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1.  WHO Essential Medicines Policies and Use in Developing and Transitional Countries: An Analysis of Reported Policy Implementation and Medicines Use Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001724.
Kathleen Holloway and David Henry evaluate whether countries that report having implemented WHO essential medicines policies have higher quality use of medicines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Suboptimal medicine use is a global public health problem. For 35 years the World Health Organization (WHO) has promoted essential medicines policies to improve quality use of medicines (QUM), but evidence of their effectiveness is lacking, and uptake by countries remains low. Our objective was to determine whether WHO essential medicines policies are associated with better QUM.
Methods and Findings
We compared results from independently conducted medicines use surveys in countries that did versus did not report implementation of WHO essential medicines policies. We extracted survey data on ten validated QUM indicators and 36 self-reported policy implementation variables from WHO databases for 2002–2008. We calculated the average difference (as percent) for the QUM indicators between countries reporting versus not reporting implementation of specific policies. Policies associated with positive effects were included in a regression of a composite QUM score on total numbers of implemented policies. Data were available for 56 countries. Twenty-seven policies were associated with better use of at least two percentage points. Eighteen policies were associated with significantly better use (unadjusted p<0.05), of which four were associated with positive differences of 10% or more: undergraduate training of doctors in standard treatment guidelines, undergraduate training of nurses in standard treatment guidelines, the ministry of health having a unit promoting rational use of medicines, and provision of essential medicines free at point of care to all patients. In regression analyses national wealth was positively associated with the composite QUM score and the number of policies reported as being implemented in that country. There was a positive correlation between the number of policies (out of the 27 policies with an effect size of 2% or more) that countries reported implementing and the composite QUM score (r = 0.39, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.59, p = 0.003). This correlation weakened but remained significant after inclusion of national wealth in multiple linear regression analyses. Multiple policies were more strongly associated with the QUM score in the 28 countries with gross national income per capita below the median value (US$2,333) (r = 0.43, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.69, p = 0.023) than in the 28 countries with values above the median (r = 0.22, 95% CI −0.15 to 0.56, p = 0.261). The main limitations of the study are the reliance on self-report of policy implementation and measures of medicine use from small surveys. While the data can be used to explore the association of essential medicines policies with medicine use, they cannot be used to compare or benchmark individual country performance.
Conclusions
WHO essential medicines policies are associated with improved QUM, particularly in low-income countries.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The widespread availability of effective medicines, particularly those used to treat infectious diseases, has been largely responsible for a doubling in the average global life expectancy over the past century. However, the suboptimal use (overuse and underuse) of medicines is an ongoing global public health problem. The unnecessary use of medicines (for example, the use of antibiotics for sore throats caused by viruses) needlessly consumes scarce resources and has undesirable effects such as encouraging the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Conversely, underuse deprives people of the undisputed benefits of many medicines. Since 1977, to help optimize medicine use, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated the concept of “essential medicines” and has developed policies to promote the quality use of medicines (QUM). Essential medicines are drugs that satisfy the priority needs of the human population and that should always be available to communities in adequate amounts of assured quality, in the appropriate dosage forms, and at an affordable price. Policies designed to promote QUM include recommendations that medicines should be free at the point of care and that all health care professionals should be educated about the WHO list of essential medicines (which is revised every two years) throughout their careers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Surveys of WHO member countries undertaken in 2003 and 2007 suggest that the implementation of WHO policies designed to promote QUM is patchy. Moreover, little is known about whether these policies are effective, particularly in middle- and low-income countries. For most of these countries, it is not known whether any of the policies affect validated QUM indicators such as the percentage of patients prescribed antibiotics (a lower percentage indicates better use of medicines) or the percentage of patients treated in compliance with national treatment guidelines (a higher percentage indicates better use of medicines). Here, the researchers analyze data from policy implementation questionnaires and medicine use surveys to determine whether implementation of WHO essential medicines policies is associated with improved QUM in low- and middle-income countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data on ten validated QUM indicators and on implementation of 36 policy variables from WHO databases for 2002–2008 and compared the average differences for the QUM indicators between low- and middle-income countries that did versus did not report implementation of specific WHO policies for QUM. Among 56 countries for which data were available, 27 policies were associated with improved QUM. Four policies were particularly effective, namely, doctors' undergraduate training in standard treatment guidelines, nurses' undergraduate training in standard treatment guidelines, the existence of a ministry of health department promoting the rational use of medicines, and the provision of essential medicines free to all patients at point of care. The researchers also analyzed correlations between how many of the 27 effective policies were implemented in a country and a composite QUM score. As national wealth increased, both the composite QUM score of a country and the reported number of policies implemented by the country increased. There was also a positive correlation between the numbers of policies that countries reported implementing and their composite QUM score. Finally, the implementation of multiple policies was more strongly associated with the composite QUM score in countries with a gross national income per capita below the average for the study countries than in countries with a gross national income above the average.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that between 2002 and 2008, the reported implementation of WHO essential medicines policies was associated with better QUM across low- and middle-income countries. These findings also reveal a positive correlation between the number of policies that countries report implementing and their QUM. Notably, this correlation was strongest in the countries with the lowest per capita national wealth levels, which underscores the importance of essential medicines policies in low-income countries. Because of the nature of the data available to the researchers, these findings do not show that the implementation of WHO policies actually causes improvements in QUM. Moreover, the age of the data, the reliance on self-report of policy implementation, and the small sample sizes of the medicine use surveys may all have introduced some inaccuracies into these findings. Nevertheless, overall, these findings suggest that WHO should continue to develop its medicine policies and to collect data on medicine use as part of its core functions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001724.
The World Health Organization provides information about essential medicines; its latest lists of essential medicines are available on the Internet; information about WHO policies to improve the quality use of medicines is also available (in several languages)
The International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs designs, tests, and disseminates effective strategies to improve the way drugs are prescribed, dispensed, and used, particularly in resource-poor countries
The essentialdrugs.org website helps health care professionals, researchers, and policy makers obtain and discuss current information on essential drugs, policy, program activities, education, and training (available in several languages); the website is run by Satellife, which aims to use technology to connect health workers in resource-limited countries to each other and to up-to-date clinical and public health content
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001724
PMCID: PMC4165598  PMID: 25226527
2.  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
3.  Fair relationships and policies to support family day care educators’ mental health: a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1214.
Background
High quality child care is a population health investment that relies on the capacity of providers. The mental health and wellbeing of child care educators is fundamental to care quality and turnover, yet sector views on the relationship between working conditions and mental health and wellbeing are scarce. This paper examines child care educators’ and sector key informants’ perspectives on how working in family day care influences educator’s mental health and wellbeing.
Methods
Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with Australian family day care educators (n = 16) and key informants (n = 18) comprised of representatives from family day care schemes, government and other relevant organisations regarding the relationship between working conditions and educator mental health. Thematic analysis referenced the assumptions and concepts of critical inquiry and used social exchange theory.
