuberculosis MDG as an 80% or greater rise in GDP, corresponding to at least a decade of economic growth in low-income countries.
Conclusions
Unequal progress in health MDGs in low-income countries appears significantly related to burdens of HIV and NCDs in a population, after correcting for potentially confounding socioeconomic, disease burden, political, and health system variables. The common separation between NCDs, child mortality, and infectious syndromes among development programs may obscure interrelationships of illness affecting those living in poor households—whether economic (e.g., as money spent on tobacco is lost from child health expenditures) or biological (e.g., as diabetes or HIV enhance the risk of tuberculosis).
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2000, 189 countries adopted the United Nations (UN) Millennium Declaration, which commits the world to the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015. The Declaration lists eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 21 quantifiable targets, and 60 indicators of progress. So, for example, MDG 4 aims to reduce child mortality (deaths). The target for this goal is to reduce the number of children who die each year before they are five years old (the under-five mortality rate) to two-thirds of its 1990 value by 2015. Indicators of progress toward this goal include the under-five mortality rate and the infant mortality rate. Because poverty and ill health are inextricably linked—ill health limits the ability of individuals and nations to improve their economic status, and poverty contributes to the development of many illnesses—two other MDGs also tackle public health issues. MDG 5 sets a target of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters of its 1990 level by 2015. MDG 6 aims to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases such as tuberculosis by 2015.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although progress has been made toward achieving the MDGs, few if any of the targets are likely to be met by 2015. Worryingly, low-income countries are falling furthest behind their MDG targets. For example, although child mortality has been declining globally, in many poor countries there has been little or no progress. What is the explanation for this and other inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs? Some countries may simply lack the financial resources needed to combat epidemics or may allocate only a low proportion of their gross domestic product (GDP) to health. Alternatively, money allocated to health may not always reach the people who need it most because of an inadequate health infrastructure. Finally, coexisting epidemics may be hindering progress toward the MDG health targets. Thus, the spread of HIV/AIDS may be hindering attempts to limit the spread of tuberculosis because HIV infection increases the risk of active tuberculosis, and ongoing epidemics of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) may be affecting the attainment of health MDGs by diverting scarce resources. In this study, the researchers investigate whether any of these possibilities is driving the inequalities in MDG progress.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers calculated how far 227 countries were from their MDG targets for HIV, tuberculosis, and infant and child mortality in 2005 using information collected by the UN. They then used statistical methods to study the relationship between this distance and economic development (GDP per person), health spending as a proportion of GDP (health priority), actual health system expenditures, health infrastructure, HIV burden, and NCD burden in each country. Economic development, health priority, health spending, and health infrastructure explained no more than one-fifth of the inequalities in progress toward health MDGs. By contrast, the HIV and NCD burdens explained more than half of inequalities in child mortality progress and were strongly associated with unequal progress toward tuberculosis goals. Furthermore, the researchers calculated that a 1% reduction in the number of people infected with HIV or a 10% reduction in rate of deaths from NCDs in a population would have a similar impact on progress toward the tuberculosis MDG target as a rise in GDP corresponding to at least a decade of growth in low-income countries.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by the quality of the available data on health indicators in low-income countries and, because the researchers used country-wide data, their findings only reveal possible drivers of inequalities in progress toward MDGs in whole countries and may mask drivers of within-country inequalities. Nevertheless, as one of the first attempts to analyze the determinants of global inequalities in progress toward the health MDGs, these findings have important implications for global health policy. Most importantly, the finding that unequal progress is related to the burdens of HIV and NCDs in populations suggests that programs designed to achieve health MDGs must consider all the diseases and factors that can trap households in vicious cycles of illness and poverty, especially since the achievement of feasible reductions in NCDs in low-income countries could greatly enhance progress towards health MDGs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals website provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress towards the MDGs
The World Health Organization provides information about poverty and health and health and development
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000241
PMCID: PMC2830449  PMID: 20209000
5.  Diet and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Policy Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001465.
Carl Lachat and colleagues evaluate policies in low- and middle-income countries addressing salt and fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity, key risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are increasing rapidly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and constitute a leading cause of mortality. Although a call for global action has been resonating for years, the progress in national policy development in LMICs has not been assessed. This review of strategies to prevent NCDs in LMICs provides a benchmark against which policy response can be tracked over time.
Methods and Findings
We reviewed how government policies in LMICs outline actions that address salt consumption, fat consumption, fruit and vegetable intake, or physical activity. A structured content analysis of national nutrition, NCDs, and health policies published between 1 January 2004 and 1 January 2013 by 140 LMIC members of the World Health Organization (WHO) was carried out. We assessed availability of policies in 83% (116/140) of the countries. NCD strategies were found in 47% (54/116) of LMICs reviewed, but only a minority proposed actions to promote healthier diets and physical activity. The coverage of policies that specifically targeted at least one of the risk factors reviewed was lower in Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Eastern Mediterranean compared to the other two World Health Organization regions, South-East Asia and Western Pacific. Of the countries reviewed, only 12% (14/116) proposed a policy that addressed all four risk factors, and 25% (29/116) addressed only one of the risk factors reviewed. Strategies targeting the private sector were less frequently encountered than strategies targeting the general public or policy makers.
Conclusions
This review indicates the disconnection between the burden of NCDs and national policy responses in LMICs. Policy makers urgently need to develop comprehensive and multi-stakeholder policies to improve dietary quality and physical activity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—chronic medical conditions including cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma)—are responsible for two-thirds of the world's deaths. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths, close to 30 million per year, occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where they are also rising most rapidly. Diet and lifestyle (including smoking, lack of exercise, and harmful alcohol consumption) influence a person's risk of developing an NCD and of dying from it. Because they can be modified, these risk factors have been at the center of strategies to combat NCDs. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. For diet, it recommended that individuals achieve energy balance and a healthy weight; limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids; increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts; limit the intake of free sugars; and limit salt consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodized. For physical activity, it recommended at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days throughout a person's life.
Why Was This Study Done?
By signing onto the Global Strategy in 2004, WHO member countries agreed to implement it with high priority. A first step of implementation is usually the development of local policies. Consequently, one of the four objectives of the WHO Global Strategy is “to encourage the development, strengthening and implementation of global, regional, national and community policies and action plans to improve diets and increase physical activity.” Along the same lines, in 2011 the United Nations held a high-level meeting in which the need to accelerate the policy response to the NCD epidemic was emphasized. This study was done to assess the existing national policies on NCD prevention in LMICs. Specifically, the researchers examined how well those policies matched the WHO recommendations for intake of salt, fat, and fruits and vegetables, as well as the recommendations for physical activity.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the Internet (including websites of relevant ministries and departments) for all publicly available national policies related to diet, nutrition, NCDs, and health from all 140 WHO member countries classified as LMICs by the World Bank in 2011. For countries for which the search did not turn up policies, the researchers sent e-mail requests to the relevant national authorities, to the regional WHO offices, and to personal contacts. All documents dated from 1 January 2004 to 1 January 2013 that included national objectives and guidelines for action regarding diet, physical exercise, NCD prevention, or a combination of the three, were analyzed in detail.
Most of the policies obtained were not easy to find and access. For 24 countries, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean, the researchers eventually gave up, unable to establish whether relevant national policies existed. Of the remaining 116 countries, 29 countries had no relevant policies, and another 30 had policies that failed to mention specifically any of the diet-related risk factors included in the analysis. Fifty-four of the 116 countries had NCD policies that addressed at least one of the risk factors. Thirty-six national policy documents contained strategies to increase fruit and vegetable intake, 20 addressed dietary fat consumption, 23 aimed to limit salt intake, and 35 had specific actions to promote physical activity. Only 14 countries, including Jamaica, the Philippines, Iran, and Mongolia, had policies that addressed all four risk factors. The policies of 27 countries mentioned only one of the four risk factors.
Policies primarily targeted consumers and government agencies and failed to address the roles of the business community or civil society. Consistent with this, most were missing plans, mechanisms, and incentives to drive collaborations between the different stakeholders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
More than eight years after the WHO Global Strategy was agreed upon, only a minority of the LMICs included in this analysis have comprehensive policies in place. Developing policies and making them widely accessible is a likely early step toward specific implementation and actions to prevent NCDs. These results therefore suggest that not enough emphasis is placed on NCD prevention in these countries through actions that have been proven to reduce known risk factors. That said, the more important question is what countries are actually doing to combat NCDs, something not directly addressed by this analysis.
In richer countries, NCDs have for decades been the leading cause of sickness and death, and the fact that public health strategies need to emphasize NCD prevention is now widely recognized. LMICs not only have more limited resources, they also continue to carry a large burden from infectious diseases. It is therefore not surprising that shifting resources towards NCD prevention is a difficult process, even if the human cost of these diseases is massive and increasing. That only about 3% of global health aid is aimed at NCD prevention does not help the situation.
The authors argue that one step toward improving the situation is better sharing of best practices and what works and what doesn't in policy development. They suggest that an open-access repository like one that exists for Europe could improve the situation. They offer to organize, host, and curate such a resource under the auspices of WHO, starting with the policies retrieved for this study, and they invite submission of additional policies and updates.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Stuckler and Basu
The WHO website on diet and physical activity contains links to various documents, including a diet and physical activity implementation toolbox that contains links to the 2004 Global Strategy document and a Framework to Monitor and Evaluate Implementation
There is a 2011 WHO primer on NCDs entitled Prioritizing a Preventable Epidemic
A recent PLOS Medicine editorial and call for papers addressing the global disparities in the burden from NCDs
A PLOS Blogs post entitled Politics and Global HealthAre We Missing the Obvious? and associated comments discuss the state of the fight against NCDs in early 2013
The NCD Alliance was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control, the International Diabetes Federation, the World Heart Federation, and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease; its mission is to combat the NCD epidemic by putting health at the center of all policies
The WHO European Database on Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (NOPA) contains national and subnational surveillance data, policy documents, actions to implement policy, and examples of good practice in programs and interventions for the WHO European member states
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001465
PMCID: PMC3679005  PMID: 23776415
6.  International Monetary Fund Programs and Tuberculosis Outcomes in Post-Communist Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e143.
Background
Previous studies have indicated that International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic programs have influenced health-care infrastructure in recipient countries. The post-communist Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries experienced relatively similar political and economic changes over the past two decades, and participated in IMF programs of varying size and duration. We empirically examine how IMF programs related to changes in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates among these countries.
Methods and Findings
We performed multivariate regression of two decades of tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality data against variables potentially influencing tuberculosis program outcomes in 21 post-communist countries for which comparative data are available. After correcting for confounding variables, as well as potential detection, selection, and ecological biases, we observed that participating in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates by 13.9%, 13.2%, and 16.6%, respectively. Each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%. On the other hand, we estimated a decrease in tuberculosis mortality rates of 30.7% (95% confidence interval, 18.3% to 49.5%) associated with exiting the IMF programs. IMF lending did not appear to be a response to worsened health outcomes; rather, it appeared to be a precipitant of such outcomes (Granger- and Sims-causality tests), even after controlling for potential political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health-related confounders. In contrast, non-IMF lending programs were connected with decreased tuberculosis mortality rates (−7.6%, 95% confidence interval, −1.0% to −14.1%). The associations observed between tuberculosis mortality and IMF programs were similar to those observed when evaluating the impact of IMF programs on tuberculosis incidence and prevalence. While IMF programs were connected with large reductions in generalized government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of physicians per capita, non-IMF lending programs were not significantly associated with these variables.
Conclusions
IMF economic reform programs are associated with significantly worsened tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates in post-communist Eastern European and former Soviet countries, independent of other political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health changes in these countries. Future research should attempt to examine how IMF programs may have related to other non-tuberculosis–related health outcomes.
David Stuckler and colleagues show that, in Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries, participation in International Monetary Fund economic programs have been associated with higher mortality rates from tuberculosis.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Tuberculosis—a contagious, bacterial infection—has killed large numbers of people throughout human history. Over the last century improvements in public health began to reduce the incidence (the number of new cases in the population in a given time), prevalence (the number of infected people), and mortality rate (number of people dying each year) of tuberculosis in several countries. Many authorities thought that tuberculosis had become a disease of the past. It has become increasingly clear, however, that regions impacted by health and economic changes since the 1980s have continued to face a high and sometimes increasing burden of tuberculosis. In order to boost funding and resources for combating the global tuberculosis problem, the United Nations has set a target of halting and reversing increases in global tuberculosis incidence by 2015 as one of its Millennium Development Goals. Yet one region of the world—Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—is not on track to achieve this goal.
Why Was This Study Done?
