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26.  Cities with camera-equipped taxicabs experience reduced taxicab driver homicide rates: United States, 1996–2010 
Crime Science  2014;3(1):4.
Driving a taxicab remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, with leading homicide rates. Although safety equipment designed to reduce robberies exists, it is not clear what effect it has on reducing taxicab driver homicides.
Taxicab driver homicide crime reports for 1996 through 2010 were collected from 20 of the largest cities (>200,000) in the United States: 7 cities with cameras installed in cabs, 6 cities with partitions installed, and 7 cities with neither cameras nor partitions. Poisson regression modeling using generalized estimating equations provided city taxicab driver homicide rates while accounting for serial correlation and clustering of data within cities. Two separate models were constructed to compare (1) cities with cameras installed in taxicabs versus cities with neither cameras nor partitions and (2) cities with partitions installed in taxicabs versus cities with neither cameras nor partitions. Cities with cameras installed in cabs experienced a significant reduction in homicides after cameras were installed (adjRR = 0.11, CL 0.06-0.24) and compared to cities with neither cameras nor partitions (adjRR = 0.32, CL 0.15-0.67). Cities with partitions installed in taxicabs experienced a reduction in homicides (adjRR = 0.78, CL 0.41-1.47) compared to cities with neither cameras nor partitions, but it was not statistically significant.
The findings suggest cameras installed in taxicabs are highly effective in reducing homicides among taxicab drivers. Although not statistically significant, the findings suggest partitions installed in taxicabs may be effective.
PMCID: PMC4583362  PMID: 26413451
Taxicab driver homicides; Workplace violence; Public health; Robberies; Safety equipment; Intervention; Ecological study; Generalized estimating equations; Retrospective time series
27.  Past and future corollaries of theories on causes of metabolic syndrome and obesity related co-morbidities part 2: a composite unifying theory review of human-specific co-adaptations to brain energy consumption 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):31.
A composite unifying theory on causes of obesity related-MetS has been formulated and published in an accompanying article (1). In the current article, the historical and recent past, present and future corollaries of this theory are discussed. By presenting this composite theory and corollaries, it is hoped that human evolution and physiology will be viewed and studied from a new vantage point. The politics of management of ecological farming and nutrition will change, a profound reconfiguration of scientific theory generation and advancement in a ‘high-tech’ world can be made, and pathways for solutions recognised.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) predicts type II diabetes mellitus (TIIDM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer, and their rates have escalated over the last few decades. Obesity related co-morbidities also overlap the concept of the metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, understanding of the syndrome’s underlying causes may have been misapprehended.
The current paper follows on from a theory review by McGill, A-T in Archives of Public Health, 72: 30. This accompanying paper utilises research on human evolution and new biochemistry to theorise on why MetS and obesity arise and how they affect the population. The basis of this composite unifying theory is that the proportionately large, energy-demanding human brain may have driven co-adaptive mechanisms to provide, or conserve, energy for the brain. A ‘dual system’ is proposed. 1) The enlarged, complex cortico-limbic-striatal system increases dietary energy by developing strong neural self-reward/motivation pathways for the acquisition of energy dense food, and (2) the nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) cellular protection system amplifies antioxidant, antitoxicant and repair activity by employing plant chemicals. In humans who consume a nutritious diet, the NRF2 system has become highly energy efficient. Other relevant human-specific co-adaptations are explored.
In order to ‘test’ this composite unifying theory it is important to show that the hypothesis and sub-theories pertain throughout the whole of human evolution and history up till the current era. Corollaries of the composite unifying theory of MetS are examined with respect to past under-nutrition and malnutrition since agriculture began 10,000 years ago. The effects of man-made pollutants on degenerative change are examined. Projections are then made from current to future patterns on the state of ‘insufficient micronutrient and/or unbalanced high energy malnutrition with central obesity and metabolic dysregulation’ or ‘malnubesity’.
Forecasts on human health are made on positive, proactive strategies using the composite unifying theory, and are extended to the wider human ecology of food production. A comparison is made with the outlook for humans if current assumptions and the status quo on causes and treatments are maintained. Areas of further research are outlined. A table of suggestions for possible public health action is included.
PMCID: PMC4335399  PMID: 25708599
28.  Implementation of joint health indicators in Europe - Joint Action for ECHIM. Arpo Aromaa on behalf of the ECHIM core group 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):22.
The story of the implementation of the joint EU health indicators (ECHI indicators) began in the 1990s after the Amsterdam Treaty. The first concrete step in establishing a health monitoring capacity for EU was the Commission working group set up in 1997. Several consecutive and parallel projects, notably the health indicator projects ECHI-1 and ECHI-2 between the years 2000 and 2005 led to a preparedness to implement the jointly agreed health indicators (ECHI shortlist) in all European countries. ECHIM (2005 – 2008) and the Joint Action for ECHIM (2009 - ) laid the foundation for the implementation of health indicators, and initiated Europe wide implementation proper. After the European recession of 2008 the circumstances in different countries were not optimal. Also the collaboration with the Commission could have been better. Nevertheless, the implementation process of the ECHI indicators is now well underway in most countries. By June 2012 half of the Member States had incorporated the ECHI indicators into their national health information system, and, if work can continue, by 2014 most countries are likely to have done so. Unfortunately, a gap may occur between the current programme and the next public health programme. The current momentum must not be lost. Therefore, all those responsible need to urge that the Commission (DG SANCO) together with the Member States helps to bridge the gap from June 2012 to January 2014. The new Public Health Programme provides the necessary financial instruments for setting up a permanent EU health information and reporting system.
PMCID: PMC3523025  PMID: 23043717
Health indicators; Health information; European Community Health Indicators (ECHI); EU Joint Action
29.  Health literacy among university students in Greece: determinants and association with self-perceived health, health behaviours and health risks 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):15.