Results
Educators and key informants reported that educators’ mental health was affected by the quality of their relationships with government, family day care schemes, and the parents and children using their services. These social relationships created and contributed to working conditions that were believed to promote or diminish educators’ mental health. High quality relationships featured fair exchanges of educator work for key resources of social support and respect; adequate income; professional services; and information. Crucially, how exchanges influenced educator wellbeing was largely contingent on government policies that reflect the values and inequities present in society.
Conclusions
Making policies and relationships between educators, government and family day care schemes fairer would contribute strongly to the protection and promotion of educator mental health and wellbeing, and in turn contribute to workforce stability and care quality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1214
PMCID: PMC4256732  PMID: 25420621
Child care; Mental health; Occupational health; Policy; Child care provider
4.  Patterns of research activity related to government policy: a UK web based survey 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2005;90(11):1107-1111.
Aims: To describe the patterns of child and family health and wellbeing research activity in the fiscal year (FY) 2002/2003 in relation to UK government policies.
Methods: Projects investigating the health and wellbeing of children and families were located through a web based survey of major research funders, including UK government departments and non-departmental public bodies, research councils, and medical charities. A budget was estimated for each project for the FY 2002/2003, and each project coded according to a framework which reflected government priorities and research methodologies.
Results: There was a substantial amount of project information posted on the websites of the funding organisations, but the level of detail varied. For the FY 2002/2003, 31 organisations were identified that commissioned 567 projects investigating the health and wellbeing of children and families. Based on information from organisations' websites, this represented approximately 3% of their research budgets. Within this funding area, low proportions of research activity related to health inequalities (9% of total expenditure on child and family health research), health economic analysis (8%), primary and secondary prevention (12%), and children and adolescents at high risk of ill health (14%).
Conclusions: A limited amount of research activity on children and families health funded in the FY 2002/2003 is addressing UK government policy priorities. This suggests the need to commission further research to fill gaps in the evidence.
doi:10.1136/adc.2004.069781
PMCID: PMC1720150  PMID: 16243861
5.  Measuring Under-Five Mortality: Validation of New Low-Cost Methods 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000253.
n/a
Background
There has been increasing interest in measuring under-five mortality as a health indicator and as a critical measure of human development. In countries with complete vital registration systems that capture all births and deaths, under-five mortality can be directly calculated. In the absence of a complete vital registration system, however, child mortality must be estimated using surveys that ask women to report the births and deaths of their children. Two survey methods exist for capturing this information: summary birth histories and complete birth histories. A summary birth history requires a minimum of only two questions: how many live births has each mother had and how many of them have survived. Indirect methods are then applied using the information from these two questions and the age of the mother to estimate under-five mortality going back in time prior to the survey. Estimates generated from complete birth histories are viewed as the most accurate when surveys are required to estimate under-five mortality, especially for the most recent time periods. However, it is much more costly and labor intensive to collect these detailed data, especially for the purpose of generating small area estimates. As a result, there is a demand for improvement of the methods employing summary birth history data to produce more accurate as well as subnational estimates of child mortality.
Methods and Findings
We used data from 166 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) to develop new empirically based methods of estimating under-five mortality using children ever born and children dead data. We then validated them using both in- and out-of-sample analyses. We developed a range of methods on the basis of three dimensions of the problem: (1) approximating the average length of exposure to mortality from a mother's set of children using either maternal age or time since first birth; (2) using cohort and period measures of the fraction of children ever born that are dead; and (3) capturing country and regional variation in the age pattern of fertility and mortality. We focused on improving estimates in the most recent time periods prior to a survey where the traditional indirect methods fail. In addition, all of our methods incorporated uncertainty. Validated against under-five estimates generated from complete birth histories, our methods outperformed the standard indirect method by an average of 43.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 41.2–45.2). In the 5 y prior to the survey, the new methods resulted in a 53.3% (95% CI 51.3–55.2) improvement. To illustrate the value of this method for local area estimation, we applied our new methods to an analysis of summary birth histories in the 1990, 2000, and 2005 Mexican censuses, generating subnational estimates of under-five mortality for each of 233 jurisdictions.
Conclusions
The new methods significantly improve the estimation of under-five mortality using summary birth history data. In areas without vital registration data, summary birth histories can provide accurate estimates of child mortality. Because only two questions are required of a female respondent to generate these data, they can easily be included in existing survey programs as well as routine censuses of the population. With the wider application of these methods to census data, countries now have the means to generate estimates for subnational areas and population subgroups, important for measuring and addressing health inequalities and developing local policy to improve child survival.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 8 million children die before their fifth birthdays. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries, and most are the result of diseases or combinations of diseases that could have been prevented or treated. Measles, for example, is a major killer in low-income countries and undernutrition contributes to one-third of childhood deaths. Faced with this largely avoidable loss of young lives, in 1990, the United Nations' World Summit for Children pledged to improve the survival of children. Later, in 2000, world leaders set a target of reducing child mortality to one-third of its 1990 level by 2015 as Millennium Development Goal 4. This goal, together with seven others, is designed to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015. In 2006, for the first time since mortality records began, annual deaths among children under five fell below 10 million as a result of public-health programs such as the Measles Initiative, which has reduced global measles mortality by more than two-thirds by vaccinating 500 million children, and the Nothing but Nets campaign, which distributed insecticide-treated antimalaria nets in Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although global under-five mortality is declining, it is unlikely that Millennium Development Goal 4 will be reached by 2015. Indeed, in some countries, little or no progress is being made toward this goal. To improve progress and to monitor the effects of public-health interventions, accurate, up-to-date estimates of national and subnational child mortality rates are essential. In developed countries, vital registration systems—records of all births and deaths—mean that under-five mortality rates can be directly calculated. But many developing countries lack vital registration systems, and child mortality has to be estimated using data collected in surveys. In “complete birth history” surveys, mothers are asked numerous questions about each living child and each dead child. Such surveys can be used to estimate under-five mortality accurately for recent time periods but they are expensive and time-consuming. By contrast, in “summary birth history” surveys, each mother is simply asked how many live births she had and how many of her children have survived. Under-five mortality can be indirectly calculated from this information and the age of the mother, but the current methods for making this calculation cannot provide reliable estimates of under-five mortality more recently than 3 years before the survey. In this study, therefore, the researchers develop methods for estimating more recent under-five mortality rates from summary birth histories.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data about all children born and dead children extracted from 169 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS; a project started in 1984 to help developing countries collect data on health and population trends) covering 70 countries to develop four new methods to estimate under-five mortality. They tested these new methods and a method that combined all four approaches by comparing the estimates of under-five mortality provided by these methods and the standard indirect method to the estimates obtained from an analysis of the complete birth data in the DHS. The new methods all outperformed the standard indirect method, particularly for the most recent 5 years. The researchers also used their new methods to generate estimates of under-five mortality for each of the 233 jurisdictions in Mexico from summary birth histories collected in the 1990, 2000, and 2005 Mexico censuses. The overall trends of these subnational estimates, they report, mirrored those obtained from vital registration data.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that application of the new methods developed by the researchers could significantly improve the accuracy of estimates of under-five mortality based on summary birth history data. The researchers warn that although their methods can provide accurate estimates of recent under-five mortality, they might not capture rapid fluctuations in mortality such as those that occur during wars. However, they suggest, the two questions needed to generate the data required to apply these new methods could easily be included in existing survey programs and in routine censuses. Consequently, systematic application of the methods proposed in this study should provide policy makers with the information about levels, recent trends, and inequalities in child mortality that they need to accelerate efforts to reduce the global toll of childhood deaths.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000253.