To achieve these targets, the World Health Organization (WHO) and tuberculosis physicians' groups promote the expansion of detection and treatment efforts against tuberculosis. But these efforts depend on the maintenance of good health infrastructure to fund and support health-care workers, clinics, and hospitals. In countries with significant financial limitations, the development and maintenance of these health system resources are often dependent upon international donations and financial lending. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major source of capital for resource-deprived countries, but it is unclear whether its economic reform programs have positive or negative effects on health and health infrastructures in recipient countries. There are indications, for example, that recipient countries sometimes reduce their public-health spending to meet the economic targets set by the IMF as conditions for its loans. In this study, the researchers examine the relationship between participating in IMF lending programs of varying sizes and durations by 21 post-communist Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries and changes in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality in these countries during the past two decades.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To examine how participation in IMF lending programs affected tuberculosis control in these countries, the researchers developed a series of statistical models that take into account other variables (for example, directly observed therapy programs, HIV rates, military conflict, and urbanization) that might have affected tuberculosis control. Participation in an IMF program, they report, was associated with increases in tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rate of about 15%, which corresponds to hundreds of thousands of new cases and deaths in this region. Each additional year of participation increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%; increases in the size of the IMF loan also corresponded to greater tuberculosis mortality rates. Conversely, when countries left IMF programs, tuberculosis mortality rates dropped by roughly one-third. The authors' further statistical tests indicated that IMF lending was not a positive response to worsened tuberculosis control but precipitated this adverse outcome and that lending from non-IMF sources of funding was associated with decreases in tuberculosis mortality rates. Consistent with these results, IMF (but not non-IMF) programs were associated with reductions in government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of doctors per capita in each country. These findings associated with mortality were also found when analyzing tuberculosis incidence and prevalence data.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that IMF economic programs are associated with significantly worsened tuberculosis control in post-communist Central and Eastern European and former Soviet Union countries, independent of other political, health, and economic changes in these countries. Further research is needed to discover exactly which aspects of the IMF programs were associated with the adverse effects on tuberculosis control reported here and to see whether IMF loans have similar effects on tuberculosis control in other countries or on other non–tuberculosis-related health outcomes. For now, these results challenge the proposition that the forms of economic development promoted by the IMF necessarily improve public health. In particular, they put the onus on the IMF to critically evaluate the direct and indirect effects of its economic programs on public health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050143.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Murray and King
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis, including a brief history of the disease
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide several fact sheets and other information resources about tuberculosis
The World Health Organization provides information (in several languages) on efforts to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis, including information on the Stop TB Strategy and the 2008 report on global tuberculosis control—surveillance, planning, financing
Detailed information about the International Monetary Fund is available on its Web site
An article that asks “Does the IMF constrain health spending in poor countries?” (with a link to a response from the IMF) is provided by the Center for Global Development
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050143
PMCID: PMC2488179  PMID: 18651786
7.  Adult Mortality Attributable to Preventable Risk Factors for Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries in Japan: A Comparative Risk Assessment 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(1):e1001160.
Using a combination of published data and modeling, Nayu Ikeda and colleagues identify tobacco smoking and high blood pressure as major risk factors for death from noncommunicable diseases among adults in Japan.
Background
The population of Japan has achieved the longest life expectancy in the world. To further improve population health, consistent and comparative evidence on mortality attributable to preventable risk factors is necessary for setting priorities for health policies and programs. Although several past studies have quantified the impact of individual risk factors in Japan, to our knowledge no study has assessed and compared the effects of multiple modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases and injuries using a standard framework. We estimated the effects of 16 risk factors on cause-specific deaths and life expectancy in Japan.
Methods and Findings
We obtained data on risk factor exposures from the National Health and Nutrition Survey and epidemiological studies, data on the number of cause-specific deaths from vital records adjusted for ill-defined codes, and data on relative risks from epidemiological studies and meta-analyses. We applied a comparative risk assessment framework to estimate effects of excess risks on deaths and life expectancy at age 40 y. In 2007, tobacco smoking and high blood pressure accounted for 129,000 deaths (95% CI: 115,000–154,000) and 104,000 deaths (95% CI: 86,000–119,000), respectively, followed by physical inactivity (52,000 deaths, 95% CI: 47,000–58,000), high blood glucose (34,000 deaths, 95% CI: 26,000–43,000), high dietary salt intake (34,000 deaths, 95% CI: 27,000–39,000), and alcohol use (31,000 deaths, 95% CI: 28,000–35,000). In recent decades, cancer mortality attributable to tobacco smoking has increased in the elderly, while stroke mortality attributable to high blood pressure has declined. Life expectancy at age 40 y in 2007 would have been extended by 1.4 y for both sexes (men, 95% CI: 1.3–1.6; women, 95% CI: 1.2–1.7) if exposures to multiple cardiovascular risk factors had been reduced to their optimal levels as determined by a theoretical-minimum-risk exposure distribution.
Conclusions
Tobacco smoking and high blood pressure are the two major risk factors for adult mortality from non-communicable diseases and injuries in Japan. There is a large potential population health gain if multiple risk factors are jointly controlled.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, a small number of modifiable risk factors are responsible for many premature or preventable deaths. For example, having high blood pressure (hypertension) increases a person's risk of developing life-threatening heart problems and stroke (cardiovascular disease). Similarly, having a high blood sugar level increases the risk of developing diabetes, a chronic (long-term) disease that can lead to cardiovascular problems and kidney failure, and half of all long-term tobacco smokers in Western populations will die prematurely from diseases related to smoking, such as lung cancer. Importantly, the five major risk factors for death globally—high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, and overweight and obesity—are all modifiable. That is, lifestyle changes and dietary changes such as exercising more, reducing salt intake, and increasing fruit and vegetable intake can reduce an individual's exposure to these risk factors and one's chances of premature death. Moreover, public health programs designed to reduce a population's exposure to modifiable risk factors should reduce preventable deaths in that population.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2000, the Japanese government initiated Health Japan 21, a ten-year national health promotion campaign designed to prevent premature death from non-communicable (noninfectious) diseases and injuries. This campaign set 59 goals to monitor and improve risk factor management in the Japanese population, which has one of the longest life expectancies at birth in the world (the life expectancy of a person born in Japan in 2009 was 83.1 years). Because the campaign's final evaluation revealed deterioration or no improvement on some of these goals, the Japanese government recently released new guidelines that stress the importance of simultaneously controlling multiple risk factors for chronic diseases. However, although several studies have quantified the impacts on life expectancy and cause-specific death of individual modifiable risk factors in Japan, the effects of multiple risk factors have not been assessed. In this study, the researchers use a “comparative risk assessment” framework to estimate the effects of 16 risk factors on cause-specific deaths and life expectancy in Japan. Comparative risk assessment estimates the number of deaths that would be prevented if current distributions of risk factor exposures were changed to hypothetical optimal distributions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained data on exposure to the selected risk factors from the 2007 Japanese National Health and Nutrition Survey and from epidemiological studies, and information on the number of deaths in 2007 from different diseases from official records. They used published studies to estimate how much each factor increases the risk of death from each disease and then used a mathematical formula to estimate the effects of the risk factors on the number of deaths in Japan and on life expectancy at age 40. In 2007, tobacco smoking and high blood pressure accounted for 129,000 and 104,000 deaths, respectively, in Japan. Physical inactivity accounted for 52,000 deaths, high blood glucose and high dietary salt intake accounted for 34,000 deaths each, and alcohol use for 31,000 deaths. Life expectancy at age 40 in 2007 would have been extended by 1.4 years for both sexes, the researchers estimate, if exposure to multiple cardiovascular risk factors had been reduced to calculated optimal distributions, or by 0.7 years if these risk factors had been reduced to the distributions defined by national guidelines and goals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify tobacco smoking and high blood pressure as the major risk factors for death from non-communicable diseases among adults in Japan, a result consistent with previous findings from the US. They also indicate that simultaneous control of multiple risk factors has great potential for producing health gains among the Japanese population. Although the researchers focused on estimating the effect of these risk factors on mortality and did not include illness and disability in this study, these findings nevertheless identify two areas of public health policy that need to be strengthened to improve health, reduce death rates, and increase life expectancy among the Japanese population. First, they highlight the need to reduce tobacco smoking, particularly among men. Second and most importantly, these findings emphasize the need to improve ongoing programs designed to help people manage multiple cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001160.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living
The World Health Report 2002—Reducing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life provides a global analysis of how healthy life expectancy could be increased
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society provide information on many important risk factors for noncommunicable diseases and include some personal stories about keeping healthy
Details about Health Japan 21 are provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Further details about this campaign are available from the World Health Organization
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on healthy living and on healthy aging (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001160
PMCID: PMC3265534  PMID: 22291576
8.  Food Pricing Strategies, Population Diets, and Non-Communicable Disease: A Systematic Review of Simulation Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(12):e1001353.
A systematic review of simulation studies conducted by Helen Eyles and colleagues examines the association between food pricing strategies and food consumption and health and disease outcomes.
Background
Food pricing strategies have been proposed to encourage healthy eating habits, which may in turn help stem global increases in non-communicable diseases. This systematic review of simulation studies investigates the estimated association between food pricing strategies and changes in food purchases or intakes (consumption) (objective 1); Health and disease outcomes (objective 2), and whether there are any differences in these outcomes by socio-economic group (objective 3).
Methods and Findings
Electronic databases, Internet search engines, and bibliographies of included studies were searched for articles published in English between 1 January 1990 and 24 October 2011 for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Where ≥3 studies examined the same pricing strategy and consumption (purchases or intake) or health outcome, results were pooled, and a mean own-price elasticity (own-PE) estimated (the own-PE represents the change in demand with a 1% change in price of that good). Objective 1: pooled estimates were possible for the following: (1) taxes on carbonated soft drinks: own-PE (n = 4 studies), −0.93 (range, −0.06, −2.43), and a modelled −0.02% (−0.01%, −0.04%) reduction in energy (calorie) intake for each 1% price increase (n = 3 studies); (2) taxes on saturated fat: −0.02% (−0.01%, −0.04%) reduction in energy intake from saturated fat per 1% price increase (n = 5 studies); and (3) subsidies on fruits and vegetables: own-PE (n = 3 studies), −0.35 (−0.21, −0.77). Objectives 2 and 3: variability of food pricing strategies and outcomes prevented pooled analyses, although higher quality studies suggested unintended compensatory purchasing that could result in overall effects being counter to health. Eleven of 14 studies evaluating lower socio-economic groups estimated that food pricing strategies would be associated with pro-health outcomes. Food pricing strategies also have the potential to reduce disparities.
Conclusions
Based on modelling studies, taxes on carbonated drinks and saturated fat and subsidies on fruits and vegetables would be associated with beneficial dietary change, with the potential for improved health. Additional research into possible compensatory purchasing and population health outcomes is needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
For the first time in human history, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are killing more people than infectious diseases. Every year, more than 35 million people die from NCDs—nearly two-thirds of the world's annual deaths. More than 80% of these deaths are in developing countries, where a third of NCD-related deaths occur in people younger than 60 years old. And NCDs are not just a growing global public health emergency. They are also financially costly because they reduce productivity and increase calls on health care systems worldwide. Cardiovascular diseases (conditions that affect the heart and circulation such as heart attacks and stroke), cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases (long-term diseases that affect the lungs and airways) are responsible for most NCD-related illnesses and death. The main behavioral risk factors for all these diseases are tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets (diets that have a low fruit and vegetable intake and high saturated fat and salt intakes).
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in population diets and reductions in salt intake are crucial for the control and prevention of NCDs, but how can these behavioral changes be encouraged? One potential but poorly studied strategy is food pricing—the introduction of taxes on unhealthy foods (for example, foods containing high levels of saturated fat) and subsidies on healthy foods (for example, foods high in fiber). However, although a tax on soft drinks, for example, might decrease purchases of these high-sugar drinks, it might also increase purchases of fruit juices, which contain just as much sugar and energy as soft drinks (“compensatory purchasing”), and thus undermine the intended health impact of the tax. Because randomized controlled trials of the effects of food pricing strategies are difficult to undertake, many researchers have turned to mathematical models (sets of equations that quantify relationships between interventions and outcomes) to provide the evidence needed to inform policy decisions on food taxes and subsidies. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), Helen Eyles and colleagues investigate the association between food pricing strategies and food consumption and NCDs by analyzing the results of published mathematical modeling studies of food pricing interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 32 studies that met their predefined inclusion criteria, which included publication by researchers in a member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (a group of largely developed countries that promotes global development). Most of the studies were of low to moderate quality and provided uncertain and varying estimates of the impact of pricing on food consumption. Where three or more studies examined the same pricing strategy and consumption or health outcome, the researchers calculated the average change in demand for a food in response to changes in its price (“own-price elasticity”). For taxes on carbonated soft drinks, the average own-price elasticity was −0.93; that is, the models predicted that a 1% increase in the price of soft drinks would decrease consumption by 0.93%. The modeled reduction in the proportion of energy intake from saturated fat resulting from a 1% increase in the price of saturated fats was 0.02%. Finally, although the researchers' analysis suggested that for each 1% reduction in the price of fruits and vegetables, consumption would increase by 0.35%, they also found evidence that such a subsidy might result in compensatory purchasing, such as a reduction in fish purchases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that pricing strategies have the potential to produce improvements in population diets, at least in developed countries, but also highlight the need for more research in this area. Notably, the researchers found insufficient data to allow them to quantify the effects of pricing strategies on health or to analyze whether the effect of pricing strategies is likely vary between socio-economic groups. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that future modeling studies should include better assessments of the unintended effects of compensatory purchasing and should examine the potential impact of food pricing strategies on long-term health and NCD-related deaths. Finally, they suggest that robust evaluations should be built into the implementation of food pricing policies to answer some of the outstanding questions about this potential strategy for reducing the global burden of NCDs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001353.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living, on chronic diseases and health promotion, and on non-communicable diseases around the world
The Global Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) aims to help low- and middle-income countries reduce NCD-related illnesses and death through implementation of the 2008-2013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (also available in French); NCDnet's Face to face with chronic disease webpage is a selection of personal stories from around the world about dealing with NCDs
The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society provide information on many important risk factors for non-communicable diseases and include some personal stories about keeping healthy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001353
PMCID: PMC3519906  PMID: 23239943
9.  “Efforts to Reprioritise the Agenda” in China: British American Tobacco's Efforts to Influence Public Policy on Secondhand Smoke in China 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e251.
