Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause lifelong disability, including physical, cognitive and behavioural deficits, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Among individuals with FASD, engagement with justice services is common. Little is known about the prevalence of FASD among young people engaged with the Australian justice system. This study aims to establish FASD prevalence among sentenced young people in detention in Western Australia (WA), and use the findings to develop a screening tool for use among young people entering detention. Translation of these results will guide the management and support of young people in detention and will have significant implications on the lives of young people with FASD and the future of Australian youth justice services.
Methods and analysis
Any sentenced young person in WA aged 10–17 years 11 months is eligible to participate. Young people are assessed for FASD by a multidisciplinary team. Standardised assessment tools refined for the Australian context are used, acknowledging the language and social complexities involved. Australian diagnostic guidelines for FASD will be applied. Information is obtained from young people, responsible adults, teachers and custodial officers. Individualised results and management plans for each young person are communicated to the young person and responsible adult. Prevalence of FASD will be reported and multivariate methods used to identify variables most predictive of FASD and to optimise the predictive value of screening.
Ethics and dissemination
Approvals have been granted by the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee, University of WA Human Research Ethics Committee, Department of Corrective Services, and Department for Child Protection and Family Support. Anonymised findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed manuscripts, presentations and the media. Extensive consultation with stakeholders (including government agencies, detention centre staff, community service providers, the young people and their families or carers) will be ongoing until findings are disseminated and translated.
Prenatal alcohol exposure is an important modifiable cause of adverse fetal outcomes during and following pregnancy. Midwives are key providers of antenatal care, and it is important to understand the factors which influence their ability to provide appropriate advice and support to women about alcohol use in pregnancy. The main aim of this study was to develop a psychometrically valid scale to evaluate midwives’ beliefs about assessing alcohol use during pregnancy.
A self-administered questionnaire was developed to evaluate midwives’ beliefs about assessing alcohol use during pregnancy, including beliefs about positive and negative consequences of asking about alcohol use, and beliefs about capacity to assess alcohol use. The questionnaire was sent to 245 midwives working for a state-wide country health service in Western Australia. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify the latent constructs assessed by the 36 belief items and provide initial construct validation of the Asking About Alcohol (AAA) Scale.
Of the 166 (67.8 %) midwives who responded to the survey, 160 (96.4 %) completed one or more of the belief items and were included in this analysis. Factor analysis identified six subscales which assessed beliefs about discomfort, capacity, effectiveness, role, trust and knowledge. Midwives held the most positive beliefs about their capacity to ask and the effectiveness of asking about alcohol use, and the least positive beliefs about women’s knowledge about alcohol use and discomfort associated with asking about alcohol use in pregnancy. Midwives’ beliefs about their role and the effectiveness of asking were most strongly associated with the intention to ask all pregnant women about alcohol use during pregnancy (r = −0.59, p < 0.001 and r = −0.52, p < 0.001).
Our analysis has identified key constructs underlying midwives’ beliefs about the assessment of alcohol use during pregnancy. The AAA Scale provides a basis for improved clarity and consistency in the conceptualisation and measurement of midwives’ beliefs which can be used to enhance our understanding of factors influencing midwives’ ability to deliver interventions to prevent alcohol use during pregnancy. The constructs identified in this exploratory analysis require confirmatory analysis to support their validity and generalizability.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0779-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Midwives; Beliefs; Alcohol; Pregnancy; Prevention
To evaluate health professionals' agreement with components of published diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in order to guide the development of standard diagnostic guidelines for Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess agreement among health professionals with expertise or experience in FASD screening or diagnosis. An online survey, which included 36 Likert statements on diagnostic methods, was administered over two survey rounds. For fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), health professionals were presented with concepts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), University of Washington (UW), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), revised IOM and Canadian diagnostic criteria. For partial FAS (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), concepts based on the IOM and the Canadian diagnostic criteria were compared.
130 Australian and 9 international health professionals.
Of 139 health professionals invited to complete the survey, 103 (74.1%) responded, and 74 (53.2%) completed one or more questions on diagnostic criteria. We found consensus agreement among participants on the diagnostic criteria for FAS, with the UW criteria most commonly endorsed when compared with all other published criteria for FAS. When health professionals were presented with concepts based on the Canadian and IOM diagnostic criteria, we found consensus agreement but no clear preference for either the Canadian or IOM criteria for the diagnosis of PFAS, and no consensus agreement on diagnostic criteria for ARND. We also found no consensus on the IOM diagnostic criteria for ARBD.
