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1.  Effect of religiosity/spirituality and sense of coherence on depression within a rural population in Greece: the Spili III project 
BMC Psychiatry  2015;15:173.
Recent research has addressed the hypothesis that religiosity/spirituality and sense of coherence buffer the negative effects of stress on numerous health issues. The aim of the current study was to further this work by exploring potential links between psycho-social factors such as religiosity/spirituality and sense of coherence with depression.
A total number of 220 subjects of the SPILI III cohort (1988–2012) attending a primary care setting in the town of Spili on rural Crete represented the target group. All participants underwent a standardized procedure. Validated questionnaires were used to evaluate sense of coherence, depression levels and religious and spiritual beliefs. A multiple linear regression analysis of the Beck Depression Inventory Scale (BDI) in relation to demographic characteristics, scores on the Royal Free Interview for Spiritual and Religious Beliefs scale (RFI-SRB) and Sense of Coherence scale (SOC) was performed.
A significant inverse association was found between BDI and RFI-SRB scale (B-coef = −0.6999, p < 0.001), as well as among BDI and SOC scale (B-coef = −0.556, p < 0.001).
The findings of the current observational study indicate that highly religious participants are less likely to score high in the depression scale. Furthermore, participants with high SOC scored significantly lower in the BDI scale. Further research is required in order to explore the potential effect of SOC and religiosity/spirituality on mental health.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12888-015-0561-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4513393  PMID: 26205468
Beliefs; Religious; Spirituality; Sense of coherence; Depression
2.  Meso level influences on long term condition self-management: stakeholder accounts of commonalities and differences across six European countries 
BMC Public Health  2015;15:622.
European countries are increasingly adopting systems of self –care support (SMS) for long term conditions which focus on enhancing individual, competencies, skills, behaviour and lifestyle changes. To date the focus of policy for engendering greater self- management in the population has been focused in the main on the actions and motivations of individuals. Less attention has been paid to how the broader influences relevant to SMS policy and practice such as those related to food production, distribution and consumption and the structural aspects and economics relating to physical exercise and governance of health care delivery systems might be implicated in the populations ability to self- manage. This study aimed to identify key informants operating with knowledge of both policy and practice related to SMS in order to explore how these influences are seen to impact on the self-management support environment for diabetes type 2.
Ninety semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholder informants in Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Norway, Netherlands and UK. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic and textual analysis.
Stakeholders in the six countries identified a range of influences which shaped diabetes self-management (SM). The infrastructure and culture for supporting self- management practice is viewed as driven by political decision-makers, the socio-economic and policy environment, and the ethos and delivery of chronic illness management in formal health care systems. Three key themes emerged during the analysis of data. These were 1) social environmental influences on diabetes self-management 2) reluctance or inability of policy makers to regulate processes and environments related to chronic illness management 3) the focus of healthcare system governance and gaps in provision of self-management support (SMS). Nuances in the salience and content of these themes between partner countries related to the presence and articulation ofdedicated prevention and self- management policies, behavioural interventions in primary care, drug company involvement and the impact of measures resulting from economic crises, and differences between countries with higher versus lower social welfare support and public spending on shaping illness management.
The results suggest reasons for giving increasing prominence to meso level influences as a means of rebalancing and improving the effectiveness of implementing an agenda for SMS. There is a need to acknowledge the greater economic and policy challenging environment operating in some countries which act as a source of inequality between countries in addressing SMS for chronic illness management and impacts on people's capacity to undertake self-care activities.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1957-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4495781  PMID: 26152139
Self-management support; Long-term conditions; Diabetes Type 2; Macro; Meso level influences; State capacity; Cross-national comparison
3.  Diabetes self-management arrangements in Europe: a realist review to facilitate a project implemented in six countries 
Self-management of long term conditions can promote quality of life whilst delivering benefits to the financing of health care systems. However, rarely are the meso-level influences, likely to be of direct relevance to these desired outcomes, systematically explored. No specific international guidelines exist suggesting the features of the most appropriate structure and organisation of health care systems within which to situate self-management approaches and practices. This review aimed to identify the quantitative literature with regard to diabetes self-management arrangements currently in place within the health care systems of six countries (The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Bulgaria, and Greece) and explore how these are integrated into the broader health care and welfare systems in each country.
The methodology for a realist review was followed. Publications of interest dating from 2000 to 2013 were identified through appropriate MeSH terms by a systematic search in six bibliographic databases. A search diary was maintained and the studies were assessed for their quality and risk of bias.