Background
Each year, 540 million Chinese are exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS), resulting in more than 100,000 deaths. Smoke-free policies have been demonstrated to decrease overall cigarette consumption, encourage smokers to quit, and protect the health of nonsmokers. However, restrictions on smoking in China remain limited and ineffective. Internal tobacco industry documents show that transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have pursued a multifaceted strategy for undermining the adoption of restrictions on smoking in many countries.
Methods and Findings
To understand company activities in China related to SHS, we analyzed British American Tobacco's (BAT's) internal corporate documents produced in response to litigation against the major cigarette manufacturers to understand company activities in China related to SHS. BAT has carried out an extensive strategy to undermine the health policy agenda on SHS in China by attempting to divert public attention from SHS issues towards liver disease prevention, pushing the so-called “resocialisation of smoking” accommodation principles, and providing “training” for industry, public officials, and the media based on BAT's corporate agenda that SHS is an insignificant contributor to the larger issue of air pollution.
Conclusions
The public health community in China should be aware of the tactics previously used by TTCs, including efforts by the tobacco industry to co-opt prominent Chinese benevolent organizations, when seeking to enact stronger restrictions on smoking in public places.
Monique Muggli and colleagues study British American Tobacco (BAT) internal documents and find that from the mid 1990s BAT pursued a strategy aimed at influencing the public debate on secondhand smoke in China.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Each year, about one million people die in China from tobacco-caused diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Although most of these deaths occur among smokers—300 million people smoke in China, accounting for one-third of the global “consumption” of cigarettes—more than 100,000 deaths from tobacco-related causes occur annually among the 540 million Chinese people who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 known chemicals, 69 of which are known or probable carcinogens, and, when it is produced in enclosed spaces, both smokers and nonsmokers are exposed to its harmful effects. The only effective way to reduce tobacco smoke exposure indoors to acceptable levels is to implement 100% smoke-free environments—ventilation, filtration, and the provision of segregated areas for smokers and nonsmokers are insufficient. Importantly, as well as protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, the implementation of smoke-free public places also reduces the number of cigarettes smoked among continuing smokers, increases the likelihood of smokers quitting, and reduces the chances of young people taking up smoking.
Why Was This Study Done?
Article 8 of the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC; an international public-health treaty that seeks to reduce tobacco-caused death and disease) calls on countries party to the treaty to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke exposure. China became a party to the FCTC in 2005 but restrictions on smoking in public places in China remain limited and ineffective. Previous analyses of internal tobacco industry documents have revealed that transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have used a multifaceted approach to undermine the adoption of restrictions on smoking in many countries. TTCs have been shown to influence media coverage of secondhand smoke issues and to promote ineffective ventilation and separate smoking and nonsmoking areas in restaurants, bars, and hotels (so-called “resocalization of smoking” accommodation principles) with the aim of undermining smoke-free legislation. In addition, TTCs have created organizations interested in non-tobacco-related diseases to draw attention away from the public-health implications of secondhand smoke. In this study, the researchers ask whether TTCs have used a similar approach to undermine the adoption of restrictions on smoking in China, one of the most coveted cigarette markets in the world by the major TTCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed internal corporate documents produced by British American Tobacco (BAT; the predominant TTC in China) in response to litigation against major cigarette manufacturers stored in document depositories in Minnesota, USA and Guildford, UK. Among these documents, they found evidence that BAT had attempted to divert attention from secondhand smoke issues toward liver disease prevention by funding the Beijing Liver Foundation (BFL) from its inception in 1997 until at least 2002 (the most recent year that BAT's corporate records are available for public review). The researchers also found evidence that BAT had promoted “resocialization of smoking” accommodation principles as a “route to avoid smoking bans” and pushed ventilation and air filtration in airports and in establishments serving food and drink. Finally, the researchers found evidence that BAT had sought to “present the message that ‘tobacco smoke is just one of the sources of air polution [sic] and a very insignificant one compared with other pollutants'” through presentations given to the Chinese tobacco industry and media seminars aimed at Chinese journalists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, beginning in the mid 1990s and continuing until at least 2002, BAT has followed an intensive, multi-pronged strategy designed to undermine the health policy agenda on secondhand smoke in China. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that BFL and other charitable organizations in China must be wary of accepting tobacco money and that measures must be taken to improve the transparency and accountability of these and other public organizations. To meet FCTC obligations under Article 5.3 (industry interference), policy makers in China, they suggest, must be made aware of how BAT and other TTCs have repeatedly sought to influence health policy in China by focusing attention toward the adoption of ineffective air filtration and ventilation systems in hospitality venues rather than the implementation of 100% smoke-free environments. Finally, Chinese policy makers and the media need to be better informed about BAT's long-standing attempts to communicate misleading messages to them about the health effects of secondhand smoke.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050251.
The World Health Organization's Regional Office for the Western Pacific provides smoking statistics for China and other countries in the region
The World Health Organization provides information on the health problems associated with secondhand smoke, about its Tobacco Free Initiative (available in several languages), and about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (also available in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to information about the dangers of secondhand smoke (available in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Smokefree Web site provides information about the advantages of giving up smoking, how to give up smoking, and the dangers associated with secondhand smoke
British American Tobacco documents stored in the Minnesota and Guildford Depositories, including those analyzed in this study, can be searched through the British American Tobacco Documents Archive
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050251
PMCID: PMC2605899  PMID: 19108603
10.  The Fall and Rise of US Inequities in Premature Mortality: 1960–2002 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(2):e46.
Background
Debates exist as to whether, as overall population health improves, the absolute and relative magnitude of income- and race/ethnicity-related health disparities necessarily increase—or derease. We accordingly decided to test the hypothesis that health inequities widen—or shrink—in a context of declining mortality rates, by examining annual US mortality data over a 42 year period.
Methods and Findings
Using US county mortality data from 1960–2002 and county median family income data from the 1960–2000 decennial censuses, we analyzed the rates of premature mortality (deaths among persons under age 65) and infant death (deaths among persons under age 1) by quintiles of county median family income weighted by county population size. Between 1960 and 2002, as US premature mortality and infant death rates declined in all county income quintiles, socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequities in premature mortality and infant death (both relative and absolute) shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for US populations of color; thereafter, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences barely changed in magnitude. Had all persons experienced the same yearly age-specific premature mortality rates as the white population living in the highest income quintile, between 1960 and 2002, 14% of the white premature deaths and 30% of the premature deaths among populations of color would not have occurred.
Conclusions
The observed trends refute arguments that health inequities inevitably widen—or shrink—as population health improves. Instead, the magnitude of health inequalities can fall or rise; it is our job to understand why.
Nancy Krieger and colleagues found evidence of decreasing, and then increasing or stagnating, socioeconomic and racial inequities in US premature mortality and infant death from 1960 to 2002.
Editors' Summary
Background
One of the biggest aims of public health advocates and governments is to improve the health of the population. Improving health increases people's quality of life and helps the population be more economically productive. But within populations are often persistent differences (usually called “disparities” or “inequities”) in the health of different subgroups—between women and men, different income groups, and people of different races/ethnicities, for example. Researchers study these differences so that policy makers and the broader public can be informed about what to do to intervene. For example, if we know that the health of certain subgroups of the population—such as the poor—is staying the same or even worsening as the overall health of the population is improving, policy makers could design programs and devote resources to specifically target the poor.
To study health disparities, researchers use both relative and absolute measures. Relative inequities refer to ratios, while absolute inequities refer to differences. For example, if one group's average income level increases from $1,000 to $10,000 and another group's from $2,000 to $20,000, the relative inequality between the groups stays the same (i.e., the ratio of incomes between the two groups is still 2) but the absolute difference between the two groups has increased from $1,000 to $10,000.
Examining the US population, Nancy Krieger and colleagues looked at trends over time in both relative and absolute differences in mortality between people in different income groups and between whites and people of color.
Why Was This Study Done?
There has been a lot of debate about whether disparities have been widening or narrowing as overall population health improves. Some research has found that both total health and health disparities are getting better with time. Other research has shown that overall health gains mask worsening disparities—such that the rich get healthier while the poor get sicker.
Having access to more data over a longer time frame meant that Krieger and colleagues could provide a more complete picture of this sometimes contradictory story. It also meant they could test their hypothesis about whether, as population health improves, health inequities necessarily widen or shrink within the time period between the 1960s through the 1990s during which certain events and policies likely would have had an impact on the mortality trends in that country.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate health inequities, the authors chose to look at two common measures of population health: rates of premature mortality (dying before the age of 65 years) and rates of infant mortality (death before the age of 1).
To determine mortality rates, the authors used death statistics data from different counties, which are routinely collected by state and national governments. To be able to rank mortality rates for different income groups, they used data on the median family incomes of people living within those counties (meaning half the families had income above, and half had incomes below, the median value). They calculated mortality rates for the total population and for whites versus people of color. They used data from 1960 through 2002. They compared rates for 1966–1980 with two other time periods: 1960–1965 and 1981–2002. They also examined trends in the annual mortality rates and in the annual relative and absolute disparites in these rates by county income level.
Over the whole period 1960–2002, the authors found that premature mortality (death before the age of 65) and infant mortality (death before the age of 1) decreased for all income groups. But they also found that disparities between income groups and between whites and people of color were not the same over this time period. In fact, the economic disparities narrowed then widened. First, they shrank between 1966 and 1980, especially for Americans of color. After 1980, however, the relative health inequities widened and the absolute differences did not change. The authors conclude that if all people in the US population experienced the same health gains as the most advantaged did during these 42 years (i.e., as the whites in the highest income groups), 14% of the premature deaths among whites and 30% of the premature deaths among people of color would have been prevented.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings provide an overview of the trends in inequities in premature and infant mortality over a long period of time. Different explanations for these trends can now be tested. The authors discuss several potential reasons for these trends, including generally rising incomes across America and changes related to specific diseases, such as the advent of HIV/AIDS, changes in smoking habits, and better management of cancer and cardiovascular disease. But they find that these do not explain the fall then rise of inequities. Instead, the authors suggest that explanations lie in the social programs of the 1960s and the subsequent roll-back of some of these programmes in the 1980s. The US “War on Poverty,” civil rights legislation, and the establishment of Medicare occurred in the mid 1960s, which were intended to reduce socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities and improve access to health care. In the 1980s there was a general cutting back of welfare state provisions in America, which included cuts to public health and antipoverty programs, tax relief for the wealthy, and worsening inequity in the access to and quality of health care. Together, these wider events could explain the fall then rise trends in mortality disparities.
The authors say their findings are important to inform and help monitor the progress of various policies and programmes, including those such as the Healthy People 2010 initiative in America, which aims to increase the quality and years of healthy life and decrease health disparities by the end of this decade.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed. 0050046.
Healthy People 2010 was created by the US Department of Health and Human Services along with scientists inside and outside of government and includes a comprehensive set of disease prevention and health promotion objectives for the US to achieve by 2010, with two overarching goals: to increase quality and years of healthy life and to eliminate health disparities
Johan Mackenbach and colleagues provide an overview of mortality inequalities in six Western European countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England/Wales, and Italy—and conclude that eliminating mortality inequalities requires that more cardiovascular deaths among lower socioeconomic groups be prevented, as well as more attention be paid to rising death rates of lung cancer, breast cancer, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and injuries among women and men in the lower income groups.
The WHO Health for All program promotes health equity
A primer on absolute versus relative differences is provided by the American College of Physicians
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050046
PMCID: PMC2253609  PMID: 18303941
11.  Tobacco Smoke, Indoor Air Pollution and Tuberculosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e20.
Background
Tobacco smoking, passive smoking, and indoor air pollution from biomass fuels have been implicated as risk factors for tuberculosis (TB) infection, disease, and death. Tobacco smoking and indoor air pollution are persistent or growing exposures in regions where TB poses a major health risk. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantitatively assess the association between these exposures and the risk of infection, disease, and death from TB.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies reporting effect estimates and 95% confidence intervals on how tobacco smoking, passive smoke exposure, and indoor air pollution are associated with TB. We identified 33 papers on tobacco smoking and TB, five papers on passive smoking and TB, and five on indoor air pollution and TB. We found substantial evidence that tobacco smoking is positively associated with TB, regardless of the specific TB outcomes. Compared with people who do not smoke, smokers have an increased risk of having a positive tuberculin skin test, of having active TB, and of dying from TB. Although we also found evidence that passive smoking and indoor air pollution increased the risk of TB disease, these associations are less strongly supported by the available evidence.
Conclusions
There is consistent evidence that tobacco smoking is associated with an increased risk of TB. The finding that passive smoking and biomass fuel combustion also increase TB risk should be substantiated with larger studies in future. TB control programs might benefit from a focus on interventions aimed at reducing tobacco and indoor air pollution exposures, especially among those at high risk for exposure to TB.