This study and two related PLoS Medicine Research Articles by Obermeyer et al and by Murray et al are further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Mathers and Boerma
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)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and provides estimates of child mortality rates
Information is also available about the Demographic and Health Surveys
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000253
PMCID: PMC2854123  PMID: 20405055
6.  Enabling pathways to health equity: developing a framework for implementing social capital in practice 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:517.
Background
Mounting evidence linking aspects of social capital to health and wellbeing outcomes, in particular to reducing health inequities, has led to intense interest in social capital theory within public health in recent decades. As a result, governments internationally are designing interventions to improve health and wellbeing by addressing levels of social capital in communities. The application of theory to practice is uneven, however, reflecting differing views on the pathways between social capital and health, and divergent theories about social capital itself. Unreliable implementation may restrict the potential to contribute to health equity by this means, yet to date there has been limited investigation of how the theory is interpreted at the level of policy and then translated into practice.
Methods
The paper outlines a collaborative research project designed to address this knowledge deficit in order to inform more effective implementation. Undertaken in partnership with government departments, the study explored the application of social capital theory in programs designed to promote health and wellbeing in Adelaide, South Australia. It comprised three case studies of community-based practice, employing qualitative interviews and focus groups with community participants, practitioners, program managers and policy makers, to examine the ways in which the concept was interpreted and operationalized and identify the factors influencing success. These key lessons informed the development of practical resources comprising a guide for practitioners and briefing for policy makers.
Results
Overall the study showed that effective community projects can contribute to population health and wellbeing and reducing health inequities. Of specific relevance to this paper, however, is the finding that community projects rely for their effectiveness on a broader commitment expressed through policies and frameworks at the highest level of government decision making. In particular this relationship requires long term vision, endorsement for cross-sectoral work, well-developed relationships and theoretical and practical knowledge.
Conclusions
Attention to the practical application of social capital theory shows that community projects require structural support in their efforts to improve health and wellbeing and reduce health inequities. Sound community development techniques are essential but do not operate independently from frameworks and policies at the highest levels of government. Recognition of the interdependence of policy and practice will enable government to achieve these goals more effectively.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-517
PMCID: PMC3671136  PMID: 23714388
Social capital; Health inequities; Community development; Policy and practice; Health promotion
7.  Informing evidence-based policies for ageing and health in Ghana 
Abstract
Problem
Ghana’s population is ageing. In 2011, the Government of Ghana requested technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) to help revise national policies on ageing and health.
Approach
We applied WHO’s knowledge translation framework on ageing and health to assist evidence based policy-making in Ghana. First, we defined priority problems and health system responses by performing a country assessment of epidemiologic data, policy review, site visits and interviews of key informants. Second, we gathered evidence on effective health systems interventions in low- middle- and high-income countries. Third, key stakeholders were engaged in a policy dialogue. Fourth, policy briefs were developed and presented to the Ghana Health Services.
Local setting
Ghana has a well-structured health system that can adapt to meet the health care needs of older people.
Relevant changes
Six problems were selected as priorities, however after the policy dialogue, only five were agreed as priorities by the stakeholders. The key stakeholders drafted evidence-based policy recommendations that were used to develop policy briefs. The briefs were presented to the Ghana Health Service in 2014.
Lessons learnt
The framework can be used to build local capacity on evidence-informed policy-making. However, knowledge translation tools need further development to be used in low-income countries and in the field of ageing. The terms and language of the tools need to be adapted to local contexts. Evidence for health system interventions on ageing populations is very limited, particularly for low- and middle-income settings.
doi:10.2471/BLT.14.136242
PMCID: PMC4271679  PMID: 25558107
8.  Building the capacity of family day care educators to promote children's social and emotional wellbeing: an exploratory cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:842.
Background
Childhood mental health problems are highly prevalent, experienced by one in five children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged families. Although childcare settings, including family day care are ideal to promote children's social and emotional wellbeing at a population level in a sustainable way, family day care educators receive limited training in promoting children's mental health. This study is an exploratory wait-list control cluster randomised controlled trial to test the appropriateness, acceptability, cost, and effectiveness of "Thrive," an intervention program to build the capacity of family day care educators to promote children's social and emotional wellbeing. Thrive aims to increase educators' knowledge, confidence and skills in promoting children's social and emotional wellbeing.
Methods/Design
This study involves one family day care organisation based in a low socioeconomic area of Melbourne. All family day care educators (term used for registered carers who provide care for children for financial reimbursement in the carers own home) are eligible to participate in the study. The clusters for randomisation will be the fieldworkers (n = 5) who each supervise 10-15 educators. The intervention group (field workers and educators) will participate in a variety of intervention activities over 12 months, including workshops; activity exchanges with other educators; and focused discussion about children's social and emotional wellbeing during field worker visits. The control group will continue with their normal work practice. The intervention will be delivered to the intervention group and then to the control group after a time delay of 15 months post intervention commencement. A baseline survey will be conducted with all consenting educators and field workers (n = ~70) assessing outcomes at the cluster and individual level. The survey will also be administered at one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. The survey consists of questions measuring perceived levels of knowledge, confidence and skills in promoting children's social and emotional wellbeing. As much of this intervention will be delivered by field workers, field worker-family day care educator relationships are key to its success and thus supervisor support will also be measured. All educators will also have an in-home quality of care assessment at baseline, one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. Process evaluation will occur at one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. Information regarding intervention fidelity and economics will also be assessed in the survey.
Discussion
A capacity building intervention in child mental health promotion for family day care is an essential contribution to research, policy and practice. This initiative is the first internationally, and essential in building an evidence base of interventions in this extremely policy-timely setting.
Trial Registration number
343312
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-842
PMCID: PMC3219588  PMID: 22047600
9.  The rise and fall of Australian physical activity policy 1996 – 2006: a national review framed in an international context 
Background
This paper provides an historical review of physical activity policy development in Australia for a period spanning a decade since the release of the US Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health in 1996 and including the 2004 WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Using our definition of 'HARDWIRED' policy criteria, this Australian review is compared with an international perspective of countries with established national physical activity policies and strategies (New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Finland). Methods comprised a literature and policy review, audit of relevant web sites, document searches and surveys of international stakeholders.