Following the multi-step search strategy, 56 studies were included in the final review (the majority from the UK) reporting design methods and findings on 21 interventions and programmes for diabetes and chronic disease self-management. Most (11/21, 52%) of the interventions were designed to fit within the context of primary care. The majority (11/21, 52%) highlighted behavioural change as an important goal. Finally, some (5/21, 24%) referred explicitly to Internet-based tools.
This review is based on results which are derived from a total of at least 5,500 individuals residing in the six participating countries. It indicates a policy shift towards patient-centred self-management of diabetes in a primary care context. The professional role of diabetes specialist nurses, the need for multidisciplinary approaches and a focus on patient education emerge as fundamental principles in the design of relevant programmes. Socio-economic circumstances are relevant to the capacity to self-manage and suggest that any gains and progress will be hard to maintain during economic austerity. This realist review should be interpreted within the wider context of a whole systems approach regarding self-care support and chronic illness management.
PMCID: PMC4283086  PMID: 25278037
Chronic disease; Diabetes mellitus; Europe; Government; Delivery of health care; Health policy; Health personnel; Self-care; Social welfare
4.  Social support systems as determinants of self-management and quality of life of people with diabetes across Europe: study protocol for an observational study 
Long-term conditions pose major challenges for healthcare systems. Optimizing self-management of people with long-term conditions is an important strategy to improve quality of life, health outcomes, patient experiences in healthcare, and the sustainability of healthcare systems. Much research on self-management focuses on individual competencies, while the social systems of support that facilitate self-management are underexplored. The presented study aims to explore the role of social systems of support for self-management and quality of life, focusing on the social networks of people with diabetes and community organisations that serve them.
The protocol concerns a cross-sectional study in 18 geographic areas in six European countries, involving a total of 1800 individuals with diabetes and 900 representatives of community organisations. In each country, we include a deprived rural area, a deprived urban area, and an affluent urban area. Individuals are recruited through healthcare practices in the targeted areas. A patient questionnaire comprises measures for quality of life, self-management behaviours, social network and social support, as well as individual characteristics. A community organisations’ survey maps out interconnections between community and voluntary organisations that support patients with chronic illness and documents the scope of work of the different types of organisations. We first explore the structure of social networks of individuals and of community organisations. Then linkages between these social networks, self-management and quality of life will be examined, taking deprivation and other factors into account.
This study will provide insight into determinants of self-management and quality of life in individuals with diabetes, focusing on the role of social networks and community organisations.
PMCID: PMC4021429  PMID: 24593668
Quality of life; Self-management; Chronic illness; Diabetes type 2; Social networks; Community organisations; Deprivation
5.  Irrational prescribing of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines in general practice: testing the feasibility of an educational intervention among physicians in five European countries 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:34.
Irrational prescribing of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines in general practice is common in Southern Europe. Recent findings from a research project funded by the European Commission (FP7), the “OTC SOCIOMED”, conducted in seven European countries, indicate that physicians in countries in the Mediterranean Europe region prescribe medicines to a higher degree in comparison to physicians in other participating European countries. In light of these findings, a feasibility study has been designed to explore the acceptance of a pilot educational intervention targeting physicians in general practice in various settings in the Mediterranean Europe region.
This feasibility study utilized an educational intervention was designed using the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). It took place in geographically-defined primary care areas in Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, and Turkey. General Practitioners (GPs) were recruited in each country and randomly assigned into two study groups in each of the participating countries. The intervention included a one-day intensive training programme, a poster presentation, and regular visits of trained professionals to the workplaces of participants. Reminder messages and email messages were, also, sent to participants over a 4-week period. A pre- and post-test evaluation study design with quantitative and qualitative data was employed. The primary outcome of this feasibility pilot intervention was to reduce GPs’ intention to provide medicines following the educational intervention, and its secondary outcomes included a reduction of prescribed medicines following the intervention, as well as an assessment of its practicality and acceptance by the participating GPs.
Median intention scores in the intervention groups were reduced, following the educational intervention, in comparison to the control group. Descriptive analysis of related questions indicated a high overall acceptance and perceived practicality of the intervention programme by GPs, with median scores above 5 on a 7-point Likert scale.
Evidence from this intervention will estimate the parameters required to design a larger study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of such educational interventions. In addition, it could also help inform health policy makers and decision makers regarding the management of behavioural changes in the prescribing patterns of physicians in Mediterranean Europe, particularly in Southern European countries.