Evidence from a number of studies suggest that tobacco smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, and indoor air pollution from biomass fuels is associated with an increased risk of tuberculosis.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Tobacco smoking has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Smokers are at higher risk than nonsmokers for a very wide variety of illnesses, many of which are life-threatening. Inhaling tobacco smoke, whether this is active (when an individual smokes) or passive (when an individual is exposed to cigarette smoke in their environment) has also been associated with tuberculosis (TB). Many people infected with the TB bacterium never develop disease, but it is thought that people infected with TB who also smoke are far more likely to develop the symptoms of disease, and to have worse outcomes when they do.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers were specifically interested in the link between smoking and TB. They wanted to try to work out the overall increase in risk for getting TB in people who smoke, as compared with people who do not smoke. In this study, the researchers wanted to separately study the risks for different types of exposure to smoke, so, for example, what the risks were for people who actively smoke as distinct from people who are exposed to smoke from others. The researchers also wanted to calculate the association between TB and exposure to indoor pollution from burning fuels such as wood and charcoal.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In carrying out this study, the researchers wanted to base their conclusions on all the relevant information that was already available worldwide. Therefore they carried out a systematic review. A systematic review involves setting out the research question that is being asked and then developing a search strategy to find all the meaningful evidence relating to the particular question under study. For this systematic review, the researchers wanted to find all published research in the biomedical literature that looked at human participants and dealt with the association between active smoking, passive smoking, indoor air pollution and TB. Studies were included if they were published in English, Russian, or Chinese, and included enough data for the researchers to calculate a number for the increase in TB risk. The researchers initially found 1,397 research studies but then narrowed that down to 38 that fit their criteria. Then specific pieces of data were extracted from each of those studies and in some cases the researchers combined data to produce overall calculations for the increase in TB risk. Separate assessments were done for different aspects of “TB risk,” namely, TB infection, TB disease, and mortality from TB. The data showed an approximately 2-fold increase in risk of TB infection among smokers as compared with nonsmokers. The researchers found that all studies evaluating the link between smoking and TB disease or TB mortality showed an association, but they did not combine these data together because of wide potential differences between the studies. Finally, all studies looking at passive smoking found an association with TB, as did some of those examining the link with indoor air pollution.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings here show that smoking is associated with an increased risk of TB infection, disease, and deaths from TB. The researchers found much more data on the risks for active smoking than on passive smoking or indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoking is increasing in many countries where TB is already a problem. These results therefore suggest that it is important for health policy makers to further develop strategies for controlling tobacco use in order to reduce the impact of TB worldwide.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040020
The World Health Organization (WHO)'s Tobacco Free Initiative provides resources on research and policy related to tobacco control, its network of initiatives, and other relevant information
WHO also has a tuberculosis minisite
The US National Library of Medicine's MedLinePlus provides a set of links and resources about smoking, including news, overviews, recent research, statistics, and others
The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General provides information on the health consequences of smoking
Tobacco Country Profiles provides information on smoking in different countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040020
PMCID: PMC1769410  PMID: 17227135
12.  Combined Impact of Lifestyle-Related Factors on Total and Cause-Specific Mortality among Chinese Women: Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(9):e1000339.
Findings from the Shanghai Women's Health Study confirm those derived from other, principally Western, cohorts regarding the combined impact of lifestyle-related factors on mortality.
Background
Although cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, obesity, and several other well-studied unhealthy lifestyle-related factors each have been linked to the risk of multiple chronic diseases and premature death, little is known about the combined impact on mortality outcomes, in particular among Chinese and other non-Western populations. The objective of this study was to quantify the overall impact of lifestyle-related factors beyond that of active cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption on all-cause and cause-specific mortality in Chinese women.
Methods and Findings
We used data from the Shanghai Women's Health Study, an ongoing population-based prospective cohort study in China. Participants included 71,243 women aged 40 to 70 years enrolled during 1996–2000 who never smoked or drank alcohol regularly. A healthy lifestyle score was created on the basis of five lifestyle-related factors shown to be independently associated with mortality outcomes (normal weight, lower waist-hip ratio, daily exercise, never exposed to spouse's smoking, higher daily fruit and vegetable intake). The score ranged from zero (least healthy) to five (most healthy) points. During an average follow-up of 9 years, 2,860 deaths occurred, including 775 from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 1,351 from cancer. Adjusted hazard ratios for mortality decreased progressively with an increasing number of healthy lifestyle factors. Compared to women with a score of zero, hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) for women with four to five factors were 0.57 (0.44–0.74) for total mortality, 0.29 (0.16–0.54) for CVD mortality, and 0.76 (0.54–1.06) for cancer mortality. The inverse association between the healthy lifestyle score and mortality was seen consistently regardless of chronic disease status at baseline. The population attributable risks for not having 4–5 healthy lifestyle factors were 33% for total deaths, 59% for CVD deaths, and 19% for cancer deaths.
Conclusions
In this first study, to our knowledge, to quantify the combined impact of lifestyle-related factors on mortality outcomes in Chinese women, a healthier lifestyle pattern—including being of normal weight, lower central adiposity, participation in physical activity, nonexposure to spousal smoking, and higher fruit and vegetable intake—was associated with reductions in total and cause-specific mortality among lifetime nonsmoking and nondrinking women, supporting the importance of overall lifestyle modification in disease prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
It is well established that lifestyle-related factors, such as limited physical activity, unhealthy diets, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to tobacco smoke are linked to an increased risk of many chronic diseases and premature death. However, few studies have investigated the combined impact of lifestyle-related factors and mortality outcomes, and most of such studies of combinations of established lifestyle factors and mortality have been conducted in the US and Western Europe. In addition, little is currently known about the combined impact on mortality of lifestyle factors beyond that of active smoking and alcohol consumption.
Why Was This Study Done?
Lifestyles in regions of the world can vary considerably. For example, many women in Asia do not actively smoke or regularly drink alcohol, which are important facts to note when considering practical disease prevention measures for these women. Therefore, it is important to study the combination of lifestyle factors appropriate to this population.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the Shanghai Women's Health Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study of almost 75,000 Chinese women aged 40–70 years, as the basis for their analysis. The Shanghai Women's Health Study has comprehensive baseline data on anthropometric measurements, lifestyle habits (including the responses to validated food frequency and physical activity questionnaires), medical history, occupational history, and select information from each participant's spouse, such as smoking history and alcohol consumption. This information was used by the researchers to create a healthy lifestyle score on the basis of five lifestyle-related factors shown to be independently associated with mortality outcomes in this population: normal weight, lower waist-hip ratio, daily exercise, never being exposed to spouse's smoking, and higher daily fruit and vegetable intake. The score ranged from zero (least healthy) to five (most healthy) points. The researchers found that higher healthy lifestyle scores were significantly associated with decreasing mortality and that this association persisted for all women regardless of their baseline comorbidities. So in effect, healthier lifestyle-related factors, including normal weight, lower waist-hip ratio, participation in exercise, never being exposed to spousal smoking, and higher daily fruit and vegetable intake, were significantly and independently associated with lower risk of total, and cause-specific, mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This large prospective cohort study conducted among lifetime nonsmokers and nonalcohol drinkers shows that lifestyle factors, other than active smoking and alcohol consumption, have a major combined impact on total mortality on a scale comparable to the effect of smoking—the leading cause of death in most populations. However, the sample sizes for some cause-specific analyses were relatively small (despite the overall large sample size), and extended follow-up of this cohort will provide the opportunity to further evaluate the impact of these lifestyle-related factors on mortality outcomes in the future.
The findings of this study highlight the importance of overall lifestyle modification in disease prevention, especially as most of the lifestyle-related factors studied here may be improved by individual motivation to change unhealthy behaviors. Further research is needed to design appropriate interventions to increase these healthy lifestyle factors among Asian women.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000339
The Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center has more information on the Shanghai Women's Health Study
The World Health Organization provides information on health in China
The document Health policy and systems research in Chinacontains information about health policy and health systems research in China
The Chinese Ministry of Healthalso provides health information
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000339
PMCID: PMC2939020  PMID: 20856900
13.  Is Economic Growth Associated with Reduction in Child Undernutrition in India? 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000424.
An analysis of cross-sectional data from repeated household surveys in India, combined with data on economic growth, fails to find strong evidence that recent economic growth in India is associated with a reduction in child undernutrition.
Background
Economic growth is widely perceived as a major policy instrument in reducing childhood undernutrition in India. We assessed the association between changes in state per capita income and the risk of undernutrition among children in India.
Methods and Findings
Data for this analysis came from three cross-sectional waves of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 1992–93, 1998–99, and 2005–06 in India. The sample sizes in the three waves were 33,816, 30,383, and 28,876 children, respectively. After excluding observations missing on the child anthropometric measures and the independent variables included in the study, the analytic sample size was 28,066, 26,121, and 23,139, respectively, with a pooled sample size of 77,326 children. The proportion of missing data was 12%–20%. The outcomes were underweight, stunting, and wasting, defined as more than two standard deviations below the World Health Organization–determined median scores by age and gender. We also examined severe underweight, severe stunting, and severe wasting. The main exposure of interest was per capita income at the state level at each survey period measured as per capita net state domestic product measured in 2008 prices. We estimated fixed and random effects logistic models that accounted for the clustering of the data. In models that did not account for survey-period effects, there appeared to be an inverse association between state economic growth and risk of undernutrition among children. However, in models accounting for data structure related to repeated cross-sectional design through survey period effects, state economic growth was not associated with the risk of underweight (OR 1.01, 95% CI 0.98, 1.04), stunting (OR 1.02, 95% CI 0.99, 1.05), and wasting (OR 0.99, 95% CI 0.96, 1.02). Adjustment for demographic and socioeconomic covariates did not alter these estimates. Similar patterns were observed for severe undernutrition outcomes.
Conclusions
We failed to find consistent evidence that economic growth leads to reduction in childhood undernutrition in India. Direct investments in appropriate health interventions may be necessary to reduce childhood undernutrition in India.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Good nutrition during childhood is essential for health and survival. Undernourished children are more susceptible to infections and more likely to die from common ailments such as diarrhea than well-nourished children. Thus, globally, undernutrition contributes to more than a third of deaths among children under 5 years old. Experts use three physical measurements to determine whether a child is undernourished. An "underweight" child has a low weight for his or her age and gender when compared to the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards, which chart the growth of a reference population. A "stunted" child has a low height for his or her age; stunting is an indicator of chronic undernutrition. A "wasted" child has a low weight for his or her height; wasting is an indicator of acute undernutrition and often follows an earthquake, flood, or other emergency. The prevalence (how often a condition occurs within a population) of undernutrition is particularly high in India. Here, almost half of children under the age of 3 are underweight, about half are stunted, and a quarter are wasted.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the prevalence of undernutrition in India is decreasing, progress is slow. Economic growth is widely regarded as the major way to reduce child undernutrition in India. Economic growth, the argument goes, will increase incomes, reduce poverty, and increase access to health services and nutrition. But some experts believe that better education for women and reduced household sizes might have a greater influence on child undernutrition than economic growth. And others believe that healthier, better fed populations lead to increased economic growth rather than the other way around. In this study, the researchers assess the association between economic growth and child undernutrition in India by analyzing the relationship between changes in per capita income in individual Indian states and the individual risk of undernutrition among children in India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their analyses, the researchers used data on 77,326 Indian children that were collected in the 1992–93, 1998–99, and 2005–06 National Family Health Surveys; these surveys are part of the Demographic and Health Surveys, a project that collects health data in developing countries to aid health-system development. The researchers used eight "ecological" statistical models to investigate whether there was an association between underweight, stunting, or wasting and per capita income at the state level in each survey period; these ecological models assumed that the risk of undernutrition was the same for every child in a state. They also used 10 "multilevel" models to quantify the association between state-level growth and the individual-level risk of undernutrition. The multilevel models also took account of various combinations of additional factors likely to affect undernutrition (for example, mother's education and marital status). In five of the ecological models, there was no statistically significant association between state economic growth and average levels of child undernutrition at the state level (statistically significant associations are unlikely to have arisen by chance). Similarly, in eight of the multilevel models, there was no statistical evidence for an association between economic growth and undernutrition.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide little statistical support for the widely held assumption that there is an association between the risk of child undernutrition and economic growth in India. By contrast, a previous study that used data from 63 countries collected over 26 years did find evidence that national economic growth was inversely associated with the risk of child undernutrition. However, this study was an ecological study and did not, therefore, allow for the possibility that the risk of undernutrition might vary between children in one state and between states. Further, the target of inference in this study was "explaining" between-country differences, while the target of inference in this analysis was explaining within country differences over time. The researchers suggest several reasons why there might not be a clear association between economic growth and undernutrition in India. For example, they suggest, economic growth in India might have only benefitted privileged sections of society. Whether this or an alternative explanation accounts for the lack of an association, it seems likely that further reductions in the prevalence of child undernutrition in India (and possibly in other developing countries) will require direct investment in health and health-related programs; expecting economic growth to improve child undernutrition might not be a viable option after all.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000424.
The charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides detailed statistics on child undernutrition and on child nutrition and undernutrition in India
The WHO Child Growth Standards are available (in several languages)
More information on the Demographic and Health Surveys and on the Indian National Family Health Surveys is available
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals website provides information on ongoing world efforts to reduce hunger and child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000424
PMCID: PMC3050933  PMID: 21408084
14.  Representation and Misrepresentation of Scientific Evidence in Contemporary Tobacco Regulation: A Review of Tobacco Industry Submissions to the UK Government Consultation on Standardised Packaging 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001629.
Selda Ulucanlar and colleagues analyze submissions by two tobacco companies to the UK government consultation on standardized packaging.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Standardised packaging (SP) of tobacco products is an innovative tobacco control measure opposed by transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) whose responses to the UK government's public consultation on SP argued that evidence was inadequate to support implementing the measure. The government's initial decision, announced 11 months after the consultation closed, was to wait for ‘more evidence’, but four months later a second ‘independent review’ was launched. In view of the centrality of evidence to debates over SP and TTCs' history of denying harms and manufacturing uncertainty about scientific evidence, we analysed their submissions to examine how they used evidence to oppose SP.
