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1.  Quality comparison of electronic versus paper death certificates in France, 2010 
Background
Electronic death certification was established in France in 2007. A methodology based on intrinsic characteristics of death certificates was designed to compare the quality of electronic versus paper death certificates.
Methods
All death certificates from the 2010 French mortality database were included. Three specific quality indicators were considered: (i) amount of information, measured by the number of causes of death coded on the death certificate; (ii) intrinsic consistency, explored by application of the International Classification of Disease (ICD) General Principle, using an international automatic coding system (Iris); (iii) imprecision, measured by proportion of death certificates where the selected underlying cause of death was imprecise. Multivariate models were considered: a truncated Poisson model for indicator (i) and binomial models for indicators (ii) and (iii). Adjustment variables were age, gender, and cause, place, and region of death.
Results
533,977death certificates were analyzed. After adjustment, electronic death certificates contained 19% [17%-20%] more codes than paper death certificates for people deceased under 65 years, and 12% [11%-13%] more codes for people deceased over 65 years. Regarding deceased under and over 65 respectively, the ICD General Principle could be applied 2% [0%-4%] and 6% [5%-7%] more to electronic than to paper death certificates. The proportion of imprecise death certificates was 51% [46%-56%] lower for electronic than for paper death certificates.
Conclusion
The method proposed to evaluate the quality of death certificates is easily reproducible in countries using an automatic coding system. According to our criteria, electronic death certificates are better completed than paper death certificates. The transition to electronic death certificates is positive in many aspects and should be promoted.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-12-3
PMCID: PMC3931487  PMID: 24533639
Death certificate; Causes of death; Electronic certification; Quality
2.  Estimates of home and leisure injuries treated in emergency departments in the adult population living in metropolitan France: a model-assisted approach 
Background
Home and leisure injuries (HLIs) are currently a major public health concern, because of their frequency, associated consequences, and considerable medical costs. As in many other countries in Europe, in France the population coverage of the surveillance system of HLIs is low. In this study, a model-assisted approach is developed to estimate the incidence rates of HLIs in adults treated in emergency departments (EDs) in metropolitan France between 2004 and 2008.
Methods
Using a sample of the hospitals participating in the French ED-based surveillance system, a generalized linear mixed model was applied, which describes the relationship between the numbers of ED visits for HLIs and the sex and age of the patients on the basis of the number of injury-related stays recorded by the hospitals. Statistics on hospital stays were provided by the French hospital discharge databases in the participating hospitals. The same statistics were available at the national level, which made it possible to extrapolate national incidence estimates.
Results
Over the 2004–2008 period, the estimated incidence rate of HLIs age-standardized on the European population aged 15 years and over was 48.7 per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval: 39.4-58.0), and displayed little variability over time. This rate corresponded to an average of 2.5 million emergency hospital visits each year due to an HLI in people aged over 15 in France.
Conclusions
The method made it possible to use medico-administrative datasets available nationwide to provide informative estimates despite the small number of participating EDs. The consequences and costs generated by hospital emergency visits can sometimes be onerous, and these estimated rates confirm the scale of the problem and the need to continue investing in preventive actions.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-12-2
PMCID: PMC3923095  PMID: 24495484
Home and leisure injuries; Hospital discharge databases; Separate ratio estimator; Poisson mixed model; Multilevel modeling; Epidemiological surveillance
3.  Cancer survival for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: a national study of survival rates and excess mortality 
Background
National cancer survival statistics are available for the total Australian population but not Indigenous Australians, although their cancer mortality rates are known to be higher than those of other Australians. We aimed to validate analysis methods and report cancer survival rates for Indigenous Australians as the basis for regular national reporting.
Methods
We used national cancer registrations data to calculate all-cancer and site-specific relative survival for Indigenous Australians (compared with non-Indigenous Australians) diagnosed in 2001-2005. Because of limited availability of Indigenous life tables, we validated and used cause-specific survival (rather than relative survival) for proportional hazards regression to analyze time trends and regional variation in all-cancer survival between 1991 and 2005.