PMCID: PMC3936810  PMID: 24533792
OTC medicines; Primary care; Feasibility study
6.  High relative environmental humidity is associated with diabetes among elders living in Mediterranean islands 
Climate variation has long been studied in relation to human health. The aim of the present work was to evaluate the relationship between environmental humidity, and air temperature with the prevalence of diabetes, among elderly islanders.
During 2005–2011, 1959 elderly (aged 65 to 100 years) individuals from 13 Mediterranean islands were enrolled. Socio-demographic, clinical and lifestyle factors were assessed using standard procedures. Diabetes was defined as fasting blood glucose levels > 125 mg/dl. Relative environmental humidity was measured as a percentage of air moisture and mean daily temperature in degrees Celsius.
For the present analysis 713 men (74 ± 7 years) and 596 women (73 ± 7 years) with complete data were studied; 27% of both men and women had diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes was 42% in the elders living in high relative humidity areas (i.e., >70%) as compared with 24% among those living at low relative humidity residential areas (p < 0.001). After adjusting for age, sex and mean temperature, an increase in the area’s relative humidity by 1 degree, increased the likelihood of having diabetes by 12% (OR = 1.12, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.20). No significant association was observed between mean temperature and diabetes (OR = 0.97, 95% CI 0.74, 1.26).
A considerable proportion of elderly, especially those living in high relative humidity areas, had diabetes. Further research is needed to confirm this observation and to understand the underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3933328  PMID: 24490582
Relative humidity; Temperature; Diabetes; Elderly; Diet; Mediterranean islands
7.  Association of Iron Depletion with Menstruation and Dietary Intake Indices in Pubertal Girls: The Healthy Growth Study 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:423263.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the associations of iron depletion (ID) with menstrual blood losses, lifestyle, and dietary habits, in pubertal girls. The study sample comprised 1222 girls aged 9–13 years old. Biochemical, anthropometrical, dietary, clinical, and physical activity data were collected. Out of 274 adolescent girls with menses, 33.5% were found to be iron depleted (defined as serum ferritin < 12 μg/L) compared to 15.9% out of 948 girls without menses. Iron-depleted girls without menses were found to have lower consumption of poultry (P = 0.017) and higher consumption of fruits (P = 0.044) and fast food (P = 0.041) compared to their peers having normal iron status. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that girls with menses were 2.57 (95% CI: 1.37, 4.81) times more likely of being iron depleted compared to girls with no menses. Iron depletion was found to be associated with high calcium intake, high consumption of fast foods, and low consumption of poultry and fruits. Menses was the only factor that was found to significantly increase the likelihood of ID in these girls. More future research is probably needed in order to better understand the role of diet and menses in iron depletion.
PMCID: PMC3885188  PMID: 24455693
9.  Ashtrays and Signage as Determinants of a Smoke-Free Legislation’s Success 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72945.
Successful smoke-free legislation is dependent on political will, enforcement and societal support. We report the success and pitfalls of a non-enforced nationwide smoke-free legislation in Greece, as well as ways in which compliance and enforcement-related factors, including ashtrays and signage, may impact indoor secondhand smoke (SHS) concentrations.
A follow-up study of venues (n = 150, at baseline, n = 75 at 2-year follow-up) in Greece assessed indoor particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) concentrations attributable to SHS smoke every six months for two years (n = 455 venue/measurements).
Following the implementation of the 2010 smoke-free legislation, mean PM2.5 concentrations attributable to SHS fell from 175.3 µg/m3 pre-ban to 84.52 µg/m3 immediately post-ban, increasing over subsequent waves (103.8 µg/m3 and 158.2 µg/m3 respectively). Controlling for potential influential factors such as ventilation, time of day, day of week, city and venue type, all post-ban measurements were still lower than during the pre-ban period (Wave 2 beta: −118.7, Wave 3 beta: −87.6, and Wave 4 beta: −69.9). Outdoor or indoor signage banning smoking was not found to affect SHS concentrations (beta: −10.9, p = 0.667 and beta: −18.1, p = 0.464 respectively). However, ashtray or ashtray equivalents were strong determinants of the existence of indoor SHS (beta: +67 µg/m3, p = 0.017).
While the public may be supportive of smoke-free legislation, adherence may decline rapidly if enforcement is limited or nonexistent. Moreover, enforcement agencies should also focus on the comprehensive removal of ashtray equivalents that could act as cues for smoking within a venue.