Methods and Findings
We purposively selected and analysed two TTC submissions using a verification-oriented cross-documentary method to ascertain how published studies were used and interpretive analysis with a constructivist grounded theory approach to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques. The companies' overall argument was that the SP evidence base was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of SP. However, this argument was underpinned by three complementary techniques that misrepresented the evidence base. First, published studies were repeatedly misquoted, distorting the main messages. Second, ‘mimicked scientific critique’ was used to undermine evidence; this form of critique insisted on methodological perfection, rejected methodological pluralism, adopted a litigation (not scientific) model, and was not rigorous. Third, TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’, promoting a parallel evidence base to deflect attention from SP and excluding company-held evidence relevant to SP. The study's sample was limited to sub-sections of two out of four submissions, but leaked industry documents suggest at least one other company used a similar approach.
Conclusions
The TTCs' claim that SP will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. The tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for highly resourced corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 6 million people die from tobacco-related diseases and, if current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than 8 million by 2030. To reduce this loss of life, national and international bodies have drawn up various conventions and directives designed to implement tobacco control measures such as the adoption of taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. One innovative but largely unused tobacco control measure is standardised packaging of tobacco products. Standardised packaging aims to prevent the use of packaging as a marketing tool by removing all brand imagery and text (other than name) and by introducing packs of a standard shape and colour that include prominent pictorial health warnings. Standardised packaging was first suggested as a tobacco control measure in 1986 but has been consistently opposed by the tobacco industry.
Why Was This Study Done?
The UK is currently considering standardised packaging of tobacco products. In the UK, Better Regulation guidance obliges officials to seek the views of stakeholders, including corporations, on the government's cost and benefit estimates of regulatory measures such as standardised packaging and on the evidence underlying these estimates. In response to a public consultation about standardised packaging in July 2013, which considered submissions from several transnational tobacco companies (TTCs), the UK government announced that it would wait for the results of the standardised packaging legislation that Australia adopted in December 2012 before making its final decision about this tobacco control measure. Parliamentary debates and media statements have suggested that doubt over the adequacy of the evidence was the main reason for this ‘wait and see’ decision. Notably, TTCs have a history of manufacturing uncertainty about the scientific evidence related to the harms of tobacco. Given the centrality of evidence to the debate about standardised packaging, in this study, the researchers analyse submissions made by two TTCs, British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), to the first UK consultation on standardised packaging (a second review is currently underway and will report shortly) to examine how TTCs used evidence to oppose standardised packaging.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analysed sub-sections of two of the four TTC submissions (those submitted by BAT and JTI) made to the public consultation using verification-oriented cross-documentary analysis, which compared references made to published sources with the original sources to ascertain how these sources had been used, and interpretative analysis to examine the conceptual significance of TTC critiques of the evidence on standardised packaging. The researchers report that the companies' overall argument was that the evidence base in support of standardised packaging was seriously flawed and did not warrant the introduction of such packaging. The researchers identified three ways in which the TTC reports misrepresented the evidence base. First, the TTCs misquoted published studies, thereby distorting the main messages of these studies. For example, the TTCs sometimes omitted important qualifying information when quoting from published studies. Second, the TTCs undermined evidence by employing experts to review published studies for methodological rigor and value in ways that did not conform to normal scientific critique approaches (‘mimicked scientific critique’). So, for example, the experts considered each piece of evidence in isolation for its ability to support standardised packaging rather than considering the cumulative weight of the evidence. Finally, the TTCs engaged in ‘evidential landscaping’. That is, they promoted research that deflected attention from standardised packaging (for example, research into social explanations of smoking behaviour) and omitted internal industry research on the role of packaging in marketing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the TTC critique of the evidence in favour of standardised packaging that was presented to the UK public consultation on this tobacco control measure is highly misleading. However, because the researchers' analysis only considered subsections of the submissions from two TTCs, these findings may not be applicable to the other submissions or to other TTCs. Moreover, their analysis only considered the efforts made by TTCs to influence public health policy and not the effectiveness of these efforts. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the claim of TTCs that standardised packaging will not lead to public health benefits is largely without foundation. More generally, these findings highlight the possibility that the tools of Better Regulation, particularly stakeholder consultation, provide an opportunity for wealthy corporations to slow, weaken, or prevent the implementation of public health policies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001629.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and an article about first experiences with Australia's tobacco plain packaging law; for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report ‘Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control’
A UK parliamentary briefing on standardised packaging of tobacco products, a press release about the consultation, and a summary report of the consultation are available; the ideas behind the UK's Better Regulation guidance are described in a leaflet produced by the Better Regulation Task Force
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has a web page with information on standardised packaging and includes videos
Wikipedia has a page on standardised packaging of tobacco products (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control
TobaccoTactics.org, an online resource managed by the University of Bath, provides up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and the tactics it uses to influence tobacco regulation
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
Smokefree.gov, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001629
PMCID: PMC3965396  PMID: 24667150
15.  Amenable mortality as a performance indicator of Italian health-care services 
Background
Mortality amenable to health-care services (‘amenable mortality’) has been defined as “premature deaths that should not occur in the presence of timely and effective health care” and as “conditions for which effective clinical interventions exist.” We analyzed the regional variability in health-care services using amenable mortality as a performance indicator. Convergent validity was examined against other indicators, such as health expenditure, GDP per capita, life expectancy at birth, disability-free life expectancy at age 15, number of diagnostic and laboratory tests per 1,000 inhabitants, and the prevalence of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Methods
Amenable mortality rate was calculated as the average annual number of deaths in the population aged 0–74 years per 100,000 inhabitants, and it was then stratified by gender and region. Data were drawn from national mortality statistics for the period 2006–08.
Results
During the study period (2006–08), the age-standardized death rate (SDR) amenable to health-care services in Italy was 62.6 per 100,000 inhabitants: 66.0 per 100,000 for males and 59.1 per 100,000 for females. Significant regional variations ranged from 54.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in Alto Adige to 76.3 per 100,000 in Campania. Regional variability in SDR was examined separately for male and females. The variability proved to be statistically significant for both males and females (males: Q-test = 638.5, p < 0.001; females: Q-test = 700.1, p < 0.001). However, among men, we found a clear-cut divide in SDR values between Central and Southern Italy; among women, this divide was less pronounced. Amenable mortality was negatively correlated with life expectancy at birth for both genders (male: r = −0.64, p = 0.002; female: r = −0.88, p <0.001) and with disability-free life expectancy at age 15 (male: r = −0.70, p <0.001; female: r = −0.67, p <0.001). Amenable mortality displayed a statistically significant negative relationship with GDP per capita, the quantity of diagnostic and laboratory tests per 1,000 inhabitants, and the prevalence of cancer.
Conclusions
Amenable mortality shows a wide variation across Italian regions and an inverse relationship with life expectancy and GDP per capita, as expected.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-310
PMCID: PMC3506466  PMID: 22963259
Amenable mortality; Health-care services performance; Socioeconomic status; Gender
16.  Global Health Governance and the Commercial Sector: A Documentary Analysis of Tobacco Company Strategies to Influence the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001249.
Heide Weishaar and colleagues did an analysis of internal tobacco industry documents together with other data and describe the industry's strategic response to the proposed World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Background
In successfully negotiating the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the World Health Organization (WHO) has led a significant innovation in global health governance, helping to transform international tobacco control. This article provides the first comprehensive review of the diverse campaign initiated by transnational tobacco corporations (TTCs) to try to undermine the proposed convention.
Methods and Findings
The article is primarily based on an analysis of internal tobacco industry documents made public through litigation, triangulated with data from official documentation relating to the FCTC process and websites of relevant organisations. It is also informed by a comprehensive review of previous studies concerning tobacco industry efforts to influence the FCTC. The findings demonstrate that the industry's strategic response to the proposed WHO convention was two-fold. First, arguments and frames were developed to challenge the FCTC, including: claiming there would be damaging economic consequences; depicting tobacco control as an agenda promoted by high-income countries; alleging the treaty conflicted with trade agreements, “good governance,” and national sovereignty; questioning WHO's mandate; claiming the FCTC would set a precedent for issues beyond tobacco; and presenting corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an alternative. Second, multiple tactics were employed to promote and increase the impact of these arguments, including: directly targeting FCTC delegations and relevant political actors, enlisting diverse allies (e.g., mass media outlets and scientists), and using stakeholder consultation to delay decisions and secure industry participation.
Conclusions
TTCs' efforts to undermine the FCTC were comprehensive, demonstrating the global application of tactics that TTCs have previously been found to have employed nationally and further included arguments against the FCTC as a key initiative in global health governance. Awareness of these strategies can help guard against industry efforts to disrupt the implementation of the FCTC and support the development of future, comparable initiatives in global health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 5 million people die worldwide from tobacco-related causes and, if current trends continue, annual deaths from tobacco-related causes will increase to 10 million by 2030. In response to this global tobacco epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an international instrument for tobacco control called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Negotiations on the FCTC began in 1999, and the international treaty—the first to be negotiated under the auspices of WHO—entered into force on 27 February 2005. To date, 174 countries have become parties to the FCTC. As such, they agree to implement comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship; to ban misleading and deceptive terms on cigarette packaging; to implement health warnings on tobacco packaging; to protect people from tobacco smoke exposure in public spaces and indoor workplaces; to implement taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption; and to combat illicit trade in tobacco products.
Why Was This Study Done?
Transnational tobacco corporations (TTCs) are sometimes described as “vectors” of the global tobacco epidemic because of their drive to maximize shareholder value and tobacco consumption. Just like conventional disease vectors (agents that carry or transmit infectious organisms), TTCs employ a variety of tactics to ensure the spread of tobacco consumption. For example, various studies have shown that TTCs have developed strategies that attempt to limit the impact of tobacco control measures such as the FCTC. However, to date, studies investigating the influence of TTCs on the FCTC have concentrated on specific countries or documented specific tactics. Here, the researchers undertake a comprehensive review of the diverse tactics employed by TTCs to undermine the development of the FCTC. Such a review is important because its results should facilitate the effective implementation of FCTC measures and could support the development of future tobacco control initiatives and of global initiatives designed to control alcohol-related and food-related disease and death.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed documents retrieved from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released as a result of US litigation cases) dealing with the strategies employed by TTCs to influence the FCTC alongside data from the websites of industry, consultancy, and other organizations cited in the documents; the official records of the FCTC process; and previous studies of tobacco industry efforts to influence the FCTC. Their analysis reveals that the strategic response of the major TTCs to the proposed FCTC was two-fold. First, the TTCs developed a series of arguments and “frames” (beliefs and ideas that provide a framework for thinking about an issue) to challenge the FCTC. Core frames included claiming that the FCTC would have damaging economic consequences, questioning WHO's mandate to develop a legally binding international treaty by claiming that tobacco was not a cross-border problem, and presenting corporate social responsibility (the commitment by business to affect the environment, consumers, employees, and society positively in addition to making money for shareholders) as an alternative to the FCTC. Second, the TTCs employed multiple strategies to promote and increase the impact of these arguments and frames, such as targeting FCTC delegations and enlisting the help of diverse allies including media outlets and scientists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings illustrate the variety and complexity of the tobacco industry's efforts to undermine the FCTC and show the extent to which TTCs combined and coordinated tactics on a global stage that they had previously used on a national stage. Indeed, “the comprehensiveness and scale of the tobacco industry's response to the FCTC suggests that it is reasonable to speak of a ‘globalisation of tobacco industry strategy’ in combating the development of effective tobacco control policies,” write the researchers. Awareness of the strategies employed by TTCs to influence the FCTC should help guard against industry efforts to disrupt the implementation of the FCTC and should support the development of future global tobacco control initiatives. More generally, these findings should support the development of global health initiatives designed to tackle cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – non-communicable diseases that together account for 60% of global deaths and are partly driven by the commercial activities of food, alcohol, and tobacco corporations.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001249.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
For information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
The Framework Convention Alliance provides more information about the FCTC
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
Smokefree.gov, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking and not start again
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001249
PMCID: PMC3383743  PMID: 22745607
17.  Combined Impact of Health Behaviours and Mortality in Men and Women: The EPIC-Norfolk Prospective Population Study 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(1):e12.
Background
There is overwhelming evidence that behavioural factors influence health, but their combined impact on the general population is less well documented. We aimed to quantify the potential combined impact of four health behaviours on mortality in men and women living in the general community.
Methods and Findings
We examined the prospective relationship between lifestyle and mortality in a prospective population study of 20,244 men and women aged 45–79 y with no known cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline survey in 1993–1997, living in the general community in the United Kingdom, and followed up to 2006. Participants scored one point for each health behaviour: current non-smoking, not physically inactive, moderate alcohol intake (1–14 units a week) and plasma vitamin C >50 mmol/l indicating fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day, for a total score ranging from zero to four. After an average 11 y follow-up, the age-, sex-, body mass–, and social class–adjusted relative risks (95% confidence intervals) for all-cause mortality(1,987 deaths) for men and women who had three, two, one, and zero compared to four health behaviours were respectively, 1.39 (1.21–1.60), 1.95 (1.70–-2.25), 2.52 (2.13–3.00), and 4.04 (2.95–5.54) p < 0.001 trend. The relationships were consistent in subgroups stratified by sex, age, body mass index, and social class, and after excluding deaths within 2 y. The trends were strongest for cardiovascular causes. The mortality risk for those with four compared to zero health behaviours was equivalent to being 14 y younger in chronological age.
Conclusions
Four health behaviours combined predict a 4-fold difference in total mortality in men and women, with an estimated impact equivalent to 14 y in chronological age.