Health literacy is widely considered as a key determinant of health and a priority in the public health policy agenda. Low health literacy has been associated with poorer health states, broader inequalities and higher health systems’ costs. In the present study we bring into focus the functional health literacy among university students in Greece, researching and assessing mainly their ability to apply basic knowledge in a health context.
The study was carried out during the period 15–30 April 2013, among a random sample of 1,526 students of 14 Higher Tertiary Public universities and Technological Educational Institutes in Greece. The objective of the study was to assess the functional health literacy among university students in Greece, adopting the short four-item comprehension test of Bostock and Steptoe. Summary statistics, correlations and regressions were used to assess the determinants of health literacy and the association with self-perceived health, health behaviours and health risks.
Economic factors, such as family income, demographic factors, such as gender, and health behaviours and risks, namely consumption of alcohol, smoking and physical workout are associated with the level of health literacy and health status of the participant. While the results of the study are consistent with previous work in this area, several findings worth further research.
Though, health promotion interventions in Greece include health literacy as one of the basic pillars of the public health policy agenda, it is clear, that health literacy needs to become a key policy issue in Greece, mainly focusing in young ages, where healthy (or unhealthy) behaviours are established affecting the health through the life span.
PMCID: PMC4066308  PMID: 24987522
Health literacy; Health behaviour; Health risks; Greece; University student
30.  Mapping the cause-specific premature mortality reveals large between-districts disparity in Belgium, 2003–2009 
Archives of Public Health  2015;73(1):13.
Reducing premature mortality is a crucial public health objective. The goal of this paper, beside updating previous mortality atlases with recent data, is to explore the relative between-districts disparity using a relative-scale map design.
Causes of deaths and population data were provided by Statistics Belgium. All deaths occurring in the periods 1993–1999 and 2003–2009, in people aged 1–74 residing in Belgium were included. Age-adjusted rates by cause of death were computed for both periods; the 2003-2009 rates were classified using a relative scale with a 10% change between each level and represented on chloropleths maps with a green-to-red divergent colour scheme centred on the national mean. This particular design allows the comparability across all the maps since a same meaning is given to a specific colour. The variation coefficient and the decile ratio were calculated and compared between the 2 periods.
A clear-cut regional divide at the disadvantage of Wallonia, and to some extent, of Brussels, was seen for all-cause, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, diabetes, alcohol-related, mental and neurological diseases and non-transport accidents premature mortality. A NE-SW pattern parallel to the French border was observed for Lip, Oral Cavity, Pharynx, Larynx and oesophageal cancers, while various patterns are observed for the other cancers. The highest rates of road accident mortality are observed in the Southern districts. Many of those patterns are in continuity with earlier observations. However, the pattern of diabetes and mental and neurological diseases are new features. The variation coefficient and the decile ratios increased by 10% between the 1993-1997 and 2003-2009 periods.
The use of a relative scale in the maps highlights the importance of the between-districts disparity in premature mortality, with for most causes, a clear-cut regional divide at the disadvantage of Wallonia; this health gap results of complex interactions between various factors, including the socioeconomic context, cultural habits and environmental influences, as well as public health policies. It should be considered as a warning signal, warranting the attention of the policy makers. Meanwhile, these results also highlight the potential for improvement in the more disadvantaged regions.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13690-015-0060-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4412101  PMID: 25922667
31.  Biological, psychological and social processes that explain celebrities’ influence on patients’ health-related behaviors 
Celebrities can have substantial influence as medical advisors. However, their impact on public health is equivocal: depending on the advice’s validity and applicability, celebrity engagements can benefit or hinder efforts to educate patients on evidence-based practices and improve their health literacy. This meta-narrative analysis synthesizes multiple disciplinary insights explaining the influence celebrities have on people’s health-related behaviors.
Systematic searches of electronic databases BusinessSource Complete, Communication & Mass Media Complete, Humanities Abstracts, ProQuest Political Science, PsycINFO, PubMed, and Sociology Abstracts were conducted. Retrieved articles were used to inform a conceptual analysis of the possible processes accounting for the substantial influence celebrities may have as medical advisors.
Fourteen mechanisms of celebrity influence were identified. According to the economics literature, celebrities distinguish endorsed items from competitors and can catalyze herd behavior. Marketing studies tell us that celebrities’ characteristics are transferred to endorsed products, and that the most successful celebrity advisors are those viewed as credible, a perception they can create with their success. Neuroscience research supports these explanations, finding that celebrity endorsements activate brain regions involved in making positive associations, building trust and encoding memories. The psychology literature tells us that celebrity advice conditions people to react positively toward it. People are also inclined to follow celebrities if the advice matches their self-conceptions or if not following it would generate cognitive dissonance. Sociology explains how celebrities’ advice spreads through social networks, how their influence is a manifestation of people’s desire to acquire celebrities’ social capital, and how they affect the ways people acquire and interpret health information.
There are clear and deeply rooted biological, psychological and social processes that explain how celebrities influence people’s health behaviors. With a better understanding of this phenomenon, medical professionals can work to ensure that it is harnessed for good rather than abused for harm. Physicians can discuss with their patients the validity of celebrity advice and share more credible sources of health information. Public health practitioners can debunk celebrities offering unsubstantiated advice or receiving inappropriate financial compensation, and should collaborate with well-meaning celebrities, leveraging their influence to disseminate medical practices of demonstrated benefit.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2049-3258-73-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4429495  PMID: 25973193
Medical advice; Celebrities; Health literacy; Evidence-based medicine
32.  Sodium reduction and the correction of iodine intake in Belgium: Policy options 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):10.