Results
All these selected countries embraced multi-strategic policies and undertook monitoring of physical activity through national surveys. Few committed to policy of more than three years duration and none undertook systematic evaluation of national policy implementation. This Australian review highlights phases of innovation and leadership in physical activity-related policy, as well as periods of stagnation and decline; early efforts were amongst the best in the world but by the mid-point of this review (the year 2000), promising attempts towards development of a national intersectoral policy framework were thwarted by reforms in the Federal Sport and Recreation sector. Several well received reviews of evidence on good practices in physical activity and public health were produced in the period but leadership and resources were lacking to implement the policies and programs indicated. Latterly, widespread publicity and greatly increased public and political interest in chronic disease prevention, (especially in obesity and type 2 diabetes) have dominated the framework within which Australian policy deliberations have occurred. Finally, a national physical activity policy framework for the Health sector emerged, but not as a policy vision that was inclusive of the other essential sectors such as Education, Transport, Urban Planning as well as Sport and Recreation.
Conclusion
Despite some progression of physical activity policy in the decade since 1995/6, this review found inconsistent policy development, both in Australia and elsewhere. Arguably, Australia has done no worse than other countries, but more effective responses to physical inactivity in populations can be built only on sustainable multi-sectoral public health policy partnerships that are well informed by evidence of effectiveness and good practice. In Australia and elsewhere prerequisites for success are political support, long-term investment and commitment to program implementation and evaluation. An urgent priority is media and political advocacy for physical activity focussed on these factors.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-5-18
PMCID: PMC2525635  PMID: 18667088
10.  A grander challenge: the case of how Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) contributes to health outcomes in Africa 
Background
“Grand challenges” in global health have focused on discovery and development of technologies to save lives. The “grander challenge” involves building institutions, systems, capacity and demand to effectively deliver strategies to improve health. In 2008, Makerere University began a radical institutional change to bring together four schools under one College of Health Sciences. This paper’s objective is to demonstrate how its leadership in training, research, and services can improve health in Uganda and internationally, which lies at the core of the College’s vision.
Methods
A comprehensive needs assessment involved five task forces that identified MakCHS’s contribution to the Ugandan government health priorities. Data were collected through analysis of key documents; systematic review of MakCHS publications and grants; surveys of patients, students and faculty; and key informant interviews of the College’s major stakeholders. Four pilot projects were conducted to demonstrate how the College can translate research into policy and practice, extend integrated outreach community-based education and service, and work with communities and key stakeholders to address their priority health problems.
Results
MakCHS inputs to the health sector include more than 600 health professionals graduating per year through 23 degree programs, many of whom assume leadership positions. MakCHS contributions to processes include strengthened approaches to engaging communities, standardized clinical care procedures, and evidence-informed policy development. Outputs include the largest number of outpatients and inpatient admissions in Uganda. From 2005-2009, MakCHS also produced 837 peer-reviewed research publications (67% in priority areas). Outcomes include an expanded knowledge pool, and contributions to coverage of health services and healthy behaviors. Impacts include discovery and applications of global significance, such as the use of nevirapine to prevent HIV transmission in childbirth and male circumcision for HIV prevention. Pilot projects have applied innovative demand and supply incentives to create a rapid increase in safe deliveries (3-fold increase after 3 months), and increased quality and use of HIV services with positive collateral improvements on non-HIV health services at community clinics.
Conclusion
MakCHS has made substantial contributions to improving health in Uganda, and shows great potential to enhance this in its new transformational role – a model for other Universities.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3059474  PMID: 21411002
11.  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
12.  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
13.  Priorities and realities: addressing the rich-poor gaps in health status and service access in Indonesia 
Introduction
Over the past four decades, the Indonesian health care system has greatly expanded and the health of Indonesian people has improved although the rich-poor gap in health status and service access remains an issue. The government has been trying to address these gaps and intensify efforts to improve the health of the poor following the economic crisis in 1998.
Methods
This paper examines trends and levels in socio-economic inequity of health and identifies critical factors constraining efforts to improve the health of the poor. Quantitative data were taken from the Indonesian Demographic Health Surveys and the National Socio-Economic Surveys, and qualitative data were obtained from interviews with individuals and groups representing relevant stakeholders.
Results
The health of the population has improved as indicated by child mortality decline and the increase in community access to health services. However, the continuing prevalence of malnourished children and the persisting socio-economic inequity of health suggest that efforts to improve the health of the poor have not yet been effective. Factors identified at institution and policy levels that have constrained improvements in health care access and outcomes for the poor include: the high cost of electing formal governance leaders; confused leadership roles in the health sector; lack of health inequity indicators; the generally weak capacity in the health care system, especially in planning and budgeting; and the leakage and limited coverage of programs for the poor.
Conclusions
Despite the government's efforts to improve the health of the poor, the rich-poor gap in health status and service access continues. Factors at institutional and policy levels are critical in contributing to the lack of efficiency and effectiveness for health programs that address the poor.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-47
PMCID: PMC3258219  PMID: 22067727
health inequity; child and infant mortality; prevalence of underweight children; health service access; institutional and policy factors; Indonesia
14.  Recommendations for Syndromic Surveillance Using Inpatient and Ambulatory EHR Data 
Objective
To develop national Stage 2 Meaningful Use (MUse) recommendations for syndromic surveillance using hospital inpatient and ambulatory clinical care electronic health record (EHR) data.
Introduction
MUse will make EHR data increasingly available for public health surveillance. For Stage 2, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations will require hospitals and offer an option for eligible professionals to provide electronic syndromic surveillance data to public health. Together, these data can strengthen public health surveillance capabilities and population health outcomes (Figure 1).
To facilitate the adoption and effective use of these data to advance population health, public health priorities and system capabilities must shape standards for data exchange. Input from all stakeholders is critical to ensure the feasibility, practicality, and, hence, adoption of any recommendations and data use guidelines.
Methods
ISDS, in collaboration with the Division of Informatics Solutions and Operations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and HLN Consulting, convened a multi-stakeholder Work-group of clinicians, technologists, epidemiologists, and public health officials with expertise in syndromic surveillance. Recommended MUse guidelines were developed by performing an environmental scan of current practice and by using an iterative, expert and community input-driven process. The Workgroup developed initial guidelines and then solicited and received feedback from the stakeholder community via interview, e-mail, and structured surveys. Stakeholder feedback was analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods and used to revise the recommendations.
Results
The MUse Workgroup defined electronic syndromic surveillance (ESS) characteristics. Specifically, data are characterized by their timeliness, sensitivity rather than specificity, population focus, limited personally identifiable information, and inclusion of all patient encounters within a specific healthcare setting (e.g., emergency department, inpatient, outpatient). Based on stakeholder input (n=125) and Workgroup expertise, the guidelines identify priority syndromic surveillance uses that can assist with: Monitoring population health;Informing public health services; andInforming interventions, health education, and policy by characterizing the burden of chronic disease and health disparities.