From a large prospective population study, Kay-Tee Khaw and colleagues estimate the combined impact of four behaviors--not smoking, not being physically inactive, moderate alcohol intake, and at least five vegetable servings a day--amounts to 14 additional years of life.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every day, or so it seems, new research shows that some aspect of lifestyle—physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, and so on—affects health and longevity. For the person in the street, all this information is confusing. What is a healthy diet, for example? Although there are some common themes such as the benefit of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, the details often differ between studies. And exactly how much physical activity is needed to improve health? Is a gentle daily walk sufficient or simply a stepping stone to doing enough exercise to make a real difference? The situation with alcohol consumption is equally confusing. Small amounts of alcohol apparently improve health but large amounts are harmful. As a result, it can be hard for public-health officials to find effective ways to encourage the behavioral changes that the scientific evidence suggests might influence the health of populations.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is another factor that is hindering official attempts to provide healthy lifestyle advice to the public. Although there is overwhelming evidence that individual behavioral factors influence health, there is very little information about their combined impact. If the combination of several small differences in lifestyle could be shown to have a marked effect on the health of populations, it might be easier to persuade people to make behavioral changes to improve their health, particularly if those changes were simple and relatively easy to achieve. In this study, which forms part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the researchers have examined the relationship between lifestyle and the risk of dying using a health behavior score based on four simply defined behaviors—smoking, physical activity, alcohol drinking, and fruit and vegetable intake.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1993 and 1997, about 20,000 men and women aged 45–79 living in Norfolk UK, none of whom had cancer or cardiovascular disease (heart or circulation problems), completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, had a health examination, and had their blood vitamin C level measured as part of the EPIC-Norfolk study. A health behavior score of between 0 and 4 was calculated for each participant by giving one point for each of the following healthy behaviors: current non-smoking, not physically inactive (physical inactivity was defined as having a sedentary job and doing no recreational exercise), moderate alcohol intake (1–14 units a week; a unit of alcohol is half a pint of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of spirit), and a blood vitamin C level consistent with a fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day. Deaths among the participants were then recorded until 2006. After allowing for other factors that might have affected their likelihood of dying (for example, age), people with a health behavior score of 0 were four times as likely to have died (in particular, from cardiovascular disease) than those with a score of 4. People with a score of 2 were twice as likely to have died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the combination of four simply defined health behaviors predicts a 4-fold difference in the risk of dying over an average period of 11 years for middle-aged and older people. They also show that the risk of death (particularly from cardiovascular disease) decreases as the number of positive health behaviors increase. Finally, they can be used to calculate that a person with a health score of 0 has the same risk of dying as a person with a health score of 4 who is 14 years older. These findings need to be confirmed in other populations and extended to an analysis of how these combined health behaviors affect the quality of life as well as the risk of death. Nevertheless, they strongly suggest that modest and achievable lifestyle changes could have a marked effect on the health of populations. Armed with this information, public-health officials should now be in a better position to encourage behavior changes likely to improve the health of middle-aged and older people.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050012.
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on healthy living (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus page on seniors' health contains links to many sites dealing with healthy lifestyles and longevity (in English and Spanish)
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study is investigating the relationship between nutrition and lifestyle and the development of cancer and other chronic diseases; information about the EPIC-Norfolk study is also available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on healthy aging for older adults, including information on health-related behaviors (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Age Concerns provides a fact sheet about staying healthy in later life
The London Health Observatory, which provides information for policy makers and practitioners about improving health and health care, has a section on how lifestyle and behavior affect health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050012
PMCID: PMC2174962  PMID: 18184033
18.  Deaths and Medical Visits Attributable to Environmental Pollution in the United Arab Emirates 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57536.
Background
This study estimates the potential health gains achievable in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with improved controls on environmental pollution. The UAE is an emerging economy in which population health risks have shifted rapidly from infectious diseases to chronic conditions observed in developed nations. The UAE government commissioned this work as part of an environmental health strategic planning project intended to address this shift in the nature of the country’s disease burden.
Methods and Findings
We assessed the burden of disease attributable to six environmental exposure routes outdoor air, indoor air, drinking water, coastal water, occupational environments, and climate change. For every exposure route, we integrated UAE environmental monitoring and public health data in a spatially resolved Monte Carlo simulation model to estimate the annual disease burden attributable to selected pollutants. The assessment included the entire UAE population (4.5 million for the year of analysis). The study found that outdoor air pollution was the leading contributor to mortality, with 651 attributable deaths (95% confidence interval [CI] 143–1,440), or 7.3% of all deaths. Indoor air pollution and occupational exposures were the second and third leading contributors to mortality, with 153 (95% CI 85–216) and 46 attributable deaths (95% CI 26–72), respectively. The leading contributor to health-care facility visits was drinking water pollution, to which 46,600 (95% CI 15,300–61,400) health-care facility visits were attributed (about 15% of the visits for all the diseases considered in this study). Major study limitations included (1) a lack of information needed to translate health-care facility visits to quality-adjusted-life-year estimates and (2) insufficient spatial coverage of environmental data.
Conclusions
Based on international comparisons, the UAE’s environmental disease burden is low for all factors except outdoor air pollution. From a public health perspective, reducing pollutant emissions to outdoor air should be a high priority for the UAE’s environmental agencies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057536
PMCID: PMC3587618  PMID: 23469200
19.  Increasing Coverage and Decreasing Inequity in Insecticide-Treated Bed Net Use among Rural Kenyan Children 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e255.
Background
Inexpensive and efficacious interventions that avert childhood deaths in sub-Saharan Africa have failed to reach effective coverage, especially among the poorest rural sectors. One particular example is insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs). In this study, we present repeat observations of ITN coverage among rural Kenyan homesteads exposed at different times to a range of delivery models, and assess changes in coverage across socioeconomic groups.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a study of annual changes in ITN coverage among a cohort of 3,700 children aged 0–4 y in four districts of Kenya (Bondo, Greater Kisii, Kwale, and Makueni) annually between 2004 and 2006. Cross-sectional surveys of ITN coverage were undertaken coincidentally with the incremental availability of commercial sector nets (2004), the introduction of heavily subsidized nets through clinics (2005), and the introduction of free mass distributed ITNs (2006). The changing prevalence of ITN coverage was examined with special reference to the degree of equity in each delivery approach. ITN coverage was only 7.1% in 2004 when the predominant source of nets was the commercial retail sector. By the end of 2005, following the expansion of heavily subsidized clinic distribution system, ITN coverage rose to 23.5%. In 2006 a large-scale mass distribution of ITNs was mounted providing nets free of charge to children, resulting in a dramatic increase in ITN coverage to 67.3%. With each subsequent survey socioeconomic inequity in net coverage sequentially decreased: 2004 (most poor [2.9%] versus least poor [15.6%]; concentration index 0.281); 2005 (most poor [17.5%] versus least poor [37.9%]; concentration index 0.131), and 2006 with near-perfect equality (most poor [66.3%] versus least poor [66.6%]; concentration index 0.000). The free mass distribution method achieved highest coverage among the poorest children, the highly subsidised clinic nets programme was marginally in favour of the least poor, and the commercial social marketing favoured the least poor.
Conclusions
Rapid scaling up of ITN coverage among Africa's poorest rural children can be achieved through mass distribution campaigns. These efforts must form an important adjunct to regular, routine access to ITNs through clinics, and each complimentary approach should aim to make this intervention free to clients to ensure equitable access among those least able to afford even the cost of a heavily subsidized net.
Noor and colleagues found low levels of use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets when nets were mainly available through the commercial sector. Levels increased when subsidized nets were introduced and rose further when they were made available free.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Malaria is one of the world's most important killer diseases. There are over a million deaths from malaria every year, most of those who die are children in Africa. Frequent attacks of the disease have severe consequences for the health of many millions more. The parasite that causes malaria is spread by bites from certain species of mosquito. They mostly bite during the hours of darkness, so sleeping under a mosquito net provides some protection. In some countries where malaria is a problem, bed nets are already used by many people. A very much higher level of protection is obtained, however, by sleeping under a mosquito net that has been impregnated with insecticide. The insecticides used are of extremely low toxicity for humans. As insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) are a relatively new idea, people do need to be persuaded to buy and use them. ITNs must also be re-impregnated regularly, although long-lasting ones that remain effective for 3–5 y (or 21 washes) are now widely distributed. The nets are inexpensive by Western standards but the people who are most at risk of malaria have very little income. Governments and health agencies are keen to increase the use of nets, particularly for children and pregnant women. The main approach used has been that of “social marketing.” In other words, advertising campaigns promote the use of nets, and their local manufacture is encouraged. The nets are then sold on the open market, sometimes with government subsidies. This approach has been very controversial. Many people have argued that ways must be found to make nets available free to all who need them, but others believe that this is not necessary and that high rates of ITN use can be brought about by social marketing alone.
Why Was This Study Done?
It has been known for more than ten years that ITNs are very effective in reducing cases of malaria, but there is still a long way to go before every child at risk sleeps under an ITN. In Kenya, a country where malaria is very common, a program to increase net use began in 2002, using the social marketing approach. In 2004 most of the nets available in Kenya were those on sale commercially. In October 2004 health clinics started to distribute more heavily subsidized ITNs for children and pregnant women and, in 2006, a mass distribution program began of free nets for children. The researchers, based at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), wanted to find whether the number of children sleeping under ITNs changed as a result of these changes in policy. They also wanted to see how the rate of net use varied between families of different socioeconomic levels, as the poorest children are known to be most likely to die from malaria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This is a large study involving 3,700 children in four districts of Kenya. The researchers conducted surveys and then calculated the rates of net use in 2004, 2005, and 2006. In the first survey, when nets were available to most people only through the commercial sector, only 7% of children were sleeping under ITNs, with a very big difference between the poorest families (3%) and the least poor (16%). By the end of 2005, the year in which subsidized nets became increasingly available in clinics, the overall rate of use rose to 24%. By the end of 2006, following the free distribution campaign, it was 66%. The 2006 figure was almost exactly the same for the poorest and least poor families.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The rate of net use in the districts in the survey is much higher than expected, even though one-third of children were still not protected by ITNs. The sharp increases—particularly among the poorest children—after heavily subsidized nets were introduced and then after the free mass distribution suggests that this is a very good use of the limited amount of funds available for health care in Kenya and other countries where malaria is common. If fewer Kenyan children have malaria there will be cost savings to the health services. While some might claim that it is obvious that nets will be more widely used if they are free, there has been heated debate as to whether this is really true. Evidence has been needed and this research now provides strong support for free distribution. The study has also identified other factors which will be important in the continuing efforts to increase ITN use.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040255.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria and on insecticide-treated nets (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish). MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies and health-related organizations
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Chinese) and from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the use of insecticide-treated nets
For information about the Medical Research Institute see the organization's Web site
The BBC Web site has a “country profile” about Kenya
Malaria data and related publications can be found on the Malaria Atlas Project Web site, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, UK and is a joint project between the Malaria Public Health & Epidemiology Group, Centre for Geographic Medicine, Kenya and the Spatial Ecology & Epidemiology Group, University of Oxford, UK
The Kenya Ministry of Health, Division of Malaria Control Web site has useful information on malaria epidemiology and policies for Kenya
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040255
PMCID: PMC1949846  PMID: 17713981
20.  Effect of the California Tobacco Control Program on Personal Health Care Expenditures 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(8):e178.
Background
Large state tobacco control programs have been shown to reduce smoking and would be expected to affect health care costs. We investigate the effect of California's large-scale tobacco control program on aggregate personal health care expenditures in the state.
Methods and Findings
Cointegrating regressions were used to predict (1) the difference in per capita cigarette consumption between California and 38 control states as a function of the difference in cumulative expenditures of the California and control state tobacco control programs, and (2) the relationship between the difference in cigarette consumption and the difference in per capita personal health expenditures between the control states and California between 1980 and 2004. Between 1989 (when it started) and 2004, the California program was associated with $86 billion (2004 US dollars) (95% confidence interval [CI] $28 billion to $151 billion) lower health care expenditures than would have been expected without the program. This reduction grew over time, reaching 7.3% (95% CI 2.7%–12.1%) of total health care expenditures in 2004.
Conclusions
A strong tobacco control program is not only associated with reduced smoking, but also with reductions in health care expenditures.
Stanton Glantz and colleagues find that the California state tobacco control program is associated not only with reduced smoking, but with reductions in health care costs as well.
Editors' Summary
Background
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco causes 1 in 10 adult deaths worldwide and is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. In 2005, tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths, which amounts to one death every 6 seconds. It is estimated that by 2030, annual deaths from tobacco use will be 8 million worldwide. Eighty percent of these deaths will occur in the developing world.
Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is also a major health concern, as it can cause cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. An estimated 200,000 workers die annually from exposure to smoke at work, according to the International Labour Organization.
In 2008, the WHO released a report on the global tobacco epidemic, which provided a comprehensive analysis of tobacco use and control efforts. It revealed that not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures. The report also stated that governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts.
The California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) is a state-funded public policy intervention established in 1989. Its goal is to decrease tobacco-related diseases and deaths in California by reducing tobacco use across the state. The program is focused on adults and social norm change rather than on adolescent tobacco use prevention, on the premise that the “next generation cannot be saved without changing the generations who have already reached adulthood.”
Why Was This Study Done?
The success of large public health programs, especially those that counter the tactics of powerful industries such as the tobacco industry, require funding. The justification of public spending on these initiatives should be evidence driven. While the success of the CTCP in reducing smoking was known, it was not yet clear whether the program had reduced health care costs. The researchers investigated the effect of the CTCP on personal health care expenditures in the state. Their findings can provide useful information for the development of other tobacco control initiatives.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using the statistical approach of cointegrating regressions, the researchers modeled the relationships between per capita tobacco control expenditures, per capita cigarette consumption, and health care expenditures. They analyzed data from 1980 and 2004 on smoking, health care expenditures, and exposure to a tobacco control educational program in California and compared them to a group of 38 control states. Control states were those without comprehensive tobacco control programs prior to 2000 or cigarette tax increases of $0.50 or more per pack over the study period. This comparison allowed the researchers to assess the effect of the CTCP on total personal health care spending.