PMCID: PMC3762932  PMID: 24023795
10.  An analysis of online health information on schizophrenia or related conditions: a cross-sectional survey 
Around 20% of those who seek health information online, search specifically for mental health. However, little is known about the nature of the online health information offered by two European countries, Finland and Greece, which are characterized by markedly differing levels of Internet access and online health information seeking. This study aims to assess, describe and compare websites, written in two European, non-English languages (Finnish and Greek) that appear first after performing an online search concerning schizophrenia or related conditions.
The first 20 results from four search terms (searched in Finnish and Greek) in the Web search engine ‘Google’ were screened. A total of 160 websites were retrieved (80 Finnish, 80 Greek) and evaluated using a preformulated coding system which consisted of websites’ indicators, such as: types, characteristics, accountability, interactivity, aesthetics and content. Differences between websites were evaluated with Chi-Square or Fisher’s Exact tests for categorical data and independent t-tests for parametric data.
Twenty-four Finnish and thirty-four Greek websites (36% in total) were included. Almost two-thirds (62%, n=36) were owned by an organization, compared to 17% (n=10) by an individual. In both countries, aesthetics had the highest score (possible range 0–4, mean = 2.6, SD = .62), while interactivity the lowest (range 0–5, mean = 1.79, SD = .87). There were no statistically significant differences among the accountability, interactivity and aesthetics scores of the Finnish and Greek websites.
All assessed indicators suggest there is a need to improve Finnish and Greek online information about schizophrenia or related conditions. The poor website interactivity is of particular concern given the challenges faced by the target group. The findings can be used to guide the development and dissemination of online mental health information aimed at Finnish and Greek online health-seekers.
PMCID: PMC3847364  PMID: 23992448
Consumer health information; Information retrieval; Internet; Schizophrenia
11.  “A manager in the minds of doctors:” a comparison of new modes of control in European hospitals 
Hospital governance increasingly combines management and professional self-governance. This article maps the new emergent modes of control in a comparative perspective and aims to better understand the relationship between medicine and management as hybrid and context-dependent. Theoretically, we critically review approaches into the managerialism-professionalism relationship; methodologically, we expand cross-country comparison towards the meso-level of organisations; and empirically, the focus is on processes and actors in a range of European hospitals.
The research is explorative and was carried out as part of the FP7 COST action IS0903 Medicine and Management, Working Group 2. Comprising seven European countries, the focus is on doctors and public hospitals. We use a comparative case study design that primarily draws on expert information and document analysis as well as other secondary sources.
The findings reveal that managerial control is not simply an external force but increasingly integrated in medical professionalism. These processes of change are relevant in all countries but shaped by organisational settings, and therefore create different patterns of control: (1) ‘integrated’ control with high levels of coordination and coherent patterns for cost and quality controls; (2) ‘partly integrated’ control with diversity of coordination on hospital and department level and between cost and quality controls; and (3) ‘fragmented’ control with limited coordination and gaps between quality control more strongly dominated by medicine, and cost control by management.
Our comparison highlights how organisations matter and brings the crucial relevance of ‘coordination’ of medicine and management across the levels (hospital/department) and the substance (cost/quality-safety) of control into perspective. Consequently, coordination may serve as a taxonomy of emergent modes of control, thus bringing new directions for cost-efficient and quality-effective hospital governance into perspective.
PMCID: PMC3702431  PMID: 23819578
European Comparison; Hospital Governance; Doctors In Management; Professionalism; Cost And Quality Management; Coordination Of Control Modes
12.  Smoking cessation and the risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes predicted from established risk scores: Results of the Cardiovascular Risk Assessment among Smokers in Primary Care in Europe (CV-ASPIRE) Study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:362.
Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). This multicenter, cross-sectional survey was designed to estimate the cardiovascular (CV) risk attributable to smoking using risk assessment tools, to better understand patient behaviors and characteristics related to smoking, and characterize physician practice patterns.
1,439 smokers were recruited from Europe during 2011. Smokers were ≥40 years old, smoked > 10 cigarettes/day and had recent measurements on blood pressure and lipids. CV risk was calculated using the SCORE system, Framingham risk equations, and Progetto CUORE model. The CV risk attributable to smoking was evaluated using a simulated control (hypothetical non-smoker) with identical characteristics as the enrolled smoker. Risks assessed included CV mortality, coronary heart disease (CHD), CVD and hard CHD. Demographics, comorbidities, primary reasons for consultation, behavior towards previous attempts to quit, and interest in smoking cessation was assessed. Dependence on nicotine was evaluated using the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence. GP practice patterns were assessed through a questionnaire.