Many studies suggest that high salt intakes are related to high blood pressure and consequently cardiovascular diseases. In addition salt intake was found to be related with obesity, renal stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. Belgium, such as other European countries, is suffering from both salt intakes that are twice as high as the recommended intakes and mild iodine deficiency. No comprehensive strategy encompassing both public health problems has been developed. While specific salt reduction targets for processed foods are still under discussion using a consensus approach with industry, an agreement was signed between the bakery sector and the Ministry of Health in April 2009, to encourage and increase the use of iodised salt in the production of bread. Based on results of recent surveys on population iodine status it is advised not to currently revise iodine concentrations in salt in bread but to advocate for a higher percentage of bakers using iodised salt and to install a good monitoring system to control the percentage of bakers effectively using adequately iodised salt. With regard to salt reduction, it is of utmost importance that all companies contribute and harmonise the salt content of their products according to the lowest possible thresholds in a first step. In order to achieve this goal, it will be necessary, in addition to the consensus approach, to come up with at least some legislative tools such as a salt tax or mandatory labelling of foods exceeding a specific sodium concentration. Once salt reduction targets have been clearly defined in Belgium over the longer term, a legal framework should be set in place where iodine concentration in salt for the production of bread and household salt is strictly regulated by law, to avoid a large variability in the iodine content of salt brands consumed. In conclusion, it is possible to tackle salt reduction and iodine deficiency at the same time on the condition that the approach is coordinated and well monitored. All the interventions and measures taken should clearly include education and communication directed towards consumers, food producers, public health professionals, pharmacists, healthcare workers, and media representatives.
PMCID: PMC3461451  PMID: 22958752
Sodium; Iodine; Belgium
33.  Blood lead levels in children after phase-out of leaded gasoline in Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 
The phasing out of lead from gasoline has resulted in a significant decrease in blood lead levels (BLLs) in children during the last two decades. Tetraethyl lead was phased out in DRC in 2009. The objective of this study was to test for reduction in pediatric BLLs in Kinshasa, by comparing BLLs collected in 2011 (2 years after use of leaded gasoline was phased out) to those collected in surveys conducted in 2004 and 2008 by Tuakuila et al. (when leaded gasoline was still used).
We analyzed BLLs in a total of 100 children under 6 years of age (Mean ± SD: 2.9 ± 1.6 age, 64% boys) using inductively coupled argon plasma mass spectrometry (ICP – MS).
The prevalence of elevated BLLs (≥ 10 μg/dL) in children tested was 63% in 2004 [n = 100, GM (95% CI) = 12.4 μg/dL (11.4 – 13.3)] and 71% in 2008 [(n = 55, GM (95% CI) = 11.2 μg/dL (10.3 – 14.4)]. In the present study, this prevalence was 41%. The average BLLs for the current study population [GM (95% CI) = 8.7 μg/dL (8.0 – 9.5)] was lower than those found by Tuakuila et al. (F = 10.38, p <0.001) as well as the CDC level of concern (10 μ/dL), with 3% of children diagnosed with BLLs ≥ 20 μg/dL.
These results demonstrate a significant success of the public health system in Kinshasa, DRC-achieved by the removal of lead from gasoline. However, with increasing evidence that adverse health effects occur at BLLs < 10 μg/dL and no safe BLLs in children has been identified, the BLLs measured in this study continue to constitute a major public health concern for Kinshasa. The emphasis should shift to examine the contributions of non-gasoline sources to children’s BLLs: car batteries recycling in certain residences, the traditional use of fired clay for the treatment of gastritis by pregnant women and leaded paint.
PMCID: PMC3620025  PMID: 23556999
Blood lead levels; Leaded gasoline; Children health; Phase out; Kinshasa
34.  Long-term care use and socio-economic status in Belgium: a survival analysis using health care insurance data 
The small but growing literature on socio-economic inequality in morbidity among older persons suggests that social inequalities in health persist into old age. A largely separate body of literature looks at the predictors of long-term care use, in particular of institutional care. Various measures of socio-economic status are often included as control variables in these studies. Review articles generally conclude that the evidence for such variables being a predictor for institutionalization is “inconclusive”. In this paper we look at the association among older persons in Belgium between one particular measure of socio-economic status – preferential status in public health care insurance – and first use of home long-term care and residential care. Preferential status entitles persons to higher reimbursement rates for health care from the public health care insurance system and is conditional on low income. We also study whether preferential status is related to the onset of five important chronic conditions and the time of death.
We use survival analysis; the source of the data is a large administrative panel of a sample representative for all older persons in Belgium (1,268,740 quarterly observations for 69,562 individuals).
We find a strong association between preferential status and the likelihood of home care use, but for residential care it is small for men and non-existent for women. We also find that preferential status is significantly related to the chance of getting two out five chronic conditions – COPD and diabetes, but not dementia, hip fracture and Parkinson’s disease – and to the probability of dying (not for women). For home care use and death, the association with preferential status declines with increasing age from age 65 onwards, such that it is near zero for those aged around 90 and older.
We find clear associations between an indicator of low income and home care use, some chronic conditions and death. The associations are stronger among men than among women. We also find that the association declines with age for home care use and death, which might be explained by selective survival.
PMCID: PMC3552700  PMID: 23286530
Long-term care; Socio-economic status; Morbidity; Mortality; Preferential status
35.  Joint action on monitoring injuries in Europe (JAMIE) 
Archives of Public Health  2012;70(1):19.
Injuries due to accidents or violence constitute a major public health problem globally and also within the 27 member states of the European Union (EU-MSs). In spite of the magnitude and the severity of the problem, injury surveillance systems are not yet sufficiently well developed to accurately quantify the burden of injuries on individuals, health services and society in the EU-region. Much of the injury information generated up until now is not comparable between countries, and not between registers, due to the lack of harmonised methodology and classification.