The researchers found that US$86 billion (95% CI $28 billion to $151 billion) were saved in personal health care expenditure between 1989, the start of the program, and 2004. This generally grew over time, reaching 7.3% of the total in 2003–2004. The personal health care expenditure savings represented about a 50-fold return on the $1.8 billion spent on the program during the same period (all 2004 US dollars).
The researchers report that 3.6 billion (95% CI 1.5 billion to 5.9 billion) fewer packs of cigarettes were sold between 1989–1990 and 2003–2004. This represents a loss of $9.2 billion (95% CI $3.8 billion to $14.7 billion) to the tobacco industry in pre-tax cigarette sales.
These cost savings occurred despite the substantial diversion of funding and decreased purchasing power experienced by the CTCP, particularly in the mid-1990s. (The program was funded with a constant tax of $0.05 per pack, despite inflation). The researchers estimated that if the funding, and thus purchasing power, had been maintained, total savings in personal health expenditures would have increased to $156 billion with an additional $70 billion in health cost savings. Cigarette consumption would have dropped to an estimated 6.6 billion packs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The CTCP has been successful in reducing smoking in California in comparison to other states, and has reduced personal health care expenditures. These cost reductions were substantial, rapid, and grew over time. The researchers contend that the CTCP's focus on social norm change among adults, not primarily on youth prevention, is responsible for such rapid and large reductions in disease and the associated health care costs. They state that a program focused on primary prevention of smoking among adolescents would take decades to have any impact on tobacco-induced diseases, which rarely manifest among adolescents or even young adults. These researcher's findings support the establishment of strong tobacco control programs in other settings: they not only reduce smoking, prevent disease, and save lives, but also represent an important way to curb rapidly increasing health care expenditures in the short term.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050178.
The California Tobacco Control Program provides information about its social change approach
The WHO MPOWER strategy, detailed in the 2008 Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, outlines the six most effective policies to help curb the epidemic
Resources to help people quit smoking can be obtained through the US Centers for Disease Control and the UK National Health Service
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050178
PMCID: PMC2522256  PMID: 18752344
21.  Burden of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Related to Tobacco Smoking among Adults Aged ≥45 Years in Asia: A Pooled Analysis of 21 Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001631.
Wei Zheng and colleagues quantify the burden of tobacco-smoking-related deaths for adults in Asia.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases. We sought to quantify the burden of tobacco-smoking-related deaths in Asia, in parts of which men's smoking prevalence is among the world's highest.
Methods and Findings
We performed pooled analyses of data from 1,049,929 participants in 21 cohorts in Asia to quantify the risks of total and cause-specific mortality associated with tobacco smoking using adjusted hazard ratios and their 95% confidence intervals. We then estimated smoking-related deaths among adults aged ≥45 y in 2004 in Bangladesh, India, mainland China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan—accounting for ∼71% of Asia's total population. An approximately 1.44-fold (95% CI = 1.37–1.51) and 1.48-fold (1.38–1.58) elevated risk of death from any cause was found in male and female ever-smokers, respectively. In 2004, active tobacco smoking accounted for approximately 15.8% (95% CI = 14.3%–17.2%) and 3.3% (2.6%–4.0%) of deaths, respectively, in men and women aged ≥45 y in the seven countries/regions combined, with a total number of estimated deaths of ∼1,575,500 (95% CI = 1,398,000–1,744,700). Among men, approximately 11.4%, 30.5%, and 19.8% of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and respiratory diseases, respectively, were attributable to tobacco smoking. Corresponding proportions for East Asian women were 3.7%, 4.6%, and 1.7%, respectively. The strongest association with tobacco smoking was found for lung cancer: a 3- to 4-fold elevated risk, accounting for 60.5% and 16.7% of lung cancer deaths, respectively, in Asian men and East Asian women aged ≥45 y.
Conclusions
Tobacco smoking is associated with a substantially elevated risk of mortality, accounting for approximately 2 million deaths in adults aged ≥45 y throughout Asia in 2004. It is likely that smoking-related deaths in Asia will continue to rise over the next few decades if no effective smoking control programs are implemented.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 5 million smokers die from tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (conditions that affect the heart and the circulation), respiratory disease (conditions that affect breathing), lung cancer, and several other types of cancer. All told, tobacco smoking kills up to half its users. The ongoing global “epidemic” of tobacco smoking and tobacco-related diseases initially affected people living in the US and other Western countries, where the prevalence of smoking (the proportion of the population that smokes) in men began to rise in the early 1900s, peaking in the 1960s. A similar epidemic occurred in women about 40 years later. Smoking-related deaths began to increase in the second half of the 20th century, and by the 1990s, tobacco smoking accounted for a third of all deaths and about half of cancer deaths among men in the US and other Western countries. More recently, increased awareness of the risks of smoking and the introduction of various tobacco control measures has led to a steady decline in tobacco use and in smoking-related diseases in many developed countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, less well-developed tobacco control programs, inadequate public awareness of smoking risks, and tobacco company marketing have recently led to sharp increases in the prevalence of smoking in many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Asia. More than 50% of men in many Asian countries are now smokers, about twice the prevalence in many Western countries, and more women in some Asian countries are smoking than previously. More than half of the world's billion smokers now live in Asia. However, little is known about the burden of tobacco-related mortality (deaths) in this region. In this study, the researchers quantify the risk of total and cause-specific mortality associated with tobacco use among adults aged 45 years or older by undertaking a pooled statistical analysis of data collected from 21 Asian cohorts (groups) about their smoking history and health.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers used data from more than 1 million participants enrolled in studies undertaken in Bangladesh, India, mainland China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan (which together account for 71% of Asia's total population). Smoking prevalences among male and female participants were 65.1% and 7.1%, respectively. Compared with never-smokers, ever-smokers had a higher risk of death from any cause in pooled analyses of all the cohorts (adjusted hazard ratios [HRs] of 1.44 and 1.48 for men and women, respectively; an adjusted HR indicates how often an event occurs in one group compared to another group after adjustment for other characteristics that affect an individual's risk of the event). Compared with never smoking, ever smoking was associated with a higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, cancer (particularly lung cancer), and respiratory disease among Asian men and among East Asian women. Moreover, the researchers estimate that, in the countries included in this study, tobacco smoking accounted for 15.8% of all deaths among men and 3.3% of deaths among women in 2004—a total of about 1.5 million deaths, which scales up to 2 million deaths for the population of the whole of Asia. Notably, in 2004, tobacco smoking accounted for 60.5% of lung-cancer deaths among Asian men and 16.7% of lung-cancer deaths among East Asian women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that tobacco smoking is associated with a substantially raised risk of death among adults aged 45 years or older throughout Asia. The association between smoking and mortality risk in Asia reported here is weaker than that previously reported for Western countries, possibly because widespread tobacco smoking started several decades later in most Asian countries than in Europe and North America and the deleterious effects of smoking take some years to become evident. The researchers note that certain limitations of their analysis are likely to affect the accuracy of its findings. For example, because no data were available to estimate the impact of secondhand smoke, the estimate of deaths attributable to smoking is likely to be an underestimate. However, the finding that nearly 45% of the global deaths from active tobacco smoking occur in Asia highlights the urgent need to implement comprehensive tobacco control programs in Asia to reduce the burden of tobacco-related disease.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001631.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and about the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international instrument for tobacco control that came into force in February 2005 and requires parties to implement a set of core tobacco control provisions including legislation to ban tobacco advertising and to increase tobacco taxes; its 2013 report on the global tobacco epidemic is available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information about all aspects of smoking and tobacco use
The UK National Health Services Choices website provides information about the health risks associated with smoking
MedlinePlus has links to further information about the dangers of smoking (in English and Spanish)
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
Smokefree.gov, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001631
PMCID: PMC3995657  PMID: 24756146
22.  Clinical Benefits, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Neonatal Intensive Care in Mexico 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000379.
Joshua Salomon and colleagues performed a cost-effectiveness analysis using health and economic outcomes following preterm birth in Mexico and showed that neonatal intensive care provided high value for the money in this setting.
Background
Neonatal intensive care improves survival, but is associated with high costs and disability amongst survivors. Recent health reform in Mexico launched a new subsidized insurance program, necessitating informed choices on the different interventions that might be covered by the program, including neonatal intensive care. The purpose of this study was to estimate the clinical outcomes, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
Methods and Findings
A cost-effectiveness analysis was conducted using a decision analytic model of health and economic outcomes following preterm birth. Model parameters governing health outcomes were estimated from Mexican vital registration and hospital discharge databases, supplemented with meta-analyses and systematic reviews from the published literature. Costs were estimated on the basis of data provided by the Ministry of Health in Mexico and World Health Organization price lists, supplemented with published studies from other countries as needed. The model estimated changes in clinical outcomes, life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care. Uncertainty around the results was characterized using one-way sensitivity analyses and a multivariate probabilistic sensitivity analysis. In the base-case analysis, neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestational age prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs, at incremental costs per infant of US$11,400, US$9,500, and US$3,000, respectively, compared to an alternative of no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks were US$1,200, US$650, and US$240, per DALY averted, respectively. The findings were robust to variation in parameter values over wide ranges in sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions
Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios for neonatal intensive care imply very high value for money on the basis of conventional benchmarks for cost-effectiveness analysis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother). In developed countries and some middle-income countries such as Mexico, improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal intensive care) mean that more preterm babies survive now than in the past. Nevertheless, preterm birth is still a major cause of infant death worldwide that challenges attainment of Target 5 of Millennium Development Goal 4—the reduction of the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds of the 1990 rate by 2015 (the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, aim to reduce world poverty). Furthermore, many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness, or learning difficulties. The severity of these disabilities and their long-term costs to families and to society depend on the baby's degree of prematurity.
Why Was This Study Done?
Mexico recently reformed its health system in an effort to improve access to care, particularly for the poorest sections of its population, and to improve the quality of its health care. The central component of this health care reform is the System of Social Protection of Health (SSPH). The SSPH contains a family health insurance program—Seguro Popular—that aims to provide the 50 million uninsured people living in Mexico with free access to an explicit set of health care interventions. As with any insurance program, decisions have to be made about which interventions Seguro Poplar should cover. Should neonatal intensive care be covered, for example? Do the benefits of this intervention (increased survival of babies) outweigh the costs of neonatal care and of long-term care for survivors with disabilities? In other words, is neonatal intensive care cost-effective? In this study, the researchers investigate this question by estimating the clinical benefits, costs, and cost-effectiveness of neonatal intensive care in Mexico.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers built a decision analytic model, a mathematical model that combines evidence on the outcomes and costs of alternative treatments to help inform decisions about health care policy. They gathered data about the health outcomes of preterm births in Mexico from registers of births and deaths and from hospital discharge databases, and estimated the costs of neonatal intensive care and long-term care for disabled survivors using data from the Mexican Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. They then applied their model, which estimates changes in parameters such as life expectancy, lifetime costs, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; one DALY represents the loss of a year of healthy life), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; the additional cost expended for each DALY averted) for neonatal intensive care compared to no intensive care, to a group of 2 million infants. Neonatal intensive care for infants born at 24–26, 27–29, and 30–33 weeks gestation prolonged life expectancy by 28, 43, and 34 years and averted 9, 15, and 12 DALYs at incremental costs of US$11,000, US$10,000, and US$3000, respectively, compared to no intensive care. The ICERs of neonatal intensive care for babies born at these times were US$1200, US$700, and US$300 per DALY averted, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Interventions with ICERs of less than a country's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) are highly cost-effective; those with ICERs of 1–3 times the per capita GDP are potentially cost-effective. Mexico's per capita GDP in 2005 was approximately US$8,200. Thus, neonatal intensive care could provide exceptional value for money in Mexico (and maybe in other middle-income countries), even for very premature babies. The accuracy of these findings inevitably depends on the assumptions used to build the decision analytic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into it, but the findings were little changed by a wide range of alterations that the researchers made to the model. Importantly, however, this cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on health and economic consequences of different intervention choices, and does not capture all aspects of well-being. Decisions regarding neonatal intensive care will need to be based on a full consideration of all relevant factors, including ethical issues, and cost-effectiveness analyses should continue to be updated as new data emerge on health outcomes and costs associated with neonatal intensive care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development and protection around the world; it provides information on Millennium Development Goal 4 and its Childinfo website provides detailed statistics about child survival and health (some information in several languages)
A PLoS Medicine Policy Forum by Núria Homedes and Antonio Ugalde discusses health care reforms in Mexico
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000379
PMCID: PMC3001895  PMID: 21179496
23.  Measuring Adult Mortality Using Sibling Survival: A New Analytical Method and New Results for 44 Countries, 1974–2006 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000260.
Julie Rajaratnam and colleagues describe a novel method, called the Corrected Sibling Survival method, to measure adult mortality in countries without good vital registration by use of histories taken from surviving siblings.