The prediction models consistently demonstrated a high CV risk attributable to smoking. For instance, the SCORE model demonstrated that this study population of smokers have a 100% increased probability of death due to cardiovascular disease in the next 10-years compared to non-smokers. A considerable amount of patients would like to hear from their GP about the different alternatives available to support their quitting attempt.
The findings of this study reinforce the importance of smoking as a significant predictor of long-term cardiovascular events. One of the best gains in health could be obtained by tackling the most important modifiable risk factors; these results suggest smoking is among the most important.
PMCID: PMC3639794  PMID: 23597191
Cardiovascular; Diseases; Europe; Model; Smoking; Cessation; Framingham; SCORE; Progetto; ASPIRE
13.  Measuring the effectiveness of an intensive IPV training program offered to Greek general practitioners and residents of general practice 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:46.
The need for effective training of primary care physicians in the prevention, detection and handling of intimate partner violence (IPV) has been widely acknowledged, given its frequency in daily practice. The current intervention study aimed to measure changes in the actual IPV knowledge, perceived knowledge, perceived preparedness and detection ability of practicing general practitioners (GPs) and general practice residents, following an intensive IPV training program.
A pre/post-test design with a control group was employed to compare changes in baseline measures of IPV at the post intervention stage and at 12 months. A total of 40 participants provided full data; 25 GPs (11 in the intervention and 14 in the control) and 15 residents (intervention only). Three scales of the PREMIS survey were used to draw information on the study outcomes.
The training program met high acceptance by both groups of participants and high practicality in clinical practice. The GPs in the intervention group performed better than the GPs in the control group on “Perceived preparedness” and “Perceived knowledge” in both the post-intervention (p = .012, r = .50 and p = .001, r = .68) and the 12-month follow-up (p = .024, r = .45 and p = .007, r = .54) as well as better than the residents in “Perceived preparedness” at post-intervention level (p = .037, r = .41). Residents on the other hand, performed better than the GPs in the intervention group on “Actual knowledge” at the 12-month follow-up (p = .012, r = .49). No significant improvements or between group differences were found in terms of the self-reported detection of IPV cases.
Further studies are needed to decide whether residency training could serve as an early intervention stage for IPV training.
PMCID: PMC3617069  PMID: 23537186
Intimate partner violence; General practitioners; Residents; Primary health care; Training; Knowledge
15.  Assessing the burden of caregivers of patients with mental disorders: translating and validating the involvement evaluation questionnaire into Greek 
The changes in the organization of mental health care services have made the role of the family even more important in caring for patients with mental disorders. Caring may have serious consequences for family caregivers, with a great impact on the quality of family life. This study reports on the translation, cultural adaptation, and validation of the Involvement Evaluation Questionnaire-European Union (IEQ-EU) into the Greek language.
Caregivers of patients with major mental disorders were interviewed to test a modified version of the IEQ-EU questionnaire. Psychometric measurements included reliability coefficients, exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory analysis by linear structural relations. To measure the concurrent validity we used the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP).
Most caregivers were female (83%), mainly mothers living with the patient (80%), with quite a high level of burden. The Greek version of the IEQ-EU (G-IEQ-EU) demonstrated a good reliability with high internal consistency (α = 0.88), Guttman split-half correlation of 0.71, high test-retest reliability (ICC = 0.82) and good concurrent validity with the NHP. A four-factor structure was confirmed for the G-IEQ-EU, slightly different from the original IEQ. The confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated that the four-factor model offered modest fit to our data.
The G-IEQ-EU is a reasonably valid and reliable tool for use in both clinical and research contexts in order to assess the burden of caregivers of patients with mental disorders.
PMCID: PMC3605393  PMID: 23402385
Caregivers; Mental disorders; Validation
16.  REsearch into implementation STrategies to support patients of different ORigins and language background in a variety of European primary care settings (RESTORE): study protocol 
The implementation of guidelines and training initiatives to support communication in cross-cultural primary care consultations is ad hoc across a range of international settings with negative consequences particularly for migrants. This situation reflects a well-documented translational gap between evidence and practice and is part of the wider problem of implementing guidelines and the broader range of professional educational and quality interventions in routine practice. In this paper, we describe our use of a contemporary social theory, Normalization Process Theory and participatory research methodology—Participatory Learning and Action—to investigate and support implementation of such guidelines and training initiatives in routine practice.