The hospital sector provides the best setting for collecting information as this information relates to the most severe cases (while less severe cases are treated by family doctors of school nurses for instance) and information can be obtained easily on a large number of cases at low cost (while surveys are expensive and suffering serious deficiencies as regards the specificity of data obtained). The WHO-International Classification of Diseases and its derivative classification on external causes of injuries provide the proper tools for standardised data collection on injuries treated within the health sector.
Project Objectives
JAMIE project aims at having by 2015 a common emergency departmental-based surveillance system for injury prevention in operation in all MS. Such a system should report on external causes of injuries due to accidents and violence as part of the Community Statistics on Public Health. The project will build on previous work on injury data exchange initiated by the European Commission (EC) and a number of EU-member states, which resulted to the so called Injury Data Base hosted by the EC.
In order to make injury data collection affordable for countries to collect and to have a greater number of countries joining the data exchange efforts, JAMIE envisages to have a relatively limited set data elements being collected in a representative sample of emergency departments in countries, while collecting in a few departments deeper information on the circumstances of the injury event.
PMCID: PMC3733502  PMID: 22958448
36.  Lessons learned from a textbook outbreak: EHEC-O157:H7 infections associated with the consumption of raw meat products, June 2012, Limburg, Belgium 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):44.
On 5 June 2012 several enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, EHEC, O157:H7 infections were reported to the public health authorities of Limburg.
We performed a case-control study, a trace back/forward investigation and compared strains isolated from human cases and food samples. A case was defined as anyone with a laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7-infection in North-East Limburg from May 30 2012 till July 15 2012. Family members with bloody diarrhea were also included as cases. E. coli O157 was isolated by culture and the presence of the virulence genes was verified using (q)PCR. Isolates were genotyped and compared by Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) and insertion sequence 629-printing (IS629-printing).
The outbreak involved 24 cases, of which 17 were laboratory-confirmed. Five cases developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and fifteen were hospitalized. Cases reported a significantly higher consumption of “steak tartare”, a raw meat product (OR 48.12; 95% CI; 5.62- 416.01). Cases were also more likely to buy meat-products at certain butcheries (OR 11.67; 95% CI; 1.41 - 96.49). PFGE and IS629-printing demonstrated that the vtx1a vtx2a eae ehxA positive EHEC O157:H7 strains isolated from three meat products and all seventeen human stool samples were identical. In a slaughterhouse, identified by the trace-back investigation, a carcass infected with a different EHEC strain was found and confiscated.
We present a well described and effectively investigated foodborne outbreak associated with meat products. Our main recommendations are the facilitation and acceleration of the outbreak detection and the development of a communication plan to reaches all persons at risk.
Foodborne diseases, Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli, Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Meat products, Case control studies, Electrophoresis, Gel, Pulsed-Field
PMCID: PMC4373035  PMID: 25810911
Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli – EHEC; Escherichia coli O157; Food-borne infections; Vero cytotoxin-producing E. coli – VTEC; Outbreaks; Case control studies; PFGE; IS629-printing
37.  “Boring” family routines reduce non-communicable diseases: a commentary and call for action 
Archives of Public Health  2015;73(1):27.
As global donors shift their efforts from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCD), it is critical to capitalize on our prior mistakes and successes. Policy makers and public health administrators are often looking for magic bullets: drugs or treatments to eradicate disease. Yet, each potential magic bullet requires consistent, daily implementation and adherence to a new set of habits to actually work. Families’ and communities’ daily, interlocking routines will be the battlefield on which scientific and technological breakthroughs will be implemented and succeed or not.
Currently, there are many evidence-based interventions (EBI) which have been demonstrated to shift specific habits which account for most NCD (eating, drinking, moving, and smoking). Yet, securing sustained uptake of these programs is rare – suggesting different intervention strategies are needed. Structural changes, policy nudges, and partnerships with private enterprise may be able to shift the health behaviors of more citizens faster and at a lower cost than existing EBI. Addressing concurrent risk and protective factors at the community level and intervening to shape new cultural routines may be useful to reduce NCD.
PMCID: PMC4488056  PMID: 26140214
Non-communicable diseases; NCD; Routines; Family wellness
38.  Legionnaires’ disease: overview of the situation concerning notification in Wallonia (Belgium) in 2012, a retrospective descriptive study based on a capture-recapture method 
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia, and although public health medical inspectors must be notified, it is often under-reported. The objectives of this study were to determine the completeness rate of notification of Legionnaires’ disease and to estimate the incidence of this disease in Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium, in 2012.
This retrospective, transversal descriptive study was based on a capture-recapture method using two sources. An estimation of the total number of Legionnaires’ disease cases was calculated using Chapman and Seber’s estimators for small numbers, thereby allowing us to estimate the real incidence of this disease in Wallonia as well as the completeness rate of notification.
The total number of estimated Legionella cases for 2012 was 45 (IC 95%:41–48) and the completeness rate was 65% (IC 95%:61-70%). The estimated incidence of Legionnaires’ disease in Wallonia was 1.27/100,000 inhabitants.
The notification rate of Legionella must be improved in Wallonia. Doctors should be made aware of the importance of diagnosing and reporting Legionnaires’ disease.
PMCID: PMC4373001  PMID: 25810914
Legionnaires’ disease; Surveillance; Belgium
39.  Effect of providing risk information on undergoing cervical cancer screening: a randomized controlled trial 
In Japan, the cervical cancer screening rate is extremely low. Towards improving the cervical cancer screening rate, encouraging eligible people to make an informed choice, which is a decision-making process that relies on beliefs informed by adequate information about the possible benefits and risks of screening, has attracted increased attention in the public health domain. However, there is concern that providing information on possible risks of screening might prevent deter from participating.