Background
For several decades, global public health efforts have focused on the development and application of disease control programs to improve child survival in developing populations. The need to reliably monitor the impact of such intervention programs in countries has led to significant advances in demographic methods and data sources, particularly with large-scale, cross-national survey programs such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Although no comparable effort has been undertaken for adult mortality, the availability of large datasets with information on adult survival from censuses and household surveys offers an important opportunity to dramatically improve our knowledge about levels and trends in adult mortality in countries without good vital registration. To date, attempts to measure adult mortality from questions in censuses and surveys have generally led to implausibly low levels of adult mortality owing to biases inherent in survey data such as survival and recall bias. Recent methodological developments and the increasing availability of large surveys with information on sibling survival suggest that it may well be timely to reassess the pessimism that has prevailed around the use of sibling histories to measure adult mortality.
Methods and Findings
We present the Corrected Sibling Survival (CSS) method, which addresses both the survival and recall biases that have plagued the use of survey data to estimate adult mortality. Using logistic regression, our method directly estimates the probability of dying in a given country, by age, sex, and time period from sibling history data. The logistic regression framework borrows strength across surveys and time periods for the estimation of the age patterns of mortality, and facilitates the implementation of solutions for the underrepresentation of high-mortality families and recall bias. We apply the method to generate estimates of and trends in adult mortality, using the summary measure 45q15—the probability of a 15-y old dying before his or her 60th birthday—for 44 countries with DHS sibling survival data. Our findings suggest that levels of adult mortality prevailing in many developing countries are substantially higher than previously suggested by other analyses of sibling history data. Generally, our estimates show the risk of adult death between ages 15 and 60 y to be about 20%–35% for females and 25%–45% for males in sub-Saharan African populations largely unaffected by HIV. In countries of Southern Africa, where the HIV epidemic has been most pronounced, as many as eight out of ten men alive at age 15 y will be dead by age 60, as will six out of ten women. Adult mortality levels in populations of Asia and Latin America are generally lower than in Africa, particularly for women. The exceptions are Haiti and Cambodia, where mortality risks are comparable to many countries in Africa. In all other countries with data, the probability of dying between ages 15 and 60 y was typically around 10% for women and 20% for men, not much higher than the levels prevailing in several more developed countries.
Conclusions
Our results represent an expansion of direct knowledge of levels and trends in adult mortality in the developing world. The CSS method provides grounds for renewed optimism in collecting sibling survival data. We suggest that all nationally representative survey programs with adequate sample size ought to implement this critical module for tracking adult mortality in order to more reliably understand the levels and patterns of adult mortality, and how they are changing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Governments and international health agencies need accurate information on births and deaths in populations to help them plan health care policies and monitor the effectiveness of public-health programs designed, for example, to prevent premature deaths from preventable causes such as tobacco smoking. In developed countries, full information on births and deaths is recorded in “vital registration systems.” Unfortunately, very few developing countries have complete vital registration systems. In most African countries, for example, less than one-quarter of deaths are counted through vital registration systems. To fill this information gap, scientists have developed several methods to estimate mortality levels (the proportion of deaths in populations) and trends in mortality (how the proportion of deaths in populations changes over time) from data collected in household surveys and censuses. A household survey collects data about family members (for example, number, age, and sex) for a national sample of households randomly selected from a list of households collected in a census (a periodic count of a population).
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, global public-health efforts have concentrated on improving child survival. Consequently, methods for calculating child mortality levels and trends from surveys are well-developed and generally yield accurate estimates. By contrast, although attempts have been made to measure adult mortality using sibling survival histories (records of the sex, age if alive, or age at death, if dead, of all the children born to survey respondents' mothers that are collected in many household surveys), these attempts have often produced implausibly low estimates of adult mortality. These low estimates arise because people do not always recall deaths accurately when questioned (recall bias) and because families that have fallen apart, possibly because of family deaths, are underrepresented in household surveys (selection bias). In this study, the researchers develop a corrected sibling survival (CSS) method that addresses the problems of selection and recall bias and use their method to estimate mortality levels and trends in 44 developing countries between 1974 and 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a statistical approach called logistic regression to develop the CSS method. They then used the method to estimate the probability of a 15-year-old dying before his or her 60th birthday from sibling survival data collected by the Demographic and Health Surveys program (DHS, a project started in 1984 to help developing countries collect data on population and health trends). Levels of adult mortality estimated in this way were considerably higher than those suggested by previous analyses of sibling history data. For example, the risk of adult death between the ages of 15 and 60 years was 20%–35% for women and 25%–45% for men living in sub-Saharan African countries largely unaffected by HIV and 60% for women and 80% for men living in countries in Southern Africa where the HIV epidemic is worst. Importantly, the researchers show that their mortality level estimates compare well to those obtained from vital registration data and other data sources where available. So, for example, in the Philippines, adult mortality levels estimated using the CSS method were similar to those obtained from vital registration data. Finally, the researchers used the CSS method to estimate mortality trends. These calculations reveal, for example, that there has been a 3–4-fold increase in adult mortality since the late 1980s in Zimbabwe, a country badly affected by the HIV epidemic.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the CSS method, which applies a correction for both selection and recall bias, yields more accurate estimates of adult mortality in developing countries from sibling survival data than previous methods. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that sibling survival histories should be routinely collected in all future household survey programs and, if possible, these surveys should be expanded so that all respondents are asked about sibling histories—currently the DHS only collects sibling histories from women aged 15–49 years. Widespread collection of such data and their analysis using the CSS method, the researchers conclude, would help governments and international agencies track trends in adult mortality and progress toward major health and development targets.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000260.
This study and two related PLoS Medicine Research Articles by Rajaratnam et al. and by Murray et al. are further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Mathers and Boerma
Information is available about the Demographic and Health Surveys
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation makes available high-quality information on population health, its determinants, and the performance of health systems
Grand Challenges in Global Health provides information on research into better ways for developing countries to measure their health status
The World Health Organization Statistical Information System (WHOSIS) is an interactive database that brings together core health statistics for WHO member states, including information on vital registration of deaths; the WHO Health Metrics Network is a global collaboration focused on improving sources of vital statistics
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000260
PMCID: PMC2854132  PMID: 20405004
24.  Air pollution and mortality in Valencia, Spain: a study using the APHEA methodology. 
STUDY OBJECTIVE: To assess the short term relationship between daily air pollution indicators (black smoke and sulphur dioxide (SO2)) and mortality in Valencia. DESIGN: This was an ecological study using time series data with application of Poisson regression. Daily variations in four selected outcome variables (total mortality, mortality in those over 70 years of age, and cardiovascular and respiratory mortality) were considered in relation to daily variations in air pollution levels for the period 1991-93. SETTING: The city of Valencia, Spain. MAIN RESULTS: The mean daily mortality was 17.5, and the average daily levels of air pollutants from the three monitoring stations included in the study were, 67.7 micrograms/m3 for black smoke, and 39.9 micrograms/ m3 for SO2. A significant positive association between black smoke and three of the four outcomes in the study was found. The estimated relative risk (RR) of dying corresponding to a 10 micrograms/m3 increase in mean daily black smoke over the whole period was 1.009 (95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.003, 1.015). For mortality in the group aged more than 70 years and for cardiovascular mortality, the RRs were 1.008 (95% CI: 1.001, 1.016) and 1.012 (95% CI: 1.003, 1.022) respectively. The association with SO2 was less clear: it was only evident during the warm season. The estimated RRs in this case were 1.007 (95% CI: 0.999, 1.015) for total mortality, 1.009 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.21) for total mortality in those older than 70, and 1.012 (95% CI: 0.995, 1.026) for cardiovascular deaths. No significant association was found between mortality from respiratory diseases and either of the two pollutants. CONCLUSIONS: A positive relationship between air pollution and mortality was found in the short term, as has been shown in an important number of studies carried out elsewhere. Although the current levels of particulate air pollution in Valencia are not very high, they could have an effect on the number of premature deaths. Despite the fact that the association is weak, it is important at the public health level both because of the numbers of population exposed and the possibility of establishing control measures.
PMCID: PMC1060344  PMID: 8944859
25.  Associations between Active Travel to Work and Overweight, Hypertension, and Diabetes in India: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001459.
Using data from the Indian Migration Study, Christopher Millett and colleagues examine the associations between active travel to work and overweight, hypertension, and diabetes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Increasing active travel (walking, bicycling, and public transport) is promoted as a key strategy to increase physical activity and reduce the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) globally. Little is known about patterns of active travel or associated cardiovascular health benefits in low- and middle-income countries. This study examines mode and duration of travel to work in rural and urban India and associations between active travel and overweight, hypertension, and diabetes.
Methods and Findings
Cross-sectional study of 3,902 participants (1,366 rural, 2,536 urban) in the Indian Migration Study. Associations between mode and duration of active travel and cardiovascular risk factors were assessed using random-effect logistic regression models adjusting for age, sex, caste, standard of living, occupation, factory location, leisure time physical activity, daily fat intake, smoking status, and alcohol use. Rural dwellers were significantly more likely to bicycle (68.3% versus 15.9%; p<0.001) to work than urban dwellers. The prevalence of overweight or obesity was 50.0%, 37.6%, 24.2%, 24.9%; hypertension was 17.7%, 11.8%, 6.5%, 9.8%; and diabetes was 10.8%, 7.4%, 3.8%, 7.3% in participants who travelled to work by private transport, public transport, bicycling, and walking, respectively. In the adjusted analysis, those walking (adjusted risk ratio [ARR] 0.72; 95% CI 0.58–0.88) or bicycling to work (ARR 0.66; 95% CI 0.55–0.77) were significantly less likely to be overweight or obese than those travelling by private transport. Those bicycling to work were significantly less likely to have hypertension (ARR 0.51; 95% CI 0.36–0.71) or diabetes (ARR 0.65; 95% CI 0.44–0.95). There was evidence of a dose-response relationship between duration of bicycling to work and being overweight, having hypertension or diabetes. The main limitation of the study is the cross-sectional design, which limits causal inference for the associations found.
Conclusions
Walking and bicycling to work was associated with reduced cardiovascular risk in the Indian population. Efforts to increase active travel in urban areas and halt declines in rural areas should be integral to strategies to maintain healthy weight and prevent NCDs in India.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity (excessive body fat) are major threats to global health. Every year, more than 36 million people (including 29 million in LMICs) die from NCDs—nearly two-thirds of the world's annual deaths. Cardiovascular diseases (conditions that affect the heart and the circulation), diabetes, cancer, and respiratory diseases are responsible for most NCD-related deaths. Obesity is a risk factor for all these NCDs and the global prevalence of obesity (the proportion of the world's population that is obese) has nearly doubled since 1980. In 2008, 35% of adults were overweight and 11% were obese. One reason for the growing burden of both obesity and NCDs is increasing physical inactivity. Regular physical activity helps to maintain a healthy body weight and to prevent or delay the onset of NCDs. For an adult, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity—walking briskly or cycling, for example—five times a week is sufficient to promote and maintain health. But the daily lives of people in both developed and developing countries are becoming increasingly sedentary and, nowadays, at least 60% of the world's population does not do even this modest amount of exercise.
Why Was This Study Done?
Strategies to increase physical activity levels often promote active travel (walking, cycling, and using public transport). The positive impact of active travel on physical activity levels and cardiovascular health is well established in high-income countries, but little is known about the patterns of active travel or the health benefits associated with active travel in poorer countries. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that measures population characteristics at a single time point), the researchers examine the mode and duration of travel to work in rural and urban India and associations between active travel and overweight/obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease), and diabetes. In India, a lower middle-income country, the prevalence of overweight and NCDs is projected to increase rapidly over the next two decades. Moreover, rapid unplanned urbanization and a large increase in registered motor vehicles has resulted in inadequate development of the public transport infrastructure and hazardous conditions for walking and cycling in most Indian towns and cities.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, researchers analyzed physical activity and health data collected from participants in the Indian Migration Study, which examined the association between migration from rural to urban areas and obesity and diabetes risk. People living in rural areas were more likely to cycle to work than people living in towns and cities (68.3% versus 15.9%). Among people who travelled to work by private transport, public transport, walking, and cycling, the prevalence of overweight or obesity was 50.0%, 37.6%, 24.9%, and 24.2%, respectively. Similar patterns were seen for the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. After adjustment for factors that affect the risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes (for example, daily fat intake and leisure time physical activity), people walking or cycling to work were less likely to be overweight or obese than those travelling by public transport, and those cycling to walk were less likely to have hypertension or diabetes. Finally, people with long cycle rides to work had a lower risk of being overweight or having hypertension or diabetes than people with short cycle rides.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, as in high-income settings, walking and cycling to work are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in India. Because this was a cross-sectional study, these findings do not prove that active travel reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease—people who cycle to work may share other unknown characteristics that are actually responsible for their reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, this study did not consider non-cardiovascular outcomes associated with active travel that might affect health such as increased exposure to air pollution. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that programs designed to maintain healthy weight and prevent NCDs in India should endeavor to increase active travel in urban areas and to halt declines in rural areas by, for example, increasing investment in public transport and improving the safety and convenience of walking and cycling routes in urban areas.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001459.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Kavi Bhalla
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of healthy living, on chronic diseases and health promotion, on overweight and obesity and on non-communicable diseases around the world; its Physical Activity for Everyone web pages include guidelines, instructional videos and personal success stories (some information in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information about physical activity and health, about obesity, and about non-communicable diseases (in several languages); its 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health are available in several languages; its Global Noncommunicable Disease Network (NCDnet) aims to help low- and middle- income countries reduce NCD-related illnesses and death through implementation of the 20082013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (also available in French); Face to face with chronic diseases is a selection of personal stories from around the world about dealing with NCDs
The American Heart Association provides information on many important risk factors for non-communicable diseases and provides tips for becoming more active
Information about the Indian Migration Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001459
PMCID: PMC3679004  PMID: 23776412

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