This is a qualitative case study, using multiple primary care sites across Europe. Purposive and maximum variation sampling approaches will be used to identify and recruit stakeholders—migrant service users, general practitioners, primary care nurses, practice managers and administrative staff, interpreters, cultural mediators, service planners, and policy makers. We are conducting a mapping exercise to identify relevant guidelines and training initiatives. We will then initiate a PLA-brokered dialogue with stakeholders around Normalization Process Theory’s four constructs—coherence, cognitive participation, collective action, and reflexive monitoring. Through this, we will enable stakeholders in each setting to select a single guideline or training initiative for implementation in their local setting. We will prospectively investigate and support the implementation journeys for the five selected interventions. Data will be generated using a Participatory Learning and Action approach to interviews and focus groups. Data analysis will follow the principles of thematic analysis, will occur in iterative cycles throughout the project and will involve participatory co-analysis with key stakeholders to enhance the authenticity and veracity of findings.
This research employs a unique combination of Normalization Process Theory and Participatory Learning and Action, which will provide a novel approach to the analysis of implementation journeys. The findings will advance knowledge in the field of implementation science because we are using and testing theoretical and methodological approaches so that we can critically appraise their scope to mediate barriers and improve the implementation processes.
PMCID: PMC3541149  PMID: 23167911
17.  Reporting new cases of anaemia in primary care settings in Crete, Greece: a rural practice study 
Early diagnosis of anaemia represents an important task within primary care settings. This study reports on the frequency of new cases of anaemia among patients attending rural primary care settings in Crete (Greece) and to offer an estimate of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) frequency in this study group.
All patients attending the rural primary health care units of twelve general practitioners (GPs) on the island of Crete for ten consecutive working days were eligible to participate in this study. Hemoglobin (Hb) levels were measured by portable analyzers. Laboratory tests to confirm new cases of anaemia were performed at the University General Hospital of Heraklion.
One hundred and thirteen out of 541 recruited patients had a low value of Hb according to the initial measurement obtained by the use of the portable analyzer. Forty five (45.5%) of the 99 subjects who underwent laboratory testing had confirmed anaemia. The mean value of the Hb levels in the group with confirmed anaemia, as detected by the portable analyzer was 11.1 g/dl (95% Confidence Interval (CI) from 10.9 to 11.4) and the respective mean value of the Hb levels obtained from the full blood count was 11.4 g/dl (95% CI from 11.2 to 11.7) (P = 0.01). Sixteen out of those 45 patients with anaemia (35.6%) had IDA, with ferritin levels lower than 30 ng/ml.
Keeping in mind that this paper does not deal with specificity or sensitivity figures, it is suggested that in rural and remote settings anaemia is still invisible and point of care testing may have a place to identify it.
PMCID: PMC3353223  PMID: 22533879
18.  Measuring the burden of herpes zoster and post herpetic neuralgia within primary care in rural Crete, Greece 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:136.
Research has indicated that general practitioners (GPs) have good clinical judgment in regards to diagnosing and managing herpes zoster (HZ) within clinical practice in a country with limited resources for primary care and general practice. The objective of the current study was to assess the burden of HZ and post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) within rural general practices in Crete, Greece.
The current study took place within a rural setting in Crete, Greece during the period of November 2007 to November 2009 within the catchment area in which the Cretan Rural Practice-based Research Network is operating. In total 19 GP's from 14 health care units in rural Crete were invited to participate, covering a total turnover patient population of approximately 25, 000 subjects. For the purpose of this study an electronic record database was constructed and used as the main tool for monitoring HZ and PHN incidence. Stress related data was also collected with the use of the Short Anxiety Screening Test (SAST).
The crude incidence rate of HZ was 1.4/1000 patients/year throughout the entire network of health centers and satellite practices, while among satellite practices alone it was calculated at 1.3/1000 patients/year. Additionally, the standardised incidence density within satellite practices was calculated at 1.6/1000 patients/year. In regards to the stress associated with HZ and PHN, the latter were found to have lower levels of anxiety, as assessed through the SAST score (17.4 ± 3.9 vs. 21.1 ± 5.7; p = 0.029).
The implementation of an electronic surveillance system was feasible so as to measure the burden of HZ and PHN within the rural general practice setting in Crete.