In total, 1,912 women aged 20–39 years who had not participated in screening in the fiscal year were selected from a Japanese urban community setting. Participants were randomly divided into 3 groups. Group A received a printed reminder with information about the possible benefits of screening, group B received a printed reminder with information about possible benefits and risks, and group C received a printed reminder with simple information only (control group).
Out of 1,912 participants, 169 (8.8%) participated in cervical cancer screening. In the intervention groups, 137 (10.9%) participated in cervical cancer screening, compared to only 32 (4.9%) of the control group (p < 0.001). In addition, logistic regression analysis revealed that there was no significant difference in screening rate between group A and group B (p = 0.372).
Providing information on the possible risks of screening may not prevent people from taking part in cervical cancer screening among a Japanese non-adherent population.
PMCID: PMC4340285  PMID: 25717376
Cervical cancer screening; Informed choice; Risk information; Printed client reminder; Organized screening
40.  Annual acknowledgement of manuscript reviewers 
Archives of Public Health  2015;73(1):16.
Contributing reviewers
The editors of Archives of Public Health would like to thank all our reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 72 (2014).
PMCID: PMC4379696  PMID: 25830023
41.  Premature mortality in Belgium in 1993-2009: leading causes, regional disparities and 15 years change 
Reducing premature mortality is a crucial public health objective. After a long gap in the publication of Belgian mortality statistics, this paper presents the leading causes and the regional disparities in premature mortality in 2008–2009 and the changes since 1993.
All deaths occurring in the periods 1993–1999 and 2003–2009, in people aged 1–74 residing in Belgium were included.
The cause of death and population data for Belgium were provided by Statistics Belgium , while data for international comparisons were extracted from the WHO mortality database.
Age-adjusted mortality rates and Person Year of Life Lost (PYLL) were calculated. The Rate Ratios were computed for regional and international comparisons, using the region or country with the lowest rate as reference; statistical significance was tested assuming a Poisson distribution of the number of deaths.
The burden of premature mortality is much higher in men than in women (respectively 42% and 24% of the total number of deaths). The 2008–9 burden of premature mortality in Belgium reaches 6410 and 3440 PYLL per 100,000, respectively in males and females, ranking 4th and 3rd worst within the EU15. The disparities between Belgian regions are substantial: for overall premature mortality, respective excess of 40% and 20% among males, 30% and 20% among females are observed in Wallonia and Brussels as compared to Flanders. Also in cause specific mortality, Wallonia experiences a clear disadvantage compared to Flanders. Brussels shows an intermediate level for natural causes, but ranks differently for external causes, with less road accidents and suicide and more non-transport accidents than in the other regions.
Age-adjusted premature mortality rates decreased by 29% among men and by 22% among women over a period of 15 years. Among men, circulatory diseases death rates decreased the fastest (-43.4%), followed by the neoplasms (-26.6%), the other natural causes (-21.0%) and the external causes (-20.8%). The larger decrease in single cause is observed for stomach cancer (-48.4%), road accident (-44%), genital organs (-40.4%) and lung (-34.6%) cancers. On the opposite, liver cancer death rate increased by 16%.
Among female, the most remarkable feature is the 50.2% increase in the lung cancer death rate. For most other causes, the decline is slightly weaker than in men.
Despite a steady decrease over time, international comparisons of the premature mortality burden highlight the room for improvement in Belgium. The disadvantage in Wallonia and to some extent in Brussels suggest the role of socio-economic factors; well- designed health policies could contribute to reduce the regional disparities. The increase in female lung cancer mortality is worrying.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2049-3258-72-34) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4200135  PMID: 25328677
Premature mortality; Mortality rates; Potential Years of Life Lost; Causes of death; Belgium
42.  Is the different time trend (1997–2008) of the obesity prevalence among adults in the three Belgian regions associated with lifestyle changes? 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):18.
Obesity is a major public health issue with increasing prevalence among adults. However, in Belgium the regional time trends (1997–2008) differed: the prevalence of obesity increased in the Flemish and Brussels Regions, but remained stable in the Walloon Region, the latter still showing the highest prevalence. The purpose of the present study is to explore if the different time trends of obesity prevalence in the three Belgian regions is associated with lifestyle changes.
We used data from four successive cross-sectional waves (1997, 2001, 2004 and 2008) of the Belgian Health Interview Survey. The study was restricted to the adult population, resulting in samples of respectively 8,071, 9,391, 10,319 and 8,831 individuals. In line with the WHO definition, obesity was defined as having a BMI ≥ 30. Differences in regional trends of obesity were investigated through stratified analyses. The association between obesity and survey year, adjusted for lifestyle factors (alcohol consumption, smoking, fruit and vegetables consumption and leisure time physical activity), was assessed via logistic regression models. Interactions were added to the models to explore if the association between lifestyle factors and obesity varied over time.
Obesity was associated with daily alcohol use in the Brussels (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.50-0.88) and Walloon Regions (OR 0.8, 95% CI 0.6-0.9), with lower tendencies of being obese for daily drinkers. The probability of being obese was lower among smokers in the Flemish (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.6-0.8) and Walloon Regions (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.6-0.9) than among non-smokers. A lack of leisure time physical activity was associated with the probability of being obese in all regions (Brussels Region: OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.3-1.8; Flemish Region: OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.4-1.9; Walloon Region: OR 1.8, 95% CT 1.6-2.1). This association decreased significantly between 1997 and 2008 only in the Walloon Region.