Results
Survival was lower for Indigenous than non-Indigenous Australians for all cancers combined and for many cancer sites. The excess mortality of Indigenous people with cancer was restricted to the first three years after diagnosis, and greatest in the first year. Survival was lower for rural and remote than urban residents; this disparity was much greater for Indigenous people. Survival improved between 1991 and 2005 for non-Indigenous people (mortality decreased by 28%), but to a much lesser extent for Indigenous people (11%) and only for those in remote areas; cancer survival did not improve for urban Indigenous residents.
Conclusions
Cancer survival is lower for Indigenous than other Australians, for all cancers combined and many individual cancer sites, although more accurate recording of Indigenous status by cancer registers is required before the extent of this disadvantage can be known with certainty. Cancer care for Indigenous Australians needs to be considerably improved; cancer diagnosis, treatment, and support services need to be redesigned specifically to be accessible and acceptable to Indigenous people.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-12-1
PMCID: PMC3909914  PMID: 24479861
Cancer; Survival; Australia; Australian Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous Australian; Relative survival; Cause-specific survival
4.  Developing the design of a continuous national health survey for New Zealand 
Background
A continuously operating survey can yield advantages in survey management, field operations, and the provision of timely information for policymakers and researchers. We describe the key features of the sample design of the New Zealand (NZ) Health Survey, which has been conducted on a continuous basis since mid-2011, and compare to a number of other national population health surveys.
Methods
A number of strategies to improve the NZ Health Survey are described: implementation of a targeted dual-frame sample design for better Māori, Pacific, and Asian statistics; movement from periodic to continuous operation; use of core questions with rotating topic modules to improve flexibility in survey content; and opportunities for ongoing improvements and efficiencies, including linkage to administrative datasets.
Results and discussion
The use of disproportionate area sampling and a dual frame design resulted in reductions of approximately 19%, 26%, and 4% to variances of Māori, Pacific and Asian statistics respectively, but at the cost of a 17% increase to all-ethnicity variances. These were broadly in line with the survey’s priorities. Respondents provided a high degree of cooperation in the first year, with an adult response rate of 79% and consent rates for data linkage above 90%.
Conclusions
A combination of strategies tailored to local conditions gives the best results for national health surveys. In the NZ context, data from the NZ Census of Population and Dwellings and the Electoral Roll can be used to improve the sample design. A continuously operating survey provides both administrative and statistical advantages.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-25
PMCID: PMC3880001  PMID: 24364838
Health surveys; Indigenous populations; Sample design; Sampling rare populations; Survey planning
5.  An evaluation of the accuracy of small-area demographic estimates of population at risk and its effect on prevalence statistics 
Demographic estimates of population at risk often underpin epidemiologic research and public health surveillance efforts. In spite of their central importance to epidemiology and public-health practice, little previous attention has been paid to evaluating the magnitude of errors associated with such estimates or the sensitivity of epidemiologic statistics to these effects. In spite of the well-known observation that accuracy in demographic estimates declines as the size of the population to be estimated decreases, demographers continue to face pressure to produce estimates for increasingly fine-grained population characteristics at ever-smaller geographic scales. Unfortunately, little guidance on the magnitude of errors that can be expected in such estimates is currently available in the literature and available for consideration in small-area epidemiology. This paper attempts to fill this current gap by producing a Vintage 2010 set of single-year-of-age estimates for census tracts, then evaluating their accuracy and precision in light of the results of the 2010 Census. These estimates are produced and evaluated for 499 census tracts in New Mexico for single-years of age from 0 to 21 and for each sex individually. The error distributions associated with these estimates are characterized statistically using non-parametric statistics including the median and 2.5th and 97.5th percentiles. The impact of these errors are considered through simulations in which observed and estimated 2010 population counts are used as alternative denominators and simulated event counts are used to compute a realistic range fo prevalence values. The implications of the results of this study for small-area epidemiologic research in cancer and environmental health are considered.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-24
PMCID: PMC3917896  PMID: 24359344
6.  Comparing life expectancy and health-adjusted life expectancy by body mass index category in adult Canadians: a descriptive study 
Background
While many studies have examined differences between body mass index (BMI) categories in terms of mortality risk and health-related quality of life (HRQL), little is known about the effect of body weight on health expectancy. We examined life expectancy (LE), health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE), and proportion of LE spent in nonoptimal (or poor) health by BMI category for the Canadian adult population (age ≥ 20).
