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2.  Clinical peripherality: development of a peripherality index for rural health services 
The configuration of rural health services is influenced by geography. Rural health practitioners provide a broader range of services to smaller populations scattered over wider areas or more difficult terrain than their urban counterparts. This has implications for training and quality assurance of outcomes. This exploratory study describes the development of a "clinical peripherality" indicator that has potential application to remote and rural general practice communities for planning and research purposes.
Profiles of general practice communities in Scotland were created from a variety of public data sources. Four candidate variables were chosen that described demographic and geographic characteristics of each practice: population density, number of patients on the practice list, travel time to nearest specialist led hospital and travel time to Health Board administrative headquarters. A clinical peripherality index, based on these variables, was derived using factor analysis. Relationships between the clinical peripherality index and services offered by the practices and the staff profile of the practices were explored in a series of univariate analyses.
Factor analysis on the four candidate variables yielded a robust one-factor solution explaining 75% variance with factor loadings ranging from 0.83 to 0.89. Rural and remote areas had higher median values and a greater scatter of clinical peripherality indices among their practices than an urban comparison area. The range of services offered and the profile of staffing of practices was associated with the peripherality index.
Clinical peripherality is determined by the nature of the practice and its location relative to secondary care and administrative and educational facilities. It has features of both gravity model-based and travel time/accessibility indicators and has the potential to be applied to training of staff for rural and remote locations and to other aspects of health policy and planning. It may assist planners in conceptualising the effects on general practices of centralising specialist clinical services or administrative and educational facilities.
PMCID: PMC2246121  PMID: 18221533
3.  Cancer risk among users of oral contraceptives: cohort data from the Royal College of General Practitioner's oral contraception study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2007;335(7621):651.
Objective To examine the absolute risks or benefits on cancer associated with oral contraception, using incident data.
Design Inception cohort study.
Setting Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Participants Directly standardised data from the Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study.
Main outcome measures Adjusted relative risks between never and ever users of oral contraceptives for different types of cancer, main gynaecological cancers combined, and any cancer. Standardisation variables were age, smoking, parity, social class, and (for the general practitioner observation dataset) hormone replacement therapy. Subgroup analyses examined whether the relative risks changed with user characteristics, duration of oral contraception usage, and time since last use of oral contraception.
Results The main dataset contained about 339 000 woman years of observation for never users and 744 000 woman years for ever users. Compared with never users ever users had statistically significant lower rates of cancers of the large bowel or rectum, uterine body, and ovaries, tumours of unknown site, and other malignancies; main gynaecological cancers combined; and any cancer. The relative risk for any cancer in the smaller general practitioner observation dataset was not significantly reduced. Statistically significant trends of increasing risk of cervical and central nervous system or pituitary cancer, and decreasing risk of uterine body and ovarian malignancies, were seen with increasing duration of oral contraceptive use. Reduced relative risk estimates were observed for ovarian and uterine body cancer many years after stopping oral contraception, although some were not statistically significant. The estimated absolute rate reduction of any cancer among ever users was 45 or 10 per 100 000 woman years, depending on whether the main or general practitioner observation dataset was used.
Conclusion In this UK cohort, oral contraception was not associated with an overall increased risk of cancer; indeed it may even produce a net public health gain. The balance of cancer risks and benefits, however, may vary internationally, depending on patterns of oral contraception usage and the incidence of different cancers.
PMCID: PMC1995533  PMID: 17855280
4.  Changes in Scottish suicide rates during the Second World War 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:167.
It is believed that total reported suicide rates tend to decrease during wartime. However, analysis of suicide rates during recent conflicts suggests a more complex picture, with increases in some age groups and changes in method choice. As few age and gender specific analyses of more distant conflicts have been conducted, it is not clear if these findings reflect a change in the epidemiology of suicide in wartime. Therefore, we examined suicide rates in Scotland before, during and after the Second World War to see if similar features were present.
Data on deaths in Scotland recorded as suicide during the period 1931 – 1952, and population estimates for each of these years, were obtained from the General Register Office for Scotland. Using computer spreadsheets, suicide rates by gender, age and method were calculated. Forward stepwise logistic regression was used to assess the effect of gender, war and year on suicide rates using SAS V8.2.
The all-age suicide rate among both men and women declined during the period studied. However, when this long-term decline is taken into account, the likelihood of suicide during the Second World War was higher than during both the pre-War and post-War periods. Suicide rates among men aged 15–24 years rose during the Second World War, peaking at 148 per million (41 deaths) during 1942 before declining to 39 per million (10 deaths) by 1945, while the rate among men aged 25–34 years reached 199 per million (43 deaths) during 1943 before falling to 66 per million (23 deaths) by 1946. This was accompanied by an increase in male suicides attributable to firearms and explosives during the War years which decreased following its conclusion.
All age male and female suicide rates decreased in Scotland during World War II. However, once the general background decrease in suicide rates over the whole period is accounted for, the likelihood of suicide among the entire Scottish population during the Second World War was elevated. The overall decrease in suicide rates concealed large increases in younger male age groups during the War years, and an increase in male suicides recorded as due to the use of firearms. We conclude that the effects of war on younger people, reported in recent conflicts in Central Europe, were also seen in Scotland during the Second World War. The results support the findings of studies of recent conflicts which have found a heterogeneous picture with respect to age specific suicide rates during wartime.
PMCID: PMC1526726  PMID: 16796751
5.  Factors influencing the uptake of childhood immunisation in rural areas. 
BACKGROUND: Childhood vaccination has been vigorously debated in recent years. Professional and parental confidence in the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in particular has been shaken, as reflected by its decreased uptake. AIM: To investigate the influence of practice type and the method of vaccination call/recall on childhood immunisation coverage. DESIGN: Analysis of childhood immunisation uptake rates. SETTING: General practices in the Highland NHS Health Board area in Scotland. METHOD: Data on the immunisation uptake of individual practices in the region were obtained from the Information and Statistics Division of NHS Scotland. RESULTS: Uptake of all vaccines in children reaching the age of 2 years was lower in practices using their own call/recall system than those engaged with the national system. Inducement practices achieved lower uptake than non-inducement practices for every immunisation studied, with the differences ranging from 4.7% to 7.8%. Compared with group practices, uptake of all vaccines was less for single-handed practices, with the differences ranging from 2.4% to 11.4%. A logistic regression analysis found that high uptake of the diphtheria and meningococcus group C vaccines by the age of 24 months was significantly associated with use of the national call/recall system. Only inducement practice status was significantly associated with reduced uptake in children aged 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: Engagement with the national call/recall system was associated with higher immunisation coverage for children reaching the age of 2 years. Inducement status was associated with low uptake of vaccinations in children reaching the age of 1 year.
PMCID: PMC1314804  PMID: 14965390

Results 1-5 (5)