The decreasing association between obesity and a lack of leisure time physical activity in the Walloon Region between 1997 and 2008 could indicate that there is an increasing awareness of risk factors for obesity in the Walloon population, which may have resulted in a more favourable evolution of the obesity epidemic.
PMCID: PMC4063436  PMID: 24949198
Health Interview Survey; Obesity; Lifestyle; Physical activity; Eating habits; Smoking; Alcohol drinking; Time trend; Health promotion; Belgium
43.  Protocol of the PSYCHOTSH study: association between neonatal thyroid stimulating hormone concentration and intellectual, psychomotor and psychosocial development at 4–5 year of age: a retrospective cohort study 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):27.
Several European countries, including Belgium, still suffer from mild iodine deficiency. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) concentration in whole blood measured at birth has been proposed as an indicator of maternal iodine status during the last trimester of pregnancy. It has been shown that mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy may affect the neurodevelopment of the offspring. In several studies, elevated TSH levels at birth were associated with suboptimal cognitive and psychomotor outcomes among young children. This paper describes the protocol of the PSYCHOTSH study aiming to assess the association between neonatal TSH levels and intellectual, psychomotor and psychosocial development of 4–5 year old children. The results could lead to a reassessment of the recommended cut-off levels of 5 > mU/L used for monitoring iodine status of the population.
In total, 380 Belgian 4–5 year old preschool children from Brussels and Wallonia with a neonatal blood spot TSH concentration between 0 and 15 mU/L are included in the study. For each sex and TSH-interval (0–1, 1–2, 2–3, 3–4, 4–5, 5–6, 6–7, 7–8, 8–9 and 9–15 mU/L), 19 newborns were randomly selected from all newborns screened by the neonatal screening centre in Brussels in 2008–2009. Infants with congenital hypothyroidism, low birth weight and prematurity were excluded from the study. Neonatal TSH concentration was measured by the Autodelphia method in dried blood spots, collected by heel stick on filter paper 3 to 5 days after birth. Cognitive abilities and psychomotor development are assessed using the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence - third edition - and the Charlop-Atwell Scale of Motor coordination. Psychosocial development is measured using the Child Behaviour Check List for age 1½ to 5 years old. In addition, several socioeconomic, parental and child confounding factors are assessed.
This study aims to clarify the effect of mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy on the neurodevelopment of the offspring. Therefore, the results may have important implications for future public health recommendations, policies and practices in food supplementation. In addition, the results may have implications for the use of neonatal TSH screening results for monitoring the population iodine status and may lead to the definition of new TSH cut-offs for determination of the severity of iodine status and for practical use in data reporting by neonatal screening centres.
PMCID: PMC4150557  PMID: 25180082
Iodine deficiency; Thyroid stimulating hormone; Child development; Cognitive development; Psychomotor development; Psychosocial development
44.  A Centre for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis (CDT) in a resource-limited setting: a dragnet for patients with heart disease? 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):26.
Cardiovascular disease is a growing public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Cough and dyspnea are symptoms of both lung diseases and heart failure. This study aimed at determining the contribution of cardiac diseases versus pulmonary diseases in the etiological profile of patients presenting with cough and dyspnea in a Center for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis (CDT), in a semi-rural area in Cameroon.
This is a cross-sectional analysis of data from patients aged 18 years or more who consulted for cough and or dyspnea between December 2009 and December 2010 at the CDT of Lafe-Baleng, Bafoussam, Cameroon.
A total of 1196 patients were received for various complaints during the study period; 348 (29.1%) of them presented with cough and or dyspnea, and were included in the study. 186 patients (53.4%; 95% CI: 48.2-58.6) had a pure cardiac disease, while 122 patients (35.1%; 95% CI: 30.2-40.2) had a pulmonary disease. The prevalence of hypertension was 50.9%, and hypertensive heart disease was the most frequent cardiac disease with a prevalence rate of 37.6%. Heart failure was diagnosed in 222 patients, representing 63.8% (95% CI: 58.9-68.9) of patients with cough and or dyspnea, and 18.6% (95% CI: 16.5-21.0) of all the patients received at the CDT of Lafe-Baleng during the study period. Compared to patients with a pulmonary disease, patients with cardiac disease were older (p < 0.001) and more likely to present with dyspnea (p < 0.001) and to have hypertension (p < 0.001).
We found a high prevalence of heart failure in this Centre for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Tuberculosis thus, a veritable dragnet for patients with heart disease. Our findings emphasize the urgent need to increase the access to cardiovascular care and to continuously raise the awareness of the communities on cardiovascular diseases in Cameroon.
PMCID: PMC4132523  PMID: 25126419
Cardiac disease; Center for the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis; Sub-Saharan Africa; Cameroon
45.  Understanding and defining bullying – adolescents’ own views 
The negative consequences of peer-victimization on children and adolescents are major public health concerns which have been subjected to extensive research. Given all efforts made to analyze and estimate the social and health consequences of peer-victimization, the adolescents’ own experiences and understandings have had surprisingly little impact on the definition of bullying. Therefore, the aim of the current study is to explore adolescents’ definitions of bullying.
A questionnaire study (n = 128) and four focus group interviews (n = 21) were conducted among students aged 13 and 15. First, gender and age differences were analyzed with respect to what behaviors are considered bullying (questionnaire data). Second, analysis of what bullying is (focus group interviews) was conducted using qualitative content analysis.
The adolescents own understanding and definition of bullying didn’t just include the traditional criteria of repetition and power imbalance, but also a criterion based on the health consequences of bullying. The results showed that a single but hurtful or harmful incident also could be considered bullying irrespective of whether the traditional criteria were fulfilled or not. Further, girls and older students had a more inclusive view of bullying and reported more types of behaviors as bullying compared to boys and younger students.