PMCID: PMC3266196  PMID: 22145678
19.  Perceived Stress Scale: Reliability and Validity Study in Greece 
To translate the Perceived Stress Scale (versions PSS-4, −10 and −14) and to assess its psychometric properties in a sample of general Greek population.
941 individuals completed anonymously questionnaires comprising of PSS, the Depression Anxiety and Stress scale (DASS-21 version), and a list of stress-related symptoms. Psychometric properties of PSS were investigated by confirmatory factor analysis (construct validity), Cronbach’s alpha (reliability), and by investigating relations with the DASS-21 scores and the number of symptoms, across individuals’ characteristics. The two-factor structure of PSS-10 and PSS-14 was confirmed in our analysis. We found satisfactory Cronbach’s alpha values (0.82 for the full scale) for PSS-14 and PSS-10 and marginal satisfactory values for PSS-4 (0.69). PSS score exhibited high correlation coefficients with DASS-21 subscales scores, meaning stress (r = 0.64), depression (r = 0.61), and anxiety (r = 0.54). Women reported significantly more stress compared to men and divorced or widows compared to married or singled only. A strong significant (p < 0.001) positive correlation between the stress score and the number of self-reported symptoms was also noted.
The Greek versions of the PSS-14 and PSS-10 exhibited satisfactory psychometric properties and their use for research and health care practice is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3166743  PMID: 21909307
Perceived Stress Scale; translation; psychometric properties; validation; Greece
20.  Health Alliance for prudent antibiotic prescribing in patients with respiratory tract infections (HAPPY AUDIT) -impact of a non-randomised multifaceted intervention programme 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:52.
Excessive use of antibiotics is worldwide the most important reason for development of antimicrobial resistance. As antibiotic resistance may spread across borders, high prevalence countries may serve as a source of bacterial resistance for countries with a low prevalence. Therefore, bacterial resistance is an important issue with a potential serious impact on all countries. Initiatives have been taken to improve the quality of antibiotic prescribing in primary care, but only few studies have been designed to determine the effectiveness of multifaceted strategies across countries with different practice setting. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a multifaceted intervention targeting general practitioners (GPs) and patients in six countries with different health organization and different prevalence of antibiotic resistance.
GPs from two Nordic countries, two Baltic Countries and two Hispano-American countries registered patients with respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in 2008 and 2009. After first registration they received individual prescriber feedback and they were offered an intervention programme that included training courses, clinical guidelines, posters for waiting rooms, patient brochures and access to point of care tests (Strep A and C-Reactive Protein). Antibiotic prescribing rates were compared before and after the intervention.
A total of 440 GPs registered 47011 consultations; 24436 before the intervention (2008) and 22575 after the intervention (2009). After the intervention, the GPs significantly reduced the percentage of consultations resulting in an antibiotic prescription. In patients with lower RTI the GPs in Lithuania reduced the prescribing rate by 42%, in Russia by 25%, in Spain by 25%, and in Argentina by 9%. In patients with upper RTIs, the corresponding reductions in the antibiotic prescribing rates were in Lithania 20%, in Russia 15%, in Spain 9%, and in Argentina 5%.
A multifaceted intervention programme targeting GPs and patients and focusing on improving diagnostic procedures in patients with RTIs may lead to a marked reduction in antibiotic prescribing. The pragmatic before-after design used may suffer from some limitations and the reduction in antibiotic prescribing could be influenced by factors not related to the intervention.
PMCID: PMC3146837  PMID: 21689406
21.  Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy for dyspepsia: Εxploratory study of factors influencing patient compliance in Greece 
BMC Gastroenterology  2011;11:11.
Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is the most preferable diagnostic examination for patients over fifty when upper gastrointestinal symptoms appear. However, limited knowledge exists in concerns to the compliance of primary care patients' to the doctors' recommendations for endoscopy.
Patients who visited primary care practices in Greece and experienced upper gastrointestinal symptoms within a 10 days screening study, were referred for an upper endoscopy exam. The patients which refused to complete the endoscopy exam, were interviewed by the use of an open- ended translated and validated questionnaire, the Identification of Dyspepsia in General Population (IDGP) questionnaire. A qualitative thematic analysis grounded on the theory of planned behavior was performed to reveal the reasons for patients' refusal, while socio-demographic predictors were also assessed.