Similarly, the Workgroup identified data elements to support these uses in the hospital inpatient setting and possibly in the ambulatory care setting. They were aligned to previously identified emergency department and urgent care center data elements and Stage 1–2 clinical MUse objectives. Core data elements (required for certification) cover treating facility; patient demographics; subjective and objective clinical findings, including chief complaint, body mass index, smoking history, diagnoses; and outcomes. Other data elements were designated as extended (not required for certification) or future (for future consideration). The data elements and their specifications are subject to change based on applicable state and local laws and practices.
Based on their findings and recommended guidelines detailed in the report, the Workgroup also identified community activities and additional investments that would best support public health agencies in using EHR technology with syndromic surveillance methodologies.
Conclusions
The widespread adoption of EHRs, catalyzed by MUse, has the potential to improve population health. By identifying and describing potential ESS uses of new sources of EHR data and associated data elements with the greatest utility for public health, the recommendations set forth by the ISDS MUse Workgroup will serve to facilitate the adoption of MUse policy by both healthcare and public health agencies.
PMCID: PMC3692899
EHR; syndromic surveillance; Meaningful Use; inpatient; ambulatory
15.  Applying a Health Network approach to translate evidence-informed policy into practice: A review and case study on musculoskeletal health 
Background
While translation of evidence into health policy and practice is recognised as critical to optimising health system performance and health-related outcomes for consumers, mechanisms to effectively achieve these goals are neither well understood, nor widely communicated. Health Networks represent a framework which offers a possible solution to this dilemma, particularly in light of emerging evidence regarding the importance of establishing relationships between stakeholders and identifying clinical leaders to drive evidence integration and translation into policy. This is particularly important for service delivery related to chronic diseases. In Western Australia (WA), disease and population-specific Health Networks are comprised of cross-discipline stakeholders who work collaboratively to develop evidence-informed policies and drive their implementation. Since establishment of the Health Networks in WA, over 50 evidence-informed Models of Care (MoCs) have been produced across 18 condition or population-focused Networks. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the Health Network framework in facilitating the translation of evidence into policy and practice with a particular focus on musculoskeletal health.
Case presentation
A review of activities of the WA Musculoskeletal Health Network was undertaken, focussing on outcomes and the processes used to achieve them in the context of: development of policy, procurement of funding, stakeholder engagement, publications, and projects undertaken by the Network which aligned to implementation of MoCs.
The Musculoskeletal Health Network has developed four MoCs which reflect Australian National Health Priority Areas. Establishment of community-based services for consumers with musculoskeletal health conditions is a key recommendation from these MoCs. Through mapping barriers and enablers to policy implementation, working groups, led by local clinical leaders and supported by the broader Network and government officers, have undertaken a range of integrated projects, such as the establishment of a community-based, multidisciplinary rheumatology service. The success of these projects has been contingent on developing relationships between key stakeholders across the health system.
Conclusions
In WA, Networks have provided a sustainable mechanism to meaningfully engage consumers, carers, clinicians and other stakeholders; provided a forum to exchange ideas, information and evidence; and collaboratively plan and deliver evidence-based and contextually-appropriate health system improvements for consumers.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-394
PMCID: PMC3522050  PMID: 23151082
Policy; Network; Community of practice; Musculoskeletal; Translation; Evidence
16.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
17.  Splash!: a prospective birth cohort study of the impact of environmental, social and family-level influences on child oral health and obesity related risk factors and outcomes 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:505.
Background
Dental caries (decay) is the most prevalent disease of childhood. It is often left untreated and can impact negatively on general health, and physical, developmental, social and learning outcomes. Similar to other health issues, the greatest burden of dental caries is seen in those of low socio-economic position. In addition, a number of diet-related risk factors for dental caries are shared risk factors for the development of childhood obesity. These include high and frequent consumption of refined carbohydrates (predominately sugars), and soft drinks and other sweetened beverages, and low intake of (fluoridated) water. The prevalence of childhood obesity is also at a concerning level in most countries and there is an opportunity to determine interventions for addressing both of these largely preventable conditions through sustainable and equitable solutions. This study aims to prospectively examine the impact of drink choices on child obesity risk and oral health status.
Methods/Design
This is a two-stage study using a mixed methods research approach. The first stage involves qualitative interviews of a sub-sample of recruited parents to develop an understanding of the processes involved in drink choice, and inform the development of the Discrete Choice Experiment analysis and the measurement instruments to be used in the second stage. The second stage involves the establishment of a prospective birth cohort of 500 children from disadvantaged communities in rural and regional Victoria, Australia (with and without water fluoridation). This longitudinal design allows measurement of changes in the child's diet over time, exposure to fluoride sources including water, dental caries progression, and the risk of childhood obesity.
Discussion
This research will provide a unique contribution to integrated health, education and social policy and program directions, by providing clearer policy relevant evidence on strategies to counter social and environmental factors which predispose infants and children to poor health, wellbeing and social outcomes; and evidence-based strategies to promote health and prevent disease through the adoption of healthier lifestyles and diet. Further, given the absence of evidence on the processes and effectiveness of contemporary policy implementation, such as community water fluoridation in rural and regional communities it's approach and findings will be extremely informative.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-505
PMCID: PMC3161888  PMID: 21708037
18.  Health policy and systems research agendas in developing countries 
Background
Health policy and systems research (HPSR) is an international public good with potential to orient investments and performance at national level. Identifying research trends and priorities at international level is therefore important. This paper offers a conceptual framework and defines the HPSR portfolio as a set of research projects under implementation. The research portfolio is influenced by factors external to the research system as well as internal to it. These last include the capacity of research institutions, the momentum of research programs, funding opportunities and the influence of stakeholder priorities and public opinion. These dimensions can vary in their degree of coordination, leading to a complementary or a fragmented research portfolio.
Objective
The main objective is to identify the themes currently being pursued in the research portfolio and agendas within developing countries and to quantify their frequency in an effort to identify current research topics and their underlying influences.
Methods
HPSR topics being pursued by developing country producer institutions and their perceived priorities were identified through a survey between 2000 and 2002. The response to a call for letters of intent issued by the Alliance in 2000 for a broad range of topics was also analyzed. The institutions that were the universe of this study consisted of the 176 institutional partners of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research producing research in low and middle income countries outside Europe. HPSR topics as well as the beneficiaries or issues and the health problems addressed were content analyzed. Topics were classified into 19 categories and their frequency analyzed across groups of countries with similar per capita income. Agendas were identified by analyzing the source of funding and of project initiation for projects under implementation.
Results
The highest ranking topic at the aggregate level is "Sector analysis", followed by "Disease burden" and "Management and organization". Categories at the bottom of this ranking are "Equity", "Policy process", "Economic policy and health" and "Information systems". "Disease burden" is more often funded than other topics for which there is more demand or perceived priority. Analysis suggests few although important differences across priorities, demand for funding and actual project funding. The donors' agenda coincides most with the ranking of research topics overall.
