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1.  What factors determine Belgian general practitioners’ approaches to detecting and managing substance abuse? A qualitative study based on the I-Change Model 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:119.
General practitioners (GPs) are considered to play a major role in detecting and managing substance abuse. However, little is known about how or why they decide to manage it. This study investigated the factors that influence GP behaviours with regard to the abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, hypnotics, and tranquilisers among working Belgians.
Twenty Belgian GPs were interviewed. De Vries’ Integrated Change Model was used to guide the interviews and qualitative data analyses.
GPs perceived higher levels of substance abuse in urban locations and among lower socioeconomic groups. Guidelines, if they existed, were primarily used in Flanders. Specific training was unevenly applied but considered useful. GPs who accepted abuse management cited strong interpersonal skills and available multidisciplinary networks as facilitators.
GPs relied on their clinical common sense to detect abuse or initiate management. Specific patients’ situations and their social, psychological, or professional dysfunctions were cited as cues to action.
GPs were strongly influenced by their personal representations of abuse, which included the balance between their professional responsibilities toward their patients and the patients’ responsibilities in managing their own health as well the GPs’ abilities to cope with unsatisfying patient outcomes without reaching professional exhaustion. GPs perceived substance abuse along a continuum ranging from a chronic disease (whose management was part of their responsibility) to a moral failing of untrustworthy people. Alcohol and cannabis were more socially acceptable than other drugs. Personal experiences of emotional burdens (including those regarding substance abuse) increased feelings of empathy or rejection toward patients.
Multidisciplinary practices and professional experiences were cited as important factors with regard to engaging GPs in substance abuse management. Time constraints and personal investments were cited as important barriers.
Satisfaction with treatment was rare.
Motivational factors, including subjective beliefs not supported by the literature, were central in deciding whether to manage cases of substance abuse. A lack of theoretical knowledge and training were secondary to personal attitudes and motivation. Personal development, emotional health, self-awareness, and self-care should be taught to and fostered among GPs to help them maintain a patient-centred focus. Health authorities should support collaborative care.
PMCID: PMC4064261  PMID: 24927958
General practitioners; Substance abuse; Attitudes of health personnel; Motivation; I-Change Model
2.  Work ability assessment in a worker population: comparison and determinants of Work Ability Index and Work Ability score 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:305.
Public authorities in European countries are paying increasing attention to the promotion of work ability throughout working life and the best method to monitor work ability in populations of workers is becoming a significant question. The present study aims to compare the assessment of work ability based on the use of the Work Ability Index (WAI), a 7-item questionnaire, with another one based on the use of WAI’s first item, which consists in the worker’s self-assessment of his/her current work ability level as opposed to his/her lifetime best, this single question being termed “Work Ability score” (WAS).
Using a database created by an occupational health service, the study intends to answer the following questions: could the assessment of work ability be based on a single-item measure and which are the variables significantly associated with self-reported work ability among those systematically recorded by the occupational physician during health examinations? A logistic regression model was used in order to estimate the probability of observing “poor” or “moderate” WAI levels depending on age, gender, body mass index, smoking status, position held, firm size and diseases reported by the worker in a population of workers aged 40 to 65 and examined between January 2006 and June 2010 (n=12389).
The convergent validity between WAS and WAI was statistically significant (rs=0.63). In the multivariable model, age (p<0.001), reported diseases (OR=1.13, 95%CI [1.11-1.15]) and holding a position mostly characterized by physical activity (OR=1.67, 95%CI [1.49-1.87]) increased the probability of reporting moderate or poor work ability. A work position characterized by the predominance of mental activity (OR=0.71, 95%CI [0.61-0.84]) had a favourable impact on work ability. These relations were observed regardless of the work ability measurement tool used.
The convergent validity and the similarity in results between WAI and WAS observed in a large population of employed workers should thus foster the use of WAS for systematic screening of work ability. Ageing, overweight, decline in health status, holding a mostly physical job and working in a large-sized firm increase the risk of presenting moderate or poor work ability.
PMCID: PMC3637198  PMID: 23565883
Ageing workers; Health surveillance; Occupational health; Perceived health; Work ability
3.  Physical characteristics of the back are not predictive of low back pain in healthy workers: A prospective study 
In the working population, back disorders are an important reason for sick leave and permanent work inability. In the context of fitting the job to the worker, one of the primary tasks of the occupational health physician is to evaluate the balance between work-related and individual variables. Since this evaluation of work capacity often consists of a physical examination of the back, the objective of this study was to investigate whether a physical examination of the low back, which is routinely performed in occupational medicine, predicts the development of low back pain (LBP).
This study is part of the Belgian Low Back Cohort (BelCoBack) Study, a prospective study to identify risk factors for the development of low back disorders in occupational settings. The study population for this paper were 692 young healthcare or distribution workers (mean age of 26 years) with no or limited back antecedents in the year before inclusion. At baseline, these workers underwent a standardised physical examination of the low back. One year later, they completed a questionnaire on the occurrence of LBP and some of its characteristics. To study the respective role of predictors at baseline on the occurrence of LBP, we opted for Cox regression with a constant risk period. Analyses were performed separately for workers without any back antecedents in the year before inclusion ('asymptomatic' workers) and for workers with limited back antecedents in the year before inclusion ('mildly symptomatic' workers).
In the group of 'asymptomatic' workers, obese workers showed a more than twofold-increased risk on the development of LBP as compared to non-obese colleagues (RR 2.57, 95%CI: 1.09 – 6.09). In the group of 'mildly symptomatic' workers, the self-reports of pain before the examination turned out to be most predictive (RR 3.89, 95%CI: 1.20 – 12.64).
This study showed that, in a population of young workers wh no or limited antecedents of LBP at baseline, physical examinations, as routinely assessed in occupational medicine, are not useful to predict workers at risk for the development of back disorders one year later.
PMCID: PMC2630962  PMID: 19123931

Results 1-3 (3)