Participants indicated clear support for use of the UW diagnostic criteria for FAS in Australia. These findings should be used to develop guidelines to facilitate improved awareness of, and address identified gaps in the infrastructure for, FASD diagnosis in Australia.
Midwives are an influential profession and a key group in informing women about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its consequences. There are no current quantitative Australian data on midwives’ knowledge, attitudes and practice in relation to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. We aimed to reduce this knowledge gap by understanding midwives’ perceptions of their practice in addressing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
This cross-sectional study was conducted at 19 maternity sites across the seven health regions of country Western Australia. A questionnaire was designed following review of the literature and other relevant surveys. Midwifery managers of the maternity sites distributed questionnaires to all midwives working in their line of management. A total of 334 midwives were invited to participate in the research and (n = 245, 73.4%) of these were eligible.
The response fraction was (n = 166, 67.8%). Nearly all (n = 151, 93.2%) midwives asked pregnant women about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy and (n = 164, 99.4%) offered advice about alcohol consumption in accordance with the Australian Alcohol Guideline, which states “For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option”. Nearly two thirds (n = 104, 64.2%) of the midwives informed pregnant women about the effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, they did not always use the recommended AUDIT screening tool (n = 66, 47.5%) to assess alcohol consumption during pregnancy, nor conduct brief intervention when indicated (n = 107, 70.4%). Most midwives endorsed professional development about screening tools (n = 145, 93.5%), brief intervention (n = 144, 92.9%), and alcohol consumption during pregnancy and FASD (n = 144, 92.9%).
Nearly all midwives in this study asked and advised about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and around two thirds provided information about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. Our findings support the need for further professional development for midwives on screening and brief intervention. Policy should support midwives’ practice to screen for alcohol consumption in pregnancy and offer brief intervention when indicated.
Midwives; Knowledge; Attitude; Practice; Alcohol; Pregnancy; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is known to be under-recognised in Australia. The use of standard methods to identify when to refer individuals who may have FASD for specialist assessment could help improve the identification of this disorder. The purpose of this study was to develop referral criteria for use in Australia.
An online survey about FASD screening and diagnosis in Australia, which included 23 statements describing criteria for referral for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD based on published recommendations for referral in North America, was sent to 139 health professionals who had expertise or involvement in FASD screening or diagnosis. Survey findings and published criteria for referral were subsequently reviewed by a panel of 14 investigators at a consensus development workshop where criteria for referral were developed.
Among the 139 health professionals who were sent the survey, 103 (74%) responded, and 90 (65%) responded to the statements on criteria for referral. Over 80% of respondents agreed that referral for specialist evaluation should occur when there is evidence of significant prenatal alcohol exposure, defined as 7 or more standard drinks per week and at least 3 standard drinks on any one day, and more than 70% agreed with 13 of the 16 statements that described criteria for referral other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Workshop participants recommended five independent criteria for referral: confirmed significant prenatal alcohol exposure; microcephaly and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 2 or more significant central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 3 characteristic FAS facial anomalies; and 1 characteristic FAS facial anomaly, growth deficit and 1 or more CNS abnormalities.
Referral criteria recommended for use in Australia are similar to those recommended in North America. There is a need to develop resources to raise awareness of these criteria among health professionals and evaluate their feasibility, acceptability and capacity to improve the identification of FASD in Australia.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Referral; Consensus
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are underdiagnosed in Australia, and health professionals have endorsed the need for national guidelines for diagnosis. The aim of this study was to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
A panel of 13 health professionals, researchers, and consumer and community representatives with relevant expertise attended a 2-day consensus development workshop to review evidence on the screening and diagnosis of FASD obtained from a systematic literature review, a national survey of health professionals and community group discussions. The nominal group technique and facilitated discussion were used to review the evidence on screening and diagnosis, and to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
The use of population-based screening for FASD was not recommended. However, there was consensus support for the development of standard criteria for referral for specialist diagnostic assessment. Participants developed consensus recommendations for diagnostic categories, criteria and assessment methods, based on the adaption of elements from both the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code and the Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis. Panel members also recommended the development of resources to: facilitate consistency in referral and diagnostic practices, including comprehensive clinical guidelines and assessment instruments; and to support individuals undergoing assessment and their parents or carers.