Methods
Respondents to the National Population Health Survey (NPHS) were followed for mortality outcomes from 1994 to 2009. Our study population at baseline (n=12,478) was 20 to 100 years old with an average age of 47. LE was produced by building abridged life tables by sex and BMI category using data from the NPHS and the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System. HALE was estimated using the Health Utilities Index from the Canadian Community Health Survey as a measure of HRQL. The contribution of HRQL to loss of healthy life years for each BMI category was also assessed using two methods: by calculating differences between LE and HALE proportional to LE and by using a decomposition technique to separate out mortality and HRQL contributions to loss of HALE.
Results
At age 20, for both sexes, LE is significantly lower in the underweight and obesity class 2+ categories, but significantly higher in the overweight category when compared to normal weight (obesity class 1 was nonsignificant). HALE at age 20 follows these same associations and is significantly lower for class 1 obesity in women. Proportion of life spent in nonoptimal health and decomposition of HALE demonstrate progressively higher losses of healthy life associated with lowered HRQL for BMI categories in excess of normal weight.
Conclusions
Although being in the overweight category for adults may be associated with a gain in life expectancy as compared to normal weight adults, overweight individuals also experience a higher proportion of these years of life in poorer health. Due to the descriptive nature of this study, further research is needed to explore the causal mechanisms which explain these results, including the important differences we observed between sexes and within obesity subcategories.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-21
PMCID: PMC3842774  PMID: 24252500
Overweight; Obesity; Underweight; Body mass index; Life expectancy; Health expectancy; Mortality; Health-related quality of life
7.  Descriptive epidemiology of chronic liver disease in northeastern Italy: an analysis of multiple causes of death 
Background
The analysis of multiple causes of death data has been applied in the United States to examine the population burden of chronic liver disease (CLD) and to assess time trends of alcohol-related and hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related CLD mortality. The aim of this study was to assess the mortality for CLD by etiology in the Veneto Region (northeastern Italy).
Methods
Using the 2008–2010 regional archive of mortality, all causes registered on death certificates were extracted and different descriptive epidemiological measures were computed for HCV-related, alcohol-related, and overall CLD-related mortality.
Results
The crude mortality rate of all CLD was close to 40 per 100,000 residents. In middle ages (35 to 74 years) CLD was mentioned in about 10% and 6% of all deaths in males and females, respectively. Etiology was unspecified in about half of CLD deaths. In females and males, respectively, HCV was mentioned in 44% and 21% and alcohol in 11% and 26% of overall CLD deaths. A bimodal distribution with age was observed for HCV-related proportional mortality among females, reflecting the available seroprevalence data.
Conclusions
Multiple causes of death analyses can provide useful insights into the burden of CLD mortality according to etiology among different population subgroups.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-20
PMCID: PMC3852117  PMID: 24112320
Liver cirrhosis; Alcoholic liver disease; Hepatitis C; Mortality
8.  Mental, social, and physical well-being in New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington, 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System: implications for public health research and practice related to Healthy People 2020 foundation health measures on well-being 
Background
Well-being is now accepted as one of four cross-cutting measures in gauging progress for Healthy People 2020. This shift to population indicators of well-being redresses notions of health that have focused on absence of illness (negative health) as a primary or sufficient indicator of positive functioning. The purpose of this study was to estimate mental, social, and physical well-being in three US states using new measures piloted on the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey System (BRFSS). Baseline estimates were provided for states overall, and within states for demographic subgroups, those with chronic health conditions or disabilities, and those with behavioral risk factors.
Methods
Ten validated questions designed to assess mental (e.g., satisfaction with life, satisfaction with life domains, happiness), physical (e.g., satisfaction with energy level), and social dimensions (e.g., frequency of social support) of well-being were selected with state input for inclusion on BRFSS. 18,622 individuals responded to the BRFSS surveys administered by New Hampshire (N = 3,139), Oregon (N = 2,289), and Washington (N = 13,194). Multivariate adjusted proportions of positive responses to well-being items were examined.
Results
After adjustment for confounders, about 67% of adults in these states had high levels of well-being, including >80% reporting experiencing happiness. Most adults were satisfied with their work, neighborhood, and education, but significant differences were seen in subgroups. Well-being differed by demographic characteristics such as marital status, health behaviors, chronic conditions, and disability status, with those who reported a disability and smokers consistently experiencing the worst well-being.
Conclusions
Well-being is accepted as one of four cross-cutting measures in gauging progress for Healthy People 2020. Well-being differs by important sociodemographic factors and health conditions (e.g., age, employment, smoking, disability status). These findings provide baseline estimates for the three states to use in gauging improvements in well-being and can serve as a model for other state-level or national surveillance systems. These findings also assist states in identifying vulnerable subgroups who may benefit from potential interventions such as those in the National Prevention Strategy that focus on enhancing well-being where such disparities exist.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-19
PMCID: PMC3852954  PMID: 24063647
9.  Modeling the impact of prevention policies on future diabetes prevalence in the United States: 2010–2030 
Background
Although diabetes is one of the most costly and rapidly increasing serious chronic diseases worldwide, the optimal mix of strategies to reduce diabetes prevalence has not been determined.
Methods
Using a dynamic model that incorporates national data on diabetes prevalence and incidence, migration, mortality rates, and intervention effectiveness, we project the effect of five hypothetical prevention policies on future US diabetes rates through 2030: 1) no diabetes prevention strategy; 2) a “high-risk” strategy, wherein adults with both impaired fasting glucose (IFG) (fasting plasma glucose of 100–124 mg/dl) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) (2-hour post-load glucose of 141–199 mg/dl) receive structured lifestyle intervention; 3) a “moderate-risk” strategy, wherein only adults with IFG are offered structured lifestyle intervention; 4) a “population-wide” strategy, in which the entire population is exposed to broad risk reduction policies; and 5) a “combined” strategy, involving both the moderate-risk and population-wide strategies. We assumed that the moderate- and high-risk strategies reduce the annual diabetes incidence rate in the targeted subpopulations by 12.5% through 2030 and that the population-wide approach would reduce the projected annual diabetes incidence rate by 2% in the entire US population.
Results
We project that by the year 2030, the combined strategy would prevent 4.6 million incident cases and 3.6 million prevalent cases, attenuating the increase in diabetes prevalence by 14%. The moderate-risk approach is projected to prevent 4.0 million incident cases, 3.1 million prevalent cases, attenuating the increase in prevalence by 12%. The high-risk and population approaches attenuate the projected prevalence increases by 5% and 3%, respectively. Even if the most effective strategy is implemented (the combined strategy), our projections indicate that the diabetes prevalence rate would increase by about 65% over the 23 years (i.e., from 12.9% in 2010 to 21.3% in 2030).
Conclusions
While implementation of appropriate diabetes prevention strategies may slow the rate of increase of the prevalence of diabetes among US adults through 2030, the US diabetes prevalence rate is likely to increase dramatically over the next 20 years. Demand for health care services for people with diabetes complications and diabetes-related disability will continue to grow, and these services will need to be strengthened along with primary diabetes prevention efforts.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-18
PMCID: PMC3853008  PMID: 24047329
10.  Global epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease 
Neisseria meningitidis is one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis globally and can also cause sepsis, pneumonia, and other manifestations. In countries with high endemic rates, the disease burden places an immense strain on the public health system. The worldwide epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) varies markedly by region and over time. This review summarizes the burden of IMD in different countries and identifies the highest-incidence countries where routine preventive programs against Neisseria meningitidis would be most beneficial in providing protection. Available epidemiological data from the past 20 years in World Health Organization and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control collections and published articles are included in this review, as well as direct communications with leading experts in the field. Countries were grouped into high-, moderate-, and low-incidence countries. The majority of countries in the high-incidence group are found in the African meningitis belt; many moderate-incidence countries are found in the European and African regions, and Australia, while low-incidence countries include many from Europe and the Americas. Priority countries for vaccine intervention are high- and moderate-incidence countries where vaccine-preventable serogroups predominate. Epidemiological data on burden of IMD are needed in countries where this is not known, particularly in South- East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions, so evidence-based decisions about the use of meningococcal vaccines can be made.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-17
PMCID: PMC3848799  PMID: 24016339
Meningococcus; Neisseria meningitidis; Invasive meningococcal disease; Meningitis; Epidemiology; Meningitis belt
11.  Prevalence and sociodemographic determinants of tobacco use among adults in Pakistan: findings of a nationwide survey conducted in 2012 
Background
Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable mortality. The World Health Organization recommends that countries should monitor tobacco use regularly. In Pakistan, the last national study on smoking in the general population was conducted in 2002 to 2003.
Methods
We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of men and women living in rural and urban areas of four main provinces of Pakistan from March through April 2012. Face-to-face in-house interviews were undertaken using a pre-tested structured questionnaire that asked about smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Multistage stratified random area probability sampling was used. To determine the national prevalence of tobacco use, the sample was weighted to correspond to rural–urban population proportions in each of the four provinces as in the 1998 census conducted by Pakistan’s Population Census Organization. Associations between sociodemographic variables and tobacco use were investigated using multivariable robust regression.
Results
Out of 2,644 respondents (1,354 men and 1,290 women), 354 men and 4 women reported being current cigarette smokers. The weighted prevalence of current cigarette smoking was 15.2% (95% confidence interval [CI]; 11.2, 19.3) overall, 26.6% (95% CI: 19.1, 34.1) among males, and 0.4% (95% CI: -0.2, 1.0) among females. Among females, 1.8% (95% CI: 0.4, 3.1) used any smoked tobacco and 4.6% (95% CI: 1.8, 7.4) used any smokeless tobacco daily or on some days of the week. Among males, odds of current cigarette smoking decreased with increasing level of education (OR = 0.75; 95% CI: 0.68, 0.84) and increased with having a father who used tobacco (OR = 2.11; 95% CI: 1.39, 3.22) after adjusting for other sociodemographic characteristics. Lower household income was associated with current cigarette smoking among rural males only (odds ratio [OR] = 0.67; 95% CI: 0.48, 0.92 per category increase in monthly household income).
Conclusion
A large proportion of males smoked cigarettes. Cigarette use was negligible among females, but they used other forms of tobacco. Low education was a determinant of cigarette smoking among males irrespective of socioeconomic status and area of residence. Tobacco control campaigns should target uneducated and rural poor men and monitor all forms of tobacco used by the population.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-16
PMCID: PMC3850735  PMID: 24004968
Tobacco; Cigarettes; Prevalence; Sociodemographic determinants
12.  The components of self-rated health among adults in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 
Background
Although the relationship between self-rated health (SRH) and physical and mental health is well documented in developed countries, very few studies have analyzed this association in the developing world, particularly in Africa. In this study, we examine the associations of SRH with measures of physical and mental health (chronic diseases, functional limitations, and depression) among adults in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and how these associations vary by sex, age, and education level.
Methods
This study was based on 2195 individuals aged 15 years or older who participated in a cross-sectional interviewer-administered health survey conducted in 2010 in areas of the Ouagadougou Health and Demographic Surveillance System. Logistic regression models were used to analyze the associations of poor SRH with chronic diseases, functional limitations, and depression, first in the whole sample and then stratified by sex, age, and education level.
Results
Poor SRH was strongly correlated with chronic diseases and functional limitations, but not with depression, suggesting that in this context, physical health probably makes up most of people’s perceptions of their health status. The effect of functional limitations on poor SRH increased with age, probably because the ability to circumvent or compensate for a disability diminishes with age. The effect of functional limitations was also stronger among the least educated, probably because physical integrity is more important for people who depend on it for their livelihood. In contrast, the effect of chronic diseases appeared to decrease with age. No variation by sex was observed in the associations of SRH with chronic diseases, functional limitations, or depression.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that different subpopulations delineated by age and education level weight the components of health differently in their self-rated health in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In-depth studies are needed to understand why and how these groups do so.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-15
PMCID: PMC3750468  PMID: 23926951
Ouagadougou; Burkina Faso; Self-rated health; Chronic diseases; Functional limitations; Depression; Adults
13.  Geographically linking population and facility surveys: methodological considerations 
Background
The relationship between health services and population outcomes is an important area of public health research that requires bringing together data on outcomes and the relevant service environment. Linking independent, existing datasets geographically is potentially an efficient approach; however, it raises a number of methodological issues which have not been extensively explored. This sensitivity analysis explores the potential misclassification error introduced when a sample rather than a census of health facilities is used and when household survey clusters are geographically displaced for confidentiality.
Methods
Using the 2007 Rwanda Service Provision Assessment (RSPA) of all public health facilities and the 2007–2008 Rwanda Interim Demographic and Health Survey (RIDHS), five health facility samples and five household cluster displacements were created to simulate typical SPA samples and household cluster datasets. Facility datasets were matched with cluster datasets to create 36 paired datasets. Four geographic techniques were employed to link clusters with facilities in each paired dataset. The links between clusters and facilities were operationalized by creating health service variables from the RSPA and attaching them to linked RIDHS clusters. Comparisons between the original facility census and undisplaced clusters dataset with the multiple samples and displaced clusters datasets enabled measurement of error due to sampling and displacement.
Results
Facility sampling produced larger misclassification errors than cluster displacement, underestimating access to services. Distance to the nearest facility was misclassified for over 50% of the clusters when directly linked, while linking to all facilities within an administrative boundary produced the lowest misclassification error. Measuring relative service environment produced equally poor results with over half of the clusters assigned to the incorrect quintile when linked with a sample of facilities and more than one-third misclassified due to displacement.
Conclusions
At low levels of geographic disaggregation, linking independent facility samples and household clusters is not recommended. Linking facility census data with population data at the cluster level is possible, but misclassification errors associated with geographic displacement of clusters will bias estimates of relationships between service environment and health outcomes. The potential need to link facility and population-based data requires consideration when designing a facility survey.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-14
PMCID: PMC3765268  PMID: 23926907
Spatial linkage; DHS; SPA; Misclassification error
14.  Error and bias in under-5 mortality estimates derived from birth histories with small sample sizes 
Background
Estimates of under-5 mortality at the national level for countries without high-quality vital registration systems are routinely derived from birth history data in censuses and surveys. Subnational or stratified analyses of under-5 mortality could also be valuable, but the usefulness of under-5 mortality estimates derived from birth histories from relatively small samples of women is not known. We aim to assess the magnitude and direction of error that can be expected for estimates derived from birth histories with small samples of women using various analysis methods.
Methods
We perform a data-based simulation study using Demographic and Health Surveys. Surveys are treated as populations with known under-5 mortality, and samples of women are drawn from each population to mimic surveys with small sample sizes. A variety of methods for analyzing complete birth histories and one method for analyzing summary birth histories are used on these samples, and the results are compared to corresponding true under-5 mortality. We quantify the expected magnitude and direction of error by calculating the mean error, mean relative error, mean absolute error, and mean absolute relative error.
Results
All methods are prone to high levels of error at the smallest sample size with no method performing better than 73% error on average when the sample contains 10 women. There is a high degree of variation in performance between the methods at each sample size, with methods that contain considerable pooling of information generally performing better overall. Additional stratified analyses suggest that performance varies for most methods according to the true level of mortality and the time prior to survey. This is particularly true of the summary birth history method as well as complete birth history methods that contain considerable pooling of information across time.
Conclusions
Performance of all birth history analysis methods is extremely poor when used on very small samples of women, both in terms of magnitude of expected error and bias in the estimates. Even with larger samples there is no clear best method to choose for analyzing birth history data. The methods that perform best overall are the same methods where performance is noticeably different at different levels of mortality and lengths of time prior to survey. At the same time, methods that perform more uniformly across levels of mortality and lengths of time prior to survey also tend to be among the worst performing overall.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-13
PMCID: PMC3729428  PMID: 23885746
15.  A comparison of missing data procedures for addressing selection bias in HIV sentinel surveillance data 
Background
Selection bias is common in clinic-based HIV surveillance. Clinics located in HIV hotspots are often the first to be chosen and monitored, while clinics in less prevalent areas are added to the surveillance system later on. Consequently, the estimated HIV prevalence based on clinic data is substantially distorted, with markedly higher HIV prevalence in the earlier periods and trends that reveal much more dramatic declines than actually occur.
Methods
Using simulations, we compare and contrast the performance of the various approaches and models for handling selection bias in clinic-based HIV surveillance. In particular, we compare the application of complete-case analysis and multiple imputation (MI). Several models are considered for each of the approaches. We demonstrate the application of the methods through sentinel surveillance data collected between 2002 and 2008 from India.
Results
Simulations suggested that selection bias, if not handled properly, can lead to biased estimates of HIV prevalence trends and inaccurate evaluation of program impact. Complete-case analysis and MI differed considerably in their ability to handle selection bias. In scenarios where HIV prevalence remained constant over time (i.e. β = 0), the estimated β^1 derived from MI tended to be biased downward. Depending on the imputation model used, the estimated bias ranged from −1.883 to −0.048 in logit prevalence. Furthermore, as the level of selection bias intensified, the extent of bias also increased. In contrast, the estimates yielded by complete-case analysis were relatively unbiased and stable across the various scenarios. The estimated bias ranged from −0.002 to 0.002 in logit prevalence.
Conclusions
Given that selection bias is common in clinic-based HIV surveillance, when analyzing data from such sources appropriate adjustment methods need to be applied. The results in this paper suggest that indiscriminant application of imputation models can lead to biased results.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-12
PMCID: PMC3724705  PMID: 23883362
Selection bias; Simulations; Missing data; Multiple imputation; Complete-case analysis
16.  Millennium development health metrics: where do Africa’s children and women of childbearing age live? 
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have prompted an expansion in approaches to deriving health metrics to measure progress toward their achievement. Accurate measurements should take into account the high degrees of spatial heterogeneity in health risks across countries, and this has prompted the development of sophisticated cartographic techniques for mapping and modeling risks. Conversion of these risks to relevant population-based metrics requires equally detailed information on the spatial distribution and attributes of the denominator populations. However, spatial information on age and sex composition over large areas is lacking, prompting many influential studies that have rigorously accounted for health risk heterogeneities to overlook the substantial demographic variations that exist subnationally and merely apply national-level adjustments.
Here we outline the development of high resolution age- and sex-structured spatial population datasets for Africa in 2000-2015 built from over a million measurements from more than 20,000 subnational units, increasing input data detail from previous studies by over 400-fold. We analyze the large spatial variations seen within countries and across the continent for key MDG indicator groups, focusing on children under 5 and women of childbearing age, and find that substantial differences in health and development indicators can result through using only national level statistics, compared to accounting for subnational variation.
Progress toward meeting the MDGs will be measured through national-level indicators that mask substantial inequalities and heterogeneities across nations. Cartographic approaches are providing opportunities for quantitative assessments of these inequalities and the targeting of interventions, but demographic spatial datasets to support such efforts remain reliant on coarse and outdