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1.  Health-Care Provider Preferences for Time-Sensitive Communications from Public Health Agencies 
Public Health Reports  2014;129(Suppl 4):67-76.
The Rapid Emergency Alert Communication in Health (REACH) Trial was a randomized control trial to systematically compare and evaluate the effectiveness of traditional and mobile communication modalities for public health agencies to disseminate time-sensitive information to health-care providers (HCPs). We conducted a sub-study to identify the communication channels by which HCPs preferred receiving public health alerts and advisories.
Enrolled HCPs were blindly randomized into four message delivery groups to receive time-sensitive public health messages by e-mail, fax, or short message service (SMS) or to a no-message control group. Follow-up interviews were conducted 5–10 days after the message. In the final interview, additional questions were asked regarding HCP preferences for receiving public health alerts and advisories. We examined the relationship between key covariates and preferred method of receiving public health alert and advisory messages.
Gender, age, provider type, and study site showed statistically significant associations with delivery method preference. Older providers were more likely than younger providers to prefer e-mail or fax, while younger providers were more likely than older providers to prefer receiving messages via SMS.
There is currently no evidence-based research to guide or improve communication between public health agencies and HCPs. Understanding the preferences of providers for receiving alerts and advisories may improve the effectiveness of vital public health communications systems and, in turn, may enhance disease surveillance, aid in early detection, and improve case finding and situational awareness for public health emergencies.
PMCID: PMC4187309  PMID: 25355977
2.  Epidemiology Competency Development and Application to Training for Local and Regional Public Health Practitioners 
Public Health Reports  2008;123(Suppl 1):44-57.
In 2002, the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP) at the University of Washington initiated the Epidemiology Competencies Project, with the goal of developing competency-based epidemiology training for non-epidemiologist public health practitioners in the northwestern United States. An advisory committee consisting of epidemiology faculty and experienced public health practitioners developed the epidemiology competencies. NWCPHP used the competencies to guide the development of in-person trainings, a series of online epidemiology modules, and a Web-based repository of epidemiology teaching materials. The epidemiology competencies provided a framework for collaborative work between NWCPHP and local and regional public health partners to develop trainings that best met the needs of a particular public health organization. Evaluation surveys indicated a high level of satisfaction with the online epidemiology modules developed from the epidemiology competencies. However, measuring the effectiveness of -competency-based epidemiology training for expanding epidemiology knowledge and skills of the public health workforce remains a challenge.
PMCID: PMC2233725  PMID: 18497018
3.  Before and after the earthquake: a case study of attrition from the HIV antiretroviral therapy program in Haiti 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24572.
On January 12, 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the West Department of Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and injuring or displacing many more. This disaster threatened continuity of HIV care and treatment services.
This case study examined the effect of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti on attrition from the HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) program.
The study triangulated retrospective data from existing sources, including: 1) individual-level longitudinal patient data from an electronic medical record for ART patients at two large public sector departmental hospitals differently affected by the earthquake; and 2) aggregate data on the volume of HIV-related services delivered at the two hospitals before and after the earthquake.
The study compared ART attrition and service delivery in Jacmel, a site in the ‘very strong’ zone of earthquake impact, and in Jérémie, a site in the ‘light’ zone of earthquake impact. The analysis used time-to-event analysis methods for the individual-level patient data, and descriptive statistical methods for the aggregate service delivery data.
Adjusted ART attrition risk was lower at the hospital in Jacmel after vs. before the earthquake (HR=0.51; p=0.03), and was lower in Jacmel vs. Jérémie both before (HR=0.55; p=0.01) and after the earthquake (HR=0.35; p=0.001). The number of new ART patient enrollments, new HIV patient registrations, and HIV clinical visits dropped notably in Jacmel immediately after the earthquake, but then rapidly rebounded. On average, there was no change in new ART enrollments per month after vs. before the earthquake at either site.
These findings underscore the resilience of Haitian ART providers and patients, and contribute evidence that it is possible to maintain continuity of ART services even in the context of a complex humanitarian crisis.
PMCID: PMC4124816  PMID: 25103146
HIV/AIDS; antiretroviral therapy; attrition; Haiti; earthquake
4.  Public health communications and alert fatigue 
Health care providers play a significant role in large scale health emergency planning, detection, response, recovery and communication with the public. The effectiveness of health care providers in emergency preparedness and response roles depends, in part, on public health agencies communicating information in a way that maximizes the likelihood that the message is delivered, received, deemed credible and, when appropriate, acted on. However, during an emergency, health care providers can become inundated with alerts and advisories through numerous national, state, local and professional communication channels. We conducted an alert fatigue study as a sub-study of a larger randomized controlled trial which aimed to identify the most effective methods of communicating public health messages between public health agencies and providers. We report an analysis of the effects of public health message volume/frequency on recall of specific message content and effect of rate of message communications on health care provider alert fatigue.
Health care providers enrolled in the larger study (n=528) were randomized to receive public health messages via email, fax, short message service (SMS or cell phone text messaging) or to a control group that did not receive messages. For 12 months, study messages based on real events of public health significance were sent quarterly with follow-up telephone interviews regarding message receipt and topic recall conducted 5–10 days after the message delivery date. During a pandemic when numerous messages are sent, alert fatigue may impact ability to recall whether a specific message has been received due to the “noise” created by the higher number of messages. To determine the impact of “noise” when study messages were sent, we compared health care provider recall of the study message topic to the number of local public health messages sent to health care providers.
We calculated the mean number of messages that each provider received from local public health during the time period around each study message and provider recall of study message content. We found that recall rates were inversely proportional to the mean number of messages received per week: Every increase of one local public health message per week resulted in a statistically significant 41.2% decrease (p < 0.01), 95% CI [0.39, .87] in the odds of recalling the content of the study message.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to document the effects of alert fatigue on health care providers’ recall of information. Our results suggest that information delivered too frequently and/or repetitively through numerous communication channels may have a negative effect on the ability of health care providers to effectively recall emergency information. Keeping health care providers and other first-line responders informed during an emergency is critical. Better coordination between organizations disseminating alerts, advisories and other messages may improve the ability of health care providers to recall public health emergency messages, potentially impacting effective response to public health emergency messages.
PMCID: PMC3751004  PMID: 23915324
5.  Public Health Practice within a Health Information Exchange: Information Needs and Barriers to Disease Surveillance 
Online Journal of Public Health Informatics  2012;4(3):ojphi.v4i3.4277.
Public health professionals engage in frequent exchange of health information while pursuing the objectives of protecting and improving population health. Yet, there has been little study of the information work of public health workers with regard to information exchange. Our objective was to gain a better understanding of information work at a local health jurisdiction before and during the early stages of participation in a regional Health Information Exchange.
We investigated the information work of public health workers engaged in disease surveillance activities at a medium-sized local health jurisdiction by conducting semi-structured interviews and thematically analyzing interview transcripts.
Analysis of the information work of public health workers revealed barriers in the following areas: information system usability; data timeliness, accuracy and completeness; and social interaction with clients. We illustrate these barriers by focusing on the work of epidemiologists.
Characterizing information work and barriers to information exchange for public health workers should be part of early system design efforts. A comprehensive understanding of the information practice of public health workers will inform the design of systems that better support public health work.
PMCID: PMC3615831  PMID: 23569649
Public Health Informatics; Public Health Practice; Disease Notification; Communication Barriers; Information Services; Health Information Technology
6.  Applying the XForms Standard to Public Health Case Reporting and Alerting 
Online Journal of Public Health Informatics  2011;3(2):ojphi.v3i2.3656.
Notifiable condition reporting and alerting are two important public health functions. Today, a variety of methods are used to transfer these types of information. The increasing use of electronic health record systems by healthcare providers makes new types of electronic communication possible. We used the XForms standard and nationally recognized technical profiles to demonstrate the communication of both notifiable condition reports and patient-tailored public health alerts. This demonstration of bi-directional communication took placein a prototypical health information exchange environment. We successfully transferred information between provider electronic health record systems and public health systems for notifiable condition reporting. Patient-specific alerts were successfully sent from public health to provider systems. In this paper we discuss the benefits of XForms, including the use of XML, advanced form controls, form initialization and reduction in scripting. We also review implementation challenges, the maturity of the technology and its suitability for use in public health.
PMCID: PMC3615786  PMID: 23569609
alerting; bi-directional communication; notifiable condition reporting; public health informatics; public health practice
7.  Sequence Variation of Human Papillomavirus Type 16 and Measurement of Viral Integration by Quantitative PCR▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;47(3):521-526.
Given that the integration of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) into the host genome occurs preferentially with the disruption of the E2 gene, a ratio of E2 to E7 gene copies is often used as a marker for integration. It is largely undetermined, however, whether ratio estimates are affected by HPV intratypic variations. We assembled four plasmid constructs, each containing a DNA fragment from an HPV16 European, Asian-American, African-1, or African-2 variant. These constructs and nine cervical swab samples were assayed by real-time PCR with two primer-probe sets for each gene: a specific set, fully complementary to the HPV16 prototype, and a degenerate set, incorporating degenerate bases at positions where nucleotides differed among the variants. The ratio of E2 to E7 gene copies for the European variant construct was close to 1, no matter which sets of primers and probes were used. While the ratios for the African-1 and Asian-American variant constructs remained close to 1 with the degenerate sets of primers and probes, the ratios were 0.36 and 2.57, respectively, with the specific sets of primers and probes. In addition, a nucleotide alteration at the position immediately following the 3′ end of the E2 forward primer binding site was found to be responsible for an underestimation of E2 gene copies for the African-2 variant construct. Similar patterns were found in nine cervical samples. In conclusion, mismatches between the primers and probes and their targets due to HPV16 intratypic variations would introduce errors in testing for integration; this situation can be sufficiently ameliorated by incorporating degenerate bases into the primers and probes.
PMCID: PMC2650947  PMID: 19116350
8.  Determination of Infectious Load of Mycoplasma genitalium in Clinical Samples of Human Vaginal Cells 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(2):746-752.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a leading cause of chlamydia-negative, nongonoccocal urethritis and has been directly implicated in numerous other genitourinary as well as extragenitourinary tract pathologies. Detection of M. genitalium has relied almost entirely on PCR amplification of clinical specimens and evidence of seroconversion since these mycoplasmas are highly fastidious and culture isolation by microbiological techniques is very rare. We have established a combinatorial strategy using confocal immunoanalysis (CIA) and real-time PCR to qualitatively and quantitatively assess patterns of M. genitalium infection in women attending a sexually transmitted disease-related health clinic in San Antonio, Tex. CIA allows spatial examination of mycoplasmas on surfaces and inside human target cells, plus the ability to evaluate cell-to-cell patterns and variances within samples. Real-time PCR permits determination of genome copy numbers of mycoplasmas and human cells by multiplex amplification using mycoplasma gyrA and human RNase P gene sequences, which indicates overall levels of mycoplasma infection and degree of parasitism. These assays are strongly correlated and, in combination, permit detection and elucidation of heretofore-unrecognized patterns of M. genitalium infections in clinical and experimental samples.
PMCID: PMC344480  PMID: 14766847
9.  Diagnostic Assessment of Mycoplasma genitalium in Culture-Positive Women 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(1):203-211.
Detection of Mycoplasma genitalium-mediated, chlamydia-negative nongonococcal urethritis and other M. genitalium-linked infectious etiologies has been very challenging. Although M. genitalium is considered a leading cause of genitourinary symptoms in men and women, extreme difficulties in its cultivation due to its highly fastidious nature and the lack of routine and effective diagnostic tests have slowed the generation of clinical data which directly implicate the presence of M. genitalium in disease pathogenesis. In this study, we compared enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and immunoblot and PCR assays in M. genitalium culture-positive women over 1 to 3 years of clinical visits to determine the usefulness of independent diagnostic strategies. Furthermore, the value of combinatorial diagnostic assessments is described, which provides insights into the dynamics of M. genitalium-host interactions. Overall, we show that neither ELISA nor PCR, alone or in combination, provides the sensitivity required to confidently predict the existence of viable M. genitalium organisms in cervical and vaginal samples. Additionally, culture-positive women exhibited a range of antibody responsiveness to M. genitalium based upon ELISA and immunoblot assessments, indicating immune diversity among this high-risk population.
PMCID: PMC321719  PMID: 14715754

Results 1-9 (9)