These consensus recommendations provide a foundation for the development of guidelines and other resources to promote consistency in the diagnosis of FASD in Australia. Guidelines for diagnosis will require review and evaluation in the Australian context prior to national implementation as well as periodic review to incorporate new knowledge.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
Australia’s commitment to consumer and community participation in health and medical research has grown over the past decade. Participatory research models of engagement are the most empowering for consumers.
As part of a project to develop a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia (FASD Project), the Australian FASD Collaboration (Collaboration), including a consumer advocate and two consumer representatives, was established. On completion of the FASD Project an on-line survey of Collaboration members was conducted to assess their views on consumer involvement. Women in the community were also invited to participate in Community Conversations to discuss real life situations regarding communications with health professionals about alcohol and pregnancy. Community Conversation feedback was analysed qualitatively and attendees were surveyed about their views of the Community Conversation process.
The on-line survey was completed by 12 members of the Collaboration (71%). Consumer and community participation was considered important and essential, worked well, and was integral to the success of the project. The 32 women attending the Community Conversations generated 500 statements that made reference to prevention, how information and messages are delivered, and appropriate support for women. Nearly all the attendees at the Community Conversations (93%) believed that they had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and 96% viewed the Community Conversations as a positive experience.
The successful involvement of consumers and the community in the FASD Project can be attributed to active consumer and community participation, which included continued involvement throughout the project, funding of participation activities, and an understanding of the various contributions by the Collaboration members.
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
National notification data for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) continue to have a high proportion of missing data on Indigenous status, potentially biasing estimates of notification rates by Aboriginality. We evaluated the use of data linkage to improve the accuracy of estimated notification rates for STIs and BBVs in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups in Western Australia.
STI and BBV case notifications in Western Australia received in 2010 were linked with administrative health data collections in Western Australia to obtain additional data on Indigenous status. STI and BBV notification rates based on the pre- and post-linkage data among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups were compared.
Data linkage decreased the proportion of notifications with unknown Indigenous status by 74% from 10.2% to 2.7%. There was no significant difference in disease-specific age-adjusted notification rate ratio estimates based on pre-linkage data and post-linkage data for Aboriginal people compared with non-Aboriginal people.
Our findings suggest that reported STI and BBV disease-specific age-adjusted notification rates for 2010 in Western Australia are unlikely to be significantly biased by excluding notifications with unknown Indigenous status. This finding is likely to be dependent on recent improvements in the reporting of Indigenous status in notification data in Western Australia. Cost-effective and systematic solutions, including the better use of existing data linkage resources, are required to facilitate continued improvement in the completeness of reporting and accuracy of estimates for notifiable STIs and BBVs in Australia by Aboriginality.
There is little reliable information on the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia and no coordinated national approach to facilitate case detection. The aim of this study was to identify health professionals’ perceptions about screening for FASD in Australia.
A modified Delphi process was used to assess perceptions of the need for, and the process of, screening for FASD in Australia. We recruited a panel of 130 Australian health professionals with experience or expertise in FASD screening or diagnosis. A systematic review of the literature was used to develop Likert statements on screening coverage, components and assessment methods which were administered using an online survey over two survey rounds.
Of the panel members surveyed, 95 (73%) responded to the questions on screening in the first survey round and, of these, 81 (85%) responded to the second round. Following two rounds there was consensus agreement on the need for targeted screening at birth (76%) and in childhood (84%). Participants did not reach consensus agreement on the need for universal screening at birth (55%) or in childhood (40%). Support for targeted screening was linked to perceived constraints on service provision and the need to examine the performance, costs and benefits of screening.
For targeted screening of high risk groups, we found highest agreement for siblings of known cases of FASD (96%) and children of mothers attending alcohol treatment services (93%). Participants agreed that screening for FASD primarily requires assessment of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth (86%) and in childhood (88%), and that a checklist is needed to identify the components of screening and criteria for referral at birth (84%) and in childhood (90%).
There is an agreed need for targeted but not universal screening for FASD in Australia, and sufficient consensus among health professionals to warrant development and evaluation of standardised methods for targeted screening and referral in the Australian context. Participants emphasised the need for locally-appropriate, evidence-based approaches to facilitate case detection, and the importance of ensuring that screening and referral programs are supported by adequate diagnostic and management capacity.
Despite the availability of five guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is no national endorsement for their use in diagnosis in Australia. In this study we aimed to describe health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia and identify implications for the development of national guidelines.
We surveyed 130 Australian and 9 international health professionals with expertise or involvement in the screening or diagnosis of FASD. An online questionnaire was used to evaluate participants’ familiarity with and use of five existing diagnostic guidelines for FASD, and to assess their perceptions about the adoption of these guidelines in Australia.
Of the 139 participants surveyed, 84 Australian and 8 international health professionals (66.2%) responded to the questions on existing diagnostic guidelines. Participants most frequently reported using the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code (27.2%) and the Canadian guidelines (18.5%) for diagnosis. These two guidelines were also most frequently recommended for adoption in Australia: 32.5% of the 40 participants who were familiar with the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia, and 30.8% of the 26 participants who were familiar with the Canadian guidelines recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia. However, for the majority of guidelines examined, most participants were unsure whether they should be adopted in Australia. The adoption of existing guidelines in Australia was perceived to be limited by: their lack of evidence base, including the appropriateness of established reference standards for the Australian population; their complexity; the need for training and support to use the guidelines; and the lack of an interdisciplinary and interagency model to support service delivery in Australia.
Participants indicated some support for the adoption of the University of Washington or Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis; however, concerns were raised about the adoption of these diagnostic guidelines in their current form. Australian diagnostic guidelines will require evaluation to establish their validity in the Australian context, and a comprehensive implementation model is needed to facilitate improved diagnostic capacity in Australia.
Pre-travel health assessments aim to promote risk reduction through preventive measures and safe behavior, including ensuring travelers are up-to-date with their immunizations. However, studies assessing pre-travel health-seeking practices from a variety of medical and non-medical sources and vaccine uptake prior to travel to both developing and developed countries within the Asia-Pacific region are scarce.
Cross-sectional surveys were conducted between July and December 2007 to assess pre-travel health seeking practices, including advice from health professionals, health information from other sources and vaccine uptake, in a sample of travelers departing Sydney and Bangkok airports. A two-stage cluster sampling technique was used to ensure representativeness of travelers and travel destinations. Pre-travel health seeking practices were assessed using a self-administered questionnaire distributed at the check-in queues of departing flights. Logistic regression models were used to identify significant factors associated with seeking pre-travel health advice from a health professional, reported separately for Australian residents, residents of other Western countries and residents of countries in Asia.
A total of 843 surveys were included in the final sample (Sydney 729, response rate 56%; Bangkok 114, response rate 60%). Overall, pre-travel health information from any source was sought by 415 (49%) respondents with 298 (35%) seeking pre-travel advice from a health professional, the majority through general practice. Receipt of a pre-travel vaccine was reported by 100 (12%) respondents. Significant factors associated with seeking pre-travel health advice from a health professional differed by region of residence. Asian travelers were less likely to report seeking pre-travel health advice and uptake of pre-travel vaccines than Australian or other Western travelers. Migrant Australians were less likely to report seeking pre-travel health advice than Australian-born travelers.
This study highlights differences in health-seeking practices including the uptake of pre-travel health advice by region of residence and country of birth. There is a public health need to identify strategies targeting these travel groups. This includes the promotion of affordable and accessible travel clinics in low resource countries as traveler numbers increase and travel health promotion targeting migrant groups in high resource countries. General practitioners should play a central role. Determining the most appropriate strategies for increasing pre-travel health preparation, particularly for vaccine preventable diseases in travelers is the next stage in advancing travel medicine research.
Prison populations are known to be at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs). In accordance with State health guidelines, the Western Australian Department of Correctional Services' policy is to offer testing for STIs and BBVs to all new prison entrants. This audit was undertaken to assess the completeness and timeliness of STI and BBV testing among recent prison entrants in Western Australia, and estimate the prevalence of STIs and BBVs on admission to prison.
A retrospective audit of prison medical records was conducted among 946 individuals admitted to prison in Western Australia after the 1st January 2005, and discharged between the 1st January and 31st December 2007 inclusive. Quota sampling was used to ensure adequate sampling of females, juveniles, and individuals from regional prisons. Main outcomes of interest were the proportion of prisoners undergoing STI and BBV testing, and the prevalence of STIs and BBVs.
Approximately half the sample underwent testing for the STIs chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and almost 40% underwent testing for at least one BBV. Completeness of chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing was significantly higher among juveniles (84.1%) compared with adults (39.8%; p < 0.001), and Aboriginal prisoners (58.3%) compared with non-Aboriginal prisoners (40.4%; p < 0.001). Completeness of BBV testing was significantly higher among adults (46.5%) compared with juveniles (15.8%; p < 0.001) and males (43.3%) compared with females (33.1%; p = 0.001). Among prisoners who underwent testing, 7.3% had a positive chlamydia test result and 24.8% had a positive hepatitis C test result.
The documented coverage of STI and BBV testing among prisoners in Western Australia is not comprehensive, and varies significantly by age, gender and Aboriginality. Given the high prevalence of STIs and BBVs among prisoners, increased test coverage is required to ensure optimal use of the opportunity that prison admission presents for the treatment and control of STIs and BBVs among this high risk group.
World Health Organization (WHO) targets for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance, including the notification of a minimum rate of AFP among children, are used to assess the adequacy of AFP surveillance for the detection of poliovirus infection. Sensitive surveillance for poliovirus infection in both developed and developing countries is essential to support global disease eradication efforts. We applied recently developed methods for the quantitative evaluation of disease surveillance systems to evaluate the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for poliovirus infection in Australia.
A scenario tree model which accounted for administrative region, age, population immunity, the likelihood of AFP, and the probability of notification and stool sampling was used to assess the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for wild poliovirus infection among children aged less than 15 years in Australia. The analysis was based on historical surveillance data collected between 2000 and 2005. We used a surveillance time period of one month, and evaluated the ability of the surveillance system to detect poliovirus infection at a prevalence of 1 case per 100 000 persons and 1 case per million persons.
There was considerable variation in the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for poliovirus infection among Australian States and Territories. The estimated median sensitivity of AFP surveillance in Australia among children aged less than 15 years was 8.2% per month at a prevalence of 1 case per 100,000 population, and 0.9% per month at a prevalence of 1 case per million population. The probability that Australia is free from poliovirus infection given negative surveillance findings following 5 years of continuous surveillance was 96.9% at a prevalence of 1 case per 100,000 persons and 56.5% at a prevalence of 1 case per million persons.
Given the ongoing risk of poliovirus importation prior to global eradication, long term surveillance is required to provide a high degree of confidence in freedom from poliovirus infection in Australia, particularly if a low prevalence of infection is assumed. Adherence to the WHO surveillance targets would considerably improve the sensitivity of surveillance for poliovirus infection in Australia.
Routine surveillance of disease notification data can enable the early detection of localised disease outbreaks. Although hidden Markov models (HMMs) have been recognised as an appropriate method to model disease surveillance data, they have been rarely applied in public health practice. We aimed to develop and evaluate a simple flexible HMM for disease surveillance which is suitable for use with sparse small area count data and requires little baseline data.
A Bayesian HMM was designed to monitor routinely collected notifiable disease data that are aggregated by residential postcode. Semi-synthetic data were used to evaluate the algorithm and compare outbreak detection performance with the established Early Aberration Reporting System (EARS) algorithms and a negative binomial cusum.
Algorithm performance varied according to the desired false alarm rate for surveillance. At false alarm rates around 0.05, the cusum-based algorithms provided the best overall outbreak detection performance, having similar sensitivity to the HMMs and a shorter average time to detection. At false alarm rates around 0.01, the HMM algorithms provided the best overall outbreak detection performance, having higher sensitivity than the cusum-based Methods and a generally shorter time to detection for larger outbreaks. Overall, the 14-day HMM had a significantly greater area under the receiver operator characteristic curve than the EARS C3 and 7-day negative binomial cusum algorithms.
Our findings suggest that the HMM provides an effective method for the surveillance of sparse small area notifiable disease data at low false alarm rates. Further investigations are required to evaluation algorithm performance across other diseases and surveillance contexts.
The automated monitoring of routinely collected disease surveillance data has the potential to ensure that important changes in disease incidence are promptly recognised. However, few studies have established whether the signals produced by automated monitoring methods correspond with events considered by epidemiologists to be of public health importance. This study investigates the correspondence between retrospective epidemiological evaluation of notifications of Ross River virus (RRv) disease in Western Australia, and the signals produced by two cumulative sum (cusum)-based automated monitoring methods.
RRv disease case notification data between 1991 and 2004 were assessed retrospectively by two experienced epidemiologists, and the timing of identified outbreaks was compared with signals generated from two different types of cusum-based automated monitoring algorithms; the three Early Aberration Reporting System (EARS) cusum algorithms (C1, C2 and C3), and a negative binomial cusum.
We found the negative binomial cusum to have a significantly greater area under the receiver operator characteristic curve when compared with the EARS algorithms, suggesting that the negative binomial cusum has a greater level of agreement with epidemiological opinion than the EARS algorithms with respect to the existence of outbreaks of RRv disease, particularly at low false alarm rates. However, the performance of individual EARS and negative binomial cusum algorithms were not significantly different when timeliness was also incorporated into the area under the curve analyses.
Our retrospective analysis of historical data suggests that, compared with the EARS algorithms, the negative binomial cusum provides greater sensitivity for the detection of outbreaks of RRv disease at low false alarm levels, and decreased timeliness early in the outbreak period. Prospective studies are required to investigate the potential usefulness of these algorithms in practice.
Routinely collected infectious disease surveillance data provide a valuable means to monitor the health of populations. Notifiable disease surveillance systems in Australia have consistently reported high levels of completeness for the demographic data fields of age and sex, but low levels of completeness for Aboriginality data. Significant amounts of missing data associated with case notifications can introduce bias in the estimation of disease rates by population subgroups. The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the use of data linkage to improve the accuracy of estimated notification rates for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups in Western Australia.
Probabilistic methods were used to link disease notification data received in Western Australia in 2004 with core population health datasets from the established Western Australian Data Linkage System. A comparative descriptive analysis of STI and BBV notification rates according to Aboriginality was conducted based on the original and supplemented notification datasets.
Using data linkage, the proportion of STI and BBV notifications with missing Aboriginality data was reduced by 74 per cent. Compared with excluding notifications with unknown Aboriginality data from the analysis, or apportioning notifications with unknown Aboriginality based on the proportion of cases with known Aboriginality, the rate ratios of chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C among Aboriginal relative to non-Aboriginal people decreased when Aboriginality data from data linkage was included.
Although there is still a high incidence of STIs and BBVs in Aboriginal people, incompleteness of Aboriginality data contributes to overestimation of the risk associated with Aboriginality for these diseases. Data linkage can be effectively used to improve the accuracy of estimated disease notification rates.
In recent years, influenza surveillance data has expanded to include alternative sources such as emergency department data, absenteeism reports, pharmaceutical sales, website access and health advice calls. This study presents a review of alternative data sources for influenza surveillance, summarizes the time advantage or timeliness of each source relative to traditional reporting and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches.
A literature search was conducted on Medline to identify relevant articles published after 1990. A total of 15 articles were obtained that reported the timeliness of an influenza surveillance system. Timeliness was described by peak comparison, aberration detection comparison and correlation.
Overall, the data sources were highly correlated with traditional sources and had variable timeliness. Over-the-counter pharmaceutical sales, emergency visits, absenteeism and health calls appear to be more timely than physician diagnoses, sentinel influenza-like-illness surveillance and virological confirmation.
The methods used to describe timeliness vary greatly between studies and hence no strong conclusions regarding the most timely source/s of data can be reached. Future studies should apply the aberration detection method to determine data source timeliness in preference to the peak comparison method and correlation.