The results of the current study adds to the existing literature by showing that adolescents consider the victim’s experience of hurt and harm as a criterion for defining bullying and not only as consequences of bullying. This may be of special relevance for the identification and classification of bullying incidents on the internet where devastating consequences have been reported from single incidents and the use of the traditional criteria of intent, repetition and power imbalance may not be as relevant as for traditional bullying. It implies that the traditional criteria included in most definitions of bullying may not fully reflect adolescents’ understanding and definition of bullying. Assessments of bullying behaviors that ask adolescents to strictly adhere to the traditional definition of bullying might not identify all adolescents experiencing peer victimization and therefore not provide estimates of prevalence rates reflecting adolescents’ own understanding of bullying.
PMCID: PMC4429322  PMID: 25973194
Adolescents; Bullying; Definition; Qualitative content analysis
46.  Obstacles in measles elimination: an in-depth description of a measles outbreak in Ghent, Belgium, spring 2011 
Archives of Public Health  2013;71(1):17.
From Mid-February to April 2011 one of the largest measles-outbreak in Flanders, since the start of the 2-dose vaccination scheme in 1995, took place in Ghent, Belgium. The outbreak started in a day care center, infecting children too young to be vaccinated, after which it spread to anthroposophic schools with a low measles, mumps and rubella vaccination coverage. This report describes the outbreak and evaluates the control measures and interventions.
Data collection was done through the system of mandatory notification of the public health authority. Vaccination coverage in the schools was assessed by a questionnaire and the electronic immunization database ‘Vaccinnet’. A case was defined as anyone with laboratory confirmed measles or with clinical symptoms and an epidemiological link to a laboratory confirmed case. Towards the end of the outbreak we only sought laboratory confirmation for persons with an atypical clinical presentation or without an epidemiological link. In search for an index patient we determined the measles IgG level of infants from the day care center.
A total of 65 cases were reported of which 31 were laboratory confirmed. Twenty-five were confirmed by PCR and/or IgM. In 6 infants, too young to be vaccinated, only elevated measles IgG levels were found. Most cases (72%) were young children (0–9 years old). All but two cases were completely unimmunized. In the day care center all the infants who were too young to be vaccinated (N=14) were included as cases. Thirteen of them were laboratory confirmed. Eight of these infants were hospitalized with symptoms suspicious for measles. Vaccination coverage in the affected anthroposophic schools was low, 45-49% of the pupils were unvaccinated. We organized vaccination campaigns in the schools and vaccinated 79 persons (25% of those unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated).
Clustering of unvaccinated persons, in a day care center and in anthroposophic schools, allows for measles outbreaks and is an important obstacle for the elimination of measles. Isolation measures, a vacation period and an immunization campaign limited the spread of measles within the schools but could not prevent further spread among unvaccinated family members. It was necessary to raise clinicians' awareness of measles since it had become a rare, less known disease and went undiagnosed.
PMCID: PMC3716678  PMID: 23834074
Outbreak; Vaccine-preventable-disease; Measles; Immunization registry; Anti-vaccination
47.  A brief tool to assess capacity to consent for medical care among homeless individuals with problematic substance use: study protocol 
Archives of Public Health  2013;71(1):11.
Public health care increasingly uses outreach models to engage individuals who are marginalized, many of whom misuse substances. Problematic substance use, together with marginalization from the health care system, among homeless adults makes it difficult to assess their capacity to consent to medical care. Tools have been developed to assess capacity to consent; however, these tools are lengthy and unsuitable for outreach settings. The primary objective of this study is to develop, validate, and pilot a brief but sensitive screening instrument which can be used to guide clinicians in assessing capacity to consent in outreach settings. The goal of this paper is to outline the protocol for the development of such a tool.
A brief assessment tool will be developed and compared to the MacArthur Competency Assessment Tool for Treatment (MacCAT-T). As list of 36 possible questions will be created by using qualitative data from clinician interviews, as well as concepts from the literature. This list will be rated by content experts according to the extent that it corresponds to the test objectives. The instrument will be validated with 300 homeless adult volunteers who self-report problematic substance use. Participants will be assessed for capacity using the MacCAT-T and the new instrument. A combination of Classical Test Theory and advanced psychometric methods will be used for the psychometric analysis. Corrected Item-Total correlation will be examined to identify items that discriminate poorly. Guided exploratory factor analysis will be conducted on the final selection of items to confirm the assumptions for a unidimensional polytomous Rasch model. If unidimensionality is confirmed, an unstandardized Cronbach Alpha will be calculated. If multi-dimensionality is detected, a multidimensional Rasch analysis will be conducted. Results from the new instrument will be compared to the total score from the MacCAT-T by using Pearson’s correlation test. The new instrument will then be piloted in real-time by street outreach clinicians to determine the acceptability and usefulness of the new instrument.
This research will build on the existing knowledge about assessing capacity to consent and will contribute new knowledge about assessing individuals whose judgment is impaired by substance use.
PMCID: PMC3651044  PMID: 23651056
Capacity to consent; Substance use; Psychometric instruments; Vulnerable populations
48.  Educational inequalities in young-adult mortality between the 1990s and the 2000s: regional differences in Belgium 
Archives of Public Health  2015;73(1):11.
This study addresses educational inequalities in young-adult mortality between the 1990s and the 2000s by comparing trends in the three different regions in Belgium stratified by sex. Social inequalities in mortality are of major concern to public health but are rarely studied at young ages. Substantial health differences have been found between the Flemish (FR) and Walloon region (WR) concerning (healthy) life expectancy and avoidable mortality, but little is known about regional differentials in young-adult mortality, and comparisons with the Brussels-Capital Region (BCR) have thus far never been made.