Ranking across country income groups shows important differences. Topics that gain prominence in low income countries are "Disease burden" and "Accessibility". In lower middle income countries "Insurance" gains prominence. In upper middle income countries "Decentralization/local health systems", "Equity" and "Policy process" are more prominent. "Program evaluation" is the most consistently ranked topic across income regions, showing a neutral influence by donors, governments or researchers.
Conclusions
The framework proposed offers a basis to identify and contrast research needs, projects and products at the international level and to identify the actor agendas and their influence. Research gaps are suggested when comparing topic ranking against the challenges to health system strengthening and scaling up of disease control programs. Differences across per capita income groups suggests the need for differentiated priority setting mechanisms guiding international support. Data suggests that stakeholders have different agendas, and that donors predominate in determining the research portfolio. High-level consensus building at the national and international levels is necessary to ensure that the diverse agendas play a complementary role in support of health system objectives.
The Ministerial Summit for Health Research to be held in Mexico in November 2004 should be an opportunity to analyze further data and to commit funding for priorities identified through sharing and discussion of agendas.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-2-6
PMCID: PMC514533  PMID: 15296509
19.  Workplace violence and gender discrimination in Rwanda's health workforce: Increasing safety and gender equality 
Background
Workplace violence has been documented in all sectors, but female-dominated sectors such as health and social services are at particular risk. In 2007-2008, IntraHealth International assisted the Rwanda Ministries of Public Service and Labor and Health to study workplace violence in Rwanda's health sector. This article reexamines a set of study findings that directly relate to the influence of gender on workplace violence, synthesizes these findings with other research from Rwanda, and examines the subsequent impact of the study on Rwanda's policy environment.
Methods
Fifteen out of 30 districts were selected at random. Forty-four facilities at all levels were randomly selected in these districts. From these facilities, 297 health workers were selected at random, of whom 205 were women and 92 were men. Researchers used a utilization-focused approach and administered health worker survey, facility audits, key informant and health facility manager interviews and focus groups to collect data in 2007. After the study was disseminated in 2008, stakeholder recommendations were documented and three versions of the labor law were reviewed to assess study impact.
Results
Thirty-nine percent of health workers had experienced some form of workplace violence in year prior to the study. The study identified gender-related patterns of perpetration, victimization and reactions to violence. Negative stereotypes of women, discrimination based on pregnancy, maternity and family responsibilities and the 'glass ceiling' affected female health workers' experiences and career paths and contributed to a context of violence. Gender equality lowered the odds of health workers experiencing violence. Rwandan stakeholders used study results to formulate recommendations to address workplace violence gender discrimination through policy reform and programs.
Conclusions
Gender inequality influences workplace violence. Addressing gender discrimination and violence simultaneously should be a priority in workplace violence research, workforce policies, strategies, laws and human resources management training. This will go a long way in making workplaces safer and fairer for the health workforce. This is likely to improve workforce productivity and retention and the enjoyment of human rights at work. Finally, studies that involve stakeholders throughout the research process are likely to improve the utilization of results and policy impact.
doi:10.1186/1478-4491-9-19
PMCID: PMC3154143  PMID: 21767411
20.  A statewide review of postnatal care in private hospitals in Victoria, Australia 
Background
Concerns have been raised in Australia and internationally regarding the quality and effectiveness of hospital postnatal care, although Australian women receiving postnatal care in the private maternity sector rate their satisfaction with care more highly than women receiving public maternity care. In Victoria, Australia, two-thirds of women receive their maternity care in the public sector and the remainder in private health care sector. A statewide review of public hospital postnatal care in Victoria from the perspective of care providers found many barriers to care provision including the busyness of postnatal wards, inadequate staffing and priority being given to other episodes of care; however the study did not include private hospitals. The aim of this study was replicate the review in the private sector, to explore the structure and organisation of postnatal care in private hospitals and identify those aspects of care potentially impacting on women's experiences and maternal and infant care. This provides a more complete overview of the organisational structures and processes in postnatal care in all Victorian hospitals from the perspective of care providers.
Methods
A mixed method design was used. A structured postal survey was sent to all Victorian private hospitals (n = 19) and key informant interviews were undertaken with selected clinical midwives, maternity unit managers and obstetricians (n = 11). Survey data were analysed using descriptive statistics and interview data analysed thematically.
Results
Private hospital care providers report that postnatal care is provided in very busy environments, and that meeting the aims of postnatal care (breastfeeding support, education of parents and facilitating rest and recovery for women following birth) was difficult in the context of increased acuity of postnatal care; prioritising of other areas over postnatal care; high midwife-to-woman ratios; and the number and frequency of visitors. These findings were similar to the public review. Organisational differences in postnatal care were found between the two sectors: private hospitals are more likely to have a separate postnatal care unit with single rooms and can accommodate partners' over-night; very few have a policy of infant rooming-in; and most have well-baby nurseries. Private hospitals are also more likely to employ staff other than midwives, have fewer core postnatal staff and have a greater dependence on casual and bank staff to provide postnatal care.
Conclusions
There are similarities and differences in the organisation and provision of private postnatal care compared to postnatal care in public hospitals. Key differences between the two sectors relate to the organisational and aesthetic aspects of service provision rather than the delivery of postnatal care. The key messages emerging from both reviews is the need to review and monitor the adequacy of staffing levels and to develop alternative approaches to postnatal care to improve this episode of care for women and care providers alike. We also recommend further research to provide a greater evidence-base for postnatal care provision.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-26
PMCID: PMC2891607  PMID: 20509888
21.  Resituating the ethical gaze: government morality and the local worlds of impoverished Indigenous women 
International Journal of Circumpolar Health  2013;72:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21207.
Background
Over generations, government policies have impacted upon the lives of Indigenous peoples of Canada in unique and often devastating ways. In this context, Indigenous women who struggle with poverty, mental illness, trauma and substance abuse are among the most vulnerable, as are Indigenous children involved in child welfare systems.
Objective
By examining the life history of Wanda, a First Nations woman, this article examines the intergenerational role that government policies play in the lives of impoverished Indigenous women and their families. Questions of moral governance and responsibility and the need for ethical policies are raised.
Design
The life narrative presented in this article is part of a larger qualitative research programme that has collected over 100 life histories of Indigenous women with addictions and who have involvement with the child welfare system, as children or adults. Wanda's life story exemplifies the impact of government policies that is characteristic of vulnerable Indigenous women and draws attention to the lack of ethical standards in government policymaking in child welfare, public health and mental health/addictions.
Results
The path to recovery for Canadian Indigenous women in need of treatment for co-occurring mental disorders and substance addiction is too frequently characterized by an inadequate and ever shifting continuum of care. For those who feel intimidated, suspicious or have simply given up on seeking supports, a profound invisibility or forgetting of their struggle exists in areas of government policy and programming provision. Living outside the scope of mental health and addiction priorities, they become visible to the human service sector only if they become pregnant, their parenting draws the attention of child and family services (CFS), they need emergency health care, or are in trouble with the law. The intergenerational cycle of substance abuse, mental illness and poverty is commonly associated with child welfare involvement, specifically practices that place the health and well-being of Indigenous children at risk. In order to break this cycle, close attention to implementation of ethically based policies and best practice interventions is required.