Community-wide preparedness for pandemic influenza is an issue that has featured prominently in the recent news media, and is currently a priority for health authorities in many countries. The small and medium business sector is a major provider of private sector employment in Australia, yet we have little information about the preparedness of this sector for pandemic influenza. This study aimed to investigate the association between individual perceptions and preparedness for pandemic influenza among small and medium business owners and managers.
Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 201 small and medium business owners or managers in New South Wales and Western Australia. Eligible small or medium businesses were defined as those that had less than 200 employees. Binomial logistic regression analysis was used to identify the predictors of having considered the impact of, having a plan for, and needing help to prepare for pandemic influenza.
Approximately 6 per cent of participants reported that their business had a plan for pandemic influenza, 39 per cent reported that they had not thought at all about the impact of pandemic influenza on their business, and over 60 per cent stated that they required help to prepare for a pandemic. Beliefs about the severity of pandemic influenza and the ability to respond were significant independent predictors of having a plan for pandemic influenza, and the perception of the risk of pandemic influenza was the most important predictor of both having considered the impact of, and needing help to prepare for a pandemic.
Our findings suggest that small and medium businesses in Australia are not currently well prepared for pandemic influenza. We found that beliefs about the risk, severity, and the ability to respond effectively to the threat of pandemic influenza are important predictors of preparedness. Campaigns targeting small and medium businesses should emphasise the severity of the consequences to their businesses if a pandemic were to occur, and, at the same time, reassure them that there are effective strategies capable of being implemented by small and medium businesses to deal with a pandemic.
The ability to detect disease outbreaks in their early stages is a key component of efficient disease control and prevention. With the increased availability of electronic health-care data and spatio-temporal analysis techniques, there is great potential to develop algorithms to enable more effective disease surveillance. However, to ensure that the algorithms are effective they need to be evaluated. The objective of this research was to develop a transparent user-friendly method to simulate spatial-temporal disease outbreak data for outbreak detection algorithm evaluation.
A state-transition model which simulates disease outbreaks in daily time steps using specified disease-specific parameters was developed to model the spread of infectious diseases transmitted by person-to-person contact. The software was developed using the MapBasic programming language for the MapInfo Professional geographic information system environment.
The simulation model developed is a generalised and flexible model which utilises the underlying distribution of the population and incorporates patterns of disease spread that can be customised to represent a range of infectious diseases and geographic locations. This model provides a means to explore the ability of outbreak detection algorithms to detect a variety of events across a large number of stochastic replications where the influence of uncertainty can be controlled. The software also allows historical data which is free from known outbreaks to be combined with simulated outbreak data to produce files for algorithm performance assessment.
This simulation model provides a flexible method to generate data which may be useful for the evaluation and comparison of outbreak detection algorithm performance.
An increasing number of methods are being developed for the early detection of infectious disease outbreaks which could be naturally occurring or as a result of bioterrorism; however, no standardised framework for examining the usefulness of various outbreak detection methods exists. To promote comparability between studies, it is essential that standardised methods are developed for the evaluation of outbreak detection methods.
This analysis aims to review approaches used to evaluate outbreak detection methods and provide a conceptual framework upon which recommendations for standardised evaluation methods can be based. We reviewed the recently published literature for reports which evaluated methods for the detection of infectious disease outbreaks in public health surveillance data. Evaluation methods identified in the recent literature were categorised according to the presence of common features to provide a conceptual basis within which to understand current approaches to evaluation.
There was considerable variation in the approaches used for the evaluation of methods for the detection of outbreaks in public health surveillance data, and appeared to be no single approach of choice. Four main approaches were used to evaluate performance, and these were labelled the Descriptive, Derived, Epidemiological and Simulation approaches. Based on the approaches identified, we propose a basic framework for evaluation and recommend the use of multiple approaches to evaluation to enable a comprehensive and contextualised description of outbreak detection performance.
The varied nature of performance evaluation demonstrated in this review supports the need for further development of evaluation methods to improve comparability between studies. Our findings indicate that no single approach can fulfil all evaluation requirements. We propose that the cornerstone approaches to evaluation identified provide key contributions to support internal and external validity and comparability of study findings, and suggest these be incorporated into future recommendations for performance assessment.