Data are derived from record linkage between the Belgian censuses of 1991 and 2001 and register data on death and emigration for the periods 01/03/1991-01/03/1999 and 01/10/2001-01/10/2009. Analyses are restricted to young adults aged 25 to 34 years at the moment of each of the censuses. Absolute (directly standardized mortality rates (ASMRs)) and relative (mortality rate ratio using Poisson regression) measures were calculated.
There is a significant drop in young-adult mortality between the 1990s and the 2000s in all regions and both sexes, with the strongest decline in the BCR (e.g. ASMR of men declined from 165.6 [151.1-180.1] per 100,000 person years to 73.8 [88.3-98.3]). The mortality rates remain highest in the WR in the 2000s Between the 1990s and the 2000s, a remarkable change in the educational distribution occurred as well, with much lower proportions of primary educated in all regions in the 2000s in favour of higher proportions in all other educational levels, especially in higher education. All educational groups show lower mortality over time, except for lower educated men in the FR.
There is a positive evolution towards lower mortality among the young-adult Belgian population. The WR trails behind in this evolution, which calls for tailored preventive actions. Educational inequalities are marked in all regions and time periods. A more general discussion is needed on the responsibility of society in rendering support and capability to enhance the state of well-being of those not able to achieve a high social position.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13690-014-0059-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4360928  PMID: 25780561
Educational inequalities; Absolute and relative differences; Adolescent & young-adult mortality; Regional differences
49.  Causes of metabolic syndrome and obesity-related co-morbidities Part 1: A composite unifying theory review of human-specific co-adaptations to brain energy consumption 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):30.
One line summary
Metabolic syndrome and obesity-related co-morbidities are largely explained by co-adaptations to the energy use of the large human brain in the cortico-limbic-striatal and NRF2 systems.
The medical, research and general community is unable to effect significantly decreased rates of central obesity and related type II diabetes mellitus (TIIDM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. All conditions seem to be linked by the concept of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), but the underlying causes are not known. MetS markers may have been mistaken for causes, thus many treatments are destined to be suboptimal.
The current paper aims to critique current paradigms, give explanations for their persistence, and to return to first principles in an attempt to determine and clarify likely causes of MetS and obesity related comorbidities. A wide literature has been mined, study concepts analysed and the basics of human evolution and new biochemistry reviewed. A plausible, multifaceted composite unifying theory is formulated.
The basis of the theory is that the proportionately large, energy-demanding human brain may have driven co-adaptive mechanisms to provide, or conserve, energy for the brain. A ‘dual system’ is proposed. 1) The enlarged, complex cortico-limbic-striatal system increases dietary energy by developing strong neural self-reward/motivation pathways for the acquisition of energy dense food, and (2) the nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) cellular protection system amplifies antioxidant, antitoxicant and repair activity by employing plant chemicals, becoming highly energy efficient in humans.
The still-evolving, complex human cortico-limbic-striatal system generates strong behavioural drives for energy dense food procurement, including motivating agricultural technologies and social system development. Addiction to such foods, leading to neglect of nutritious but less appetizing ‘common or garden’ food, appears to have occurred. Insufficient consumption of food micronutrients prevents optimal human NRF2 function. Inefficient oxidation of excess energy forces central and non-adipose cells to store excess toxic lipid. Oxidative stress and metabolic inflammation, or metaflammation, allow susceptibility to infectious, degenerative atherosclerotic cardiovascular, autoimmune, neurodegenerative and dysplastic diseases.
Other relevant human-specific co-adaptations are examined, and encompass the unusual ability to store fat, certain vitamin pathways, the generalised but flexible intestine and microbiota, and slow development and longevity.
This theory has significant past and future corollaries, which are explored in a separate article by McGill, A-T, in Archives of Public Health, 72: 31.
PMCID: PMC4335398  PMID: 25708524
Metabolic syndrome; Obesity-related co-morbidities; Theory review; Evolution and nutrition; Food micronutrient; Malnutritive obesity (Malnubesity); Cortico-limbic-striatal; Food addiction; Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2); Human brain metabolism; Oxidative stress; Metabolic inflammation
50.  Is low health literacy associated with overweight and obesity in adolescents: an epidemiology study in a 12–16 years old population, Nanning, China, 2012 
Archives of Public Health  2014;72(1):11.
The problem of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents is considered an epidemic in both developed and developing world by the WHO. There has been little study on the relationship between health literacy and body weight among adolescents.
This epidemiological study aims to investigate the association between low health literacy and overweight and obesity among a population of Chinese adolescents aged 12–16 years in the city of Nanning, China in 2012.
This study was a population-based cross-sectional health survey utilising a two-stage random cluster sampling design. The sample consisted of high school students aged between 12–16 years with the total student population attending high schools in a large city as the sample frame. Health literacy was measured by the Chinese version of the short form of the Test of Functional Health Literacy translated for and validated among Taiwanese adolescents. Overweight and obesity were assessed in accordance to the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Database of Body Mass Index classification methods. Data were analysed using logistic regression modelling techniques with adjustment to the cluster sampling effect.
A total of 1035 students responded to the survey providing usable information with 628 (48.1%) respondents classified as high, 558 (42.8%) moderate, and 119 (9.1%) low levels of health literacy. After adjusting for potential confounding factors and the cluster sampling effect, low health literacy was significantly associated with overweight and obesity (OR = 1.84, 95% C.I. = 1.13-2.99).
Results suggested that low health literacy level was associated with many aspects of adolescence health including their body weight. These results have public health implications on an important global problem of adolescence body weight. Enhancing the health literacy should be considered as part of the strategies in combating adolescence weight problem.
PMCID: PMC3994214  PMID: 24685203
Health literacy; Overweight; Obesity; Adolescents; Epidemiology study

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