Conclusions
From an ethical policy perspective, the focus of government policies and the practices they generate must be first and foremost to ensure that individuals, families and groups are not left worse off than prior to a government policy impacting upon their life. Furthermore, the impact of living a life determined by multiple government policies should not be a story of individual and family devastation, and government policies should not be the most significant determinant of health for any group of people.
doi:10.3402/ijch.v72i0.21207
PMCID: PMC3754611  PMID: 23986898
ethical policy; First Nations; child welfare; addictions; mental illness; government policy
22.  Preventing mental health problems in children: the Families in Mind population-based cluster randomised controlled trial 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:420.
Background
Externalising and internalising problems affect one in seven school-aged children and are the single strongest predictor of mental health problems into early adolescence. As the burden of mental health problems persists globally, childhood prevention of mental health problems is paramount. Prevention can be offered to all children (universal) or to children at risk of developing mental health problems (targeted). The relative effectiveness and costs of a targeted only versus combined universal and targeted approach are unknown. This study aims to determine the effectiveness, costs and uptake of two approaches to early childhood prevention of mental health problems ie: a Combined universal-targeted approach, versus a Targeted only approach, in comparison to current primary care services (Usual care).
Methods/design
Three armed, population-level cluster randomised trial (2010–2014) within the universal, well child Maternal Child Health system, attended by more than 80% of families in Victoria, Australia at infant age eight months.
Participants were families of eight month old children from nine participating local government areas. Randomised to one of three groups: Combined, Targeted or Usual care.
The interventions comprises (a) the Combined universal and targeted program where all families are offered the universal Toddlers Without Tears group parenting program followed by the targeted Family Check-Up one-on-one program or (b) the Targeted Family Check-Up program. The Family Check-Up program is only offered to children at risk of behavioural problems.
Participants will be analysed according to the trial arm to which they were randomised, using logistic and linear regression models to compare primary and secondary outcomes. An economic evaluation (cost consequences analysis) will compare incremental costs to all incremental outcomes from a societal perspective.
Discussion
This trial will inform public health policy by making recommendations about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these early prevention programs. If effective prevention programs can be implemented at the population level, the growing burden of mental health problems could be curbed.
Trial registration
ISRCTN61137690
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-420
PMCID: PMC3458935  PMID: 22682229
23.  e-Health, m-Health and healthier social media reform: the big scale view 
Introduction
In the upcoming decade, digital platforms will be the backbone of a strategic revolution in the way medical services are provided, affecting both healthcare providers and patients. Digital-based patient-centered healthcare services allow patients to actively participate in managing their own care, in times of health as well as illness, using personally tailored interactive tools. Such empowerment is expected to increase patients’ willingness to adopt actions and lifestyles that promote health as well as improve follow-up and compliance with treatment in cases of chronic illness. Clalit Health Services (CHS) is the largest HMO in Israel and second largest world-wide. Through its 14 hospitals, 1300 primary and specialized clinics, and 650 pharmacies, CHS provides comprehensive medical care to the majority of Israel’s population (above 4 million members). CHS e-Health wing focuses on deepening patient involvement in managing health, through personalized digital interactive tools. Currently, CHS e-Health wing provides e-health services for 1.56 million unique patients monthly with 2.4 million interactions every month (August 2011). Successful implementation of e-Health solutions is not a sum of technology, innovation and health; rather it’s the expertise of tailoring knowledge and leadership capabilities in multidisciplinary areas: clinical, ethical, psychological, legal, comprehension of patient and medical team engagement etc. The Google Health case excellently demonstrates this point. On the other hand, our success with CHS is a demonstration that e-Health can be enrolled effectively and fast with huge benefits for both patients and medical teams, and with a robust business model.
CHS e-Health core components
They include:
1. The personal health record layer (what the patient can see) presents patients with their own medical history as well as the medical history of their preadult children, including diagnoses, allergies, vaccinations, laboratory results with interpretations in layman’s terms, medications with clear, straightforward explanations regarding dosing instructions, important side effects, contraindications, such as lactation etc., and other important medical information. All personal e-Health services require identification and authorization.
2. The personal knowledge layer (what the patient should know) presents patients with personally tailored recommendations for preventative medicine and health promotion. For example, diabetic patients are push notified regarding their yearly eye exam. The various health recommendations include: occult blood testing, mammography, lipid profile etc. Each recommendation contains textual, visual and interactive content components in order to promote engagement and motivate the patient to actually change his health behaviour.
3. The personal health services layer (what the patient can do) enables patients to schedule clinic visits, order chronic prescriptions, e-consult their physician via secured e-mail, set SMS medication reminders, e-consult a pharmacist regarding personal medications. Consultants’ answers are sent securely to the patients’ personal mobile device.
On December 2009 CHS launched secured, web based, synchronous medical consultation via video conference. Currently 11,780 e-visits are performed monthly (May 2011). The medical encounter includes e-prescription and referral capabilities which are biometrically signed by the physician. On December 2010 CHS launched a unique mobile health platform, which is one of the most comprehensive personal m-Health applications world-wide. An essential advantage of mobile devices is their potential to bridge the digital divide. Currently, CHS m-Health platform is used by more than 45,000 unique users, with 75,000 laboratory results views/month, 1100 m-consultations/month and 9000 physician visit scheduling/month.
4. The Bio-Sensing layer (what physiological data the patient can populate) includes diagnostic means that allow remote physical examination, bio-sensors that broadcast various physiological measurements, and smart homecare devices, such as e-Pill boxes that gives seniors, patients and their caregivers the ability to stay at home and live life to its fullest. Monitored data is automatically transmitted to the patient’s Personal Health Record and to relevant medical personnel.
The monitoring layer is embedded in the chronic disease management platform, and in the interactive health promotion and wellness platform. It includes tailoring of consumer-oriented medical devices and service provided by various professional personnel—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and more.
5. The Social layer (what the patient can share). Social media networks triggered an essential change at the humanity ‘genome’ level, yet to be further defined in the upcoming years. Social media has huge potential in promoting health as it combines fun, simple yet extraordinary user experience, and bio-social-feedback. There are two major challenges in leveraging health care through social networks:
a. Our personal health information is the cornerstone for personalizing healthier lifestyle, disease management and preventative medicine. We naturally see our personal health data as a super-private territory. So, how do we bring the power of our private health information, currently locked within our Personal Health Record, into social media networks without offending basic privacy issues?
b. Disease management and preventive medicine are currently neither considered ‘cool’ nor ‘fun’ or ‘potentially highly viral’ activities; yet, health is a major issue of everybody’s life. It seems like we are missing a crucial element with a huge potential in health behavioural change—the Fun Theory. Social media platforms comprehends user experience tools that potentially could break current misconception, and engage people in the daily task of taking better care of themselves.
CHS e-Health innovation team characterized several break-through applications in this unexplored territory within social media networks, fusing personal health and social media platforms without offending privacy. One of the most crucial issues regarding adoption of e-health and m-health platforms is change management. Being a ‘hot’ innovative ‘gadget’ is far from sufficient for changing health behaviours at the individual and population levels.
CHS health behaviour change management methodology includes 4 core elements:
1. Engaging two completely different populations: patients, and medical teams. e-Health applications must present true added value for both medical teams and patients, engaging them through understanding and assimilating “what’s really in it for me”. Medical teams are further subdivided into physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel—each with their own driving incentive. Resistance to change is an obstacle in many fields but it is particularly true in the conservative health industry. To successfully manage a large scale persuasive process, we treat intra-organizational human resources as “Change Agents”. Harnessing the persuasive power of ~40,000 employees requires engaging them as the primary target group. Successful recruitment has the potential of converting each patient-medical team interaction into an exposure opportunity to the new era of participatory medicine via e-health and m-health channels.
2. Implementation waves: every group of digital health products that are released at the same time are seen as one project. Each implementation wave leverages the focus of the organization and target populations to a defined time span. There are three major and three minor implementation waves a year.
3. Change-Support Arrow: a structured infrastructure for every implementation wave. The sub-stages in this strategy include:
Cross organizational mapping and identification of early adopters and stakeholders relevant to the implementation wave
Mapping positive or negative perceptions and designing specific marketing approaches for the distinct target groups
Intra and extra organizational marketing
Conducting intensive training and presentation sessions for groups of implementers
Running conflict-prevention activities, such as advanced tackling of potential union resistance
Training change-agents with resistance-management behavioural techniques, focused intervention for specific incidents and for key opinion leaders
Extensive presence in the clinics during the launch period, etc.
The entire process is monitored and managed continuously by a review team.
4. Closing Phase: each wave is analyzed and a “lessons-learned” session concludes the changes required in the modus operandi of the e-health project team.
PMCID: PMC3571141
e-Health; mobile health; personal health record; online visit; patient empowerment; knowledge prescription
24.  Disease Surveillance and Achieving Synergy In Public Health Quality Improvement 
Objective
To examine disease surveillance in the context of a new national framework for public health quality and to solicit input from practitioners, researchers, and other stakeholders to identify potential metrics, pivotal research questions, and actions for achieving synergy between surveillance practice and public health quality.
Introduction
National efforts to improve quality in public health are closely tied to advancing capabilities in disease surveillance. Measures of public health quality provide data to demonstrate how public health programs, services, policies, and research achieve desired health outcomes and impact population health. They also reveal opportunities for innovations and improvements. Similar quality improvement efforts in the health care system are beginning to bear fruit. There has been a need, however, for a framework for assessing public health quality that provides a standard, yet is flexible and relevant to agencies at all levels.
The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, working with stakeholders, recently developed and released a Consensus Statement on Quality in the Public Health System that introduces a novel evaluation framework. They identified nine aims that are fundamental to public health quality improvement efforts and six cross-cutting priority areas for improvement, including population health metrics and information technology; workforce development; and evidence-based practices (1).
Applying the HHS framework to surveillance expands measures for surveillance quality beyond typical variables (e.g., data quality and analytic capabilities) to desired characteristics of a quality public health system. The question becomes: How can disease surveillance help public health services to be more population centered, equitable, proactive, health-promoting, risk-reducing, vigilant, transparent, effective, and efficient—the desired features of a quality public health system?
Any agency with a public health mission, or even a partial public health mission (e.g., tax-exempt hospitals), can use these measures to develop strategies that improve both the quality of the surveillance enterprise and public health systems, overall. At this time, input from stakeholders is needed to identify valid and feasible ways to measure how surveillance systems and practices advance public health quality. What exists now and where are the gaps?
Methods
Improving public health by applying quality measures to disease surveillance will require innovation and collaboration among stakeholders. This roundtable will begin a community dialogue to spark this process. The first goal will be to achieve a common focus by defining the nine quality aims identified in the HHS Consensus Statement. Attendees will draw from their experience to discuss how surveillance practice advances the public health aims and improves public health. We will also identify key research questions needed to provide evidence to inform decision-making.
Results
The roundtable will discuss how the current state of surveillance practice addresses each of the aims described in the Consensus Statement to create a snapshot of how surveillance contributes to public health quality and begin to articulate practical measures for assessing quality improvements. Sample questions to catalyze discussion include: —How is surveillance used to identify and address health disparities and, thereby, make public health more equitable? What are the data sources? Are there targets? How can research and evaluation help to enhance this surveillance capability and direct action?—How do we identify and address factors that inhibit quality improvement in surveillance? What are the gaps in knowledge, skills, systems, and resources?—Where can standardization play a positive role in the evaluation of quality in public health surveillance?—How can we leverage resources by aligning national, state, and local goals? —What are the key research questions and the quality improvement projects that can be implemented using recognized models for improvement?—How can syndromic surveillance, specifically, advance the priority aims?
The roundtable will conclude with a list of next steps to develop metrics that resonate with the business practices of public health at all levels.
PMCID: PMC3692848
public health quality; metrics; framework
25.  Overview of migration, poverty and health dynamics in Nairobi City's slum settlements 
The Urbanization, Poverty, and Health Dynamics research program was designed to generate and provide the evidence base that would help governments, development partners, and other stakeholders understand how the urban slum context affects health outcomes in order to stimulate policy and action for uplifting the wellbeing of slum residents. The program was nested into the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System, a uniquely rich longitudinal research platform, set up in Korogocho and Viwandani slum settlements in Nairobi city, Kenya. Findings provide rich insights on the context in which slum dwellers live and how poverty and migration status interacts with health issues over the life course. Contrary to popular opinions and beliefs that see slums as homogenous residential entities, the findings paint a picture of a highly dynamic and heterogeneous setting. While slum populations are highly mobile, about half of the population comprises relatively well doing long-term dwellers who have lived in slum settlements for over 10 years. The poor health outcomes that slum residents exhibit at all stages of the life course are rooted in three key characteristics of slum settlements: poor environmental conditions and infrastructure; limited access to services due to lack of income to pay for treatment and preventive services; and reliance on poor quality and mostly informal and unregulated health services that are not well suited to meeting the unique realities and health needs of slum dwellers. Consequently, policies and programs aimed at improving the wellbeing of slum dwellers should address comprehensively the underlying structural, economic, behavioral, and service-oriented barriers to good health and productive lives among slum residents.
doi:10.1007/s11524-011-9595-0
PMCID: PMC3132239  PMID: 21713552
Urbanisation, poverty, health dynamics; Urban slum; Korogocho, Viwandani; Nairobi, Kenya

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