Nine hundred and ninety two patients were recorded, 159 of them (16%) were found positive for dyspepsia and gastro-esophageal reflux disease according to the IDGP questionnaire. Out of the above, 131 (83.6%) patients refused further investigation with endoscopy. Patients who refused upper endoscopy were predominantly female (87.8%) (p = 0.036) and over the age of 50. The lack of severe symptoms, fear of pain, concerns of sedation, comorbidity and competing life demands were reported by patients as barriers to performing an endoscopic investigation.
Patients with dyspepsia in rural Greece tend to avoid upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, with two major axons considered to be the causes of patients' refusal: their beliefs towards endoscopy and their personal capability to cope with it. Future research examining reasons of low compliance should be carried out in combination with modern behavioral theories so as to investigate into the above.
PMCID: PMC3042973  PMID: 21320314
23.  Bio-psychosocial determinants of cardiovascular disease in a rural population on Crete, Greece: formulating a hypothesis and designing the SPILI-III study 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:258.
In 1988, the SPILI project was established in order to evaluate the cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk profile of the inhabitants of Spili, in rural Crete, Greece. The first reports from this project revealed that against the unfavourable risk factors' profile observed, only a few men with a previous myocardial infarction were encountered. A follow-up study (SPILI II) was performed twelve years after the initial examination, and the unfavourable cardiovascular risk profile was re-confirmed.
Presentation of the Hypothesis
This paper presents a hypothesis formulated on the basis of previous research to investigate if dynamic psycho-social determinants, including social coherence of the local community, religiosity and spirituality, are protective against the development of coronary heart disease in a well-defined population.
Testing the Hypothesis
A follow-up examination of this Cretan cohort is currently being performed to assess the link between psychosocial factors and CVD. Psychosocial factors including sense of control, religiosity and spirituality are assessed in together with conventional CVD risk factors. Smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as dietary habits and activity levels are recorded. Oxidative stress and inflammatory markers, as well as ultrasound measurement of carotid intima media thickness, a preclinical marker of atherosclerosis, will also be measured.
Implications of the hypothesis tested
The issue of the cardio-protective effect of psycho-social factors would be revisited based on the results of this Cretan cohort; nevertheless, further research is needed across different sub-populations in order to establish a definite relationship. A comprehensive approach based on the aspects of bio-social life may result in more accurate CVD risk management.
PMCID: PMC2992030  PMID: 20937097
24.  A telehealth integrated asthma-COPD service for primary care: a proposal for a pilot feasibility study in Crete, Greece 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:198.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are considered underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed chronic diseases. In The Netherlands, a COPD-asthma telemedicine service has been developed to increase GPs' ability to diagnose and manage COPD and asthma. A telemedicine COPD-asthma service may benefit Greece as it is a country, partly due to its geography, that does not have easy access to pulmonologists.
Therefore, a pilot feasibility study has been designed in Greece in order to establish this telemedicine service. Ten rural practices, in the island of Crete, with an average population of 2000 patients per practice will pilot the project supported by three pulmonologists. This paper presents the translated interfaces, the flowcharts and the steps that are considered as necessary for this feasibility study in Crete, Greece.
PMCID: PMC2913926  PMID: 20633265
25.  Burnout and training satisfaction of medical residents in Greece: will the European Work Time Directive make a difference? 
The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence of burnout in Greek medical residents, investigate its relationship with training satisfaction during residency and survey Greek medical residents' opinion towards the European Work Time Directive (EWTD).
A Multi-centre, cross-sectional survey of Greek residents was performed. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) was used to measure burnout, which was defined as high emotional exhaustion, combined with high depersonalization or low personal accomplishment. In addition, seven questions were designed for this study to evaluate self-reported resident training satisfaction and three questions queried residents' opinion on the EWTD and its effects on their personal and social life as well as their medical training. Univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistical models were used for the evaluation of data.
Out of 311 respondents (77.8% response rate), 154 (49.5%) met burnout criteria and 99 (31.8%) indicated burnout on all three subscale scores. The number of residents that were dissatisfied with the overall quality of their residency training were 113 individuals (36.3%). Only 32 residents (10.3%) believed that the EWTD implementation will not have any beneficial effects for them.
Both burnout and training dissatisfaction were common among Greek residents. Systemic interventions are thus required within the Greek health system, aimed at reducing resident impairment due to burnout and at improving their educational and professional perspectives. Although residents' opinion on the EWTD was not associated with burnout levels, the EWTD was found to be predominantly supported and anticipated by Greek residents and should be implemented to alleviate their workload and stress.
PMCID: PMC2909970  PMID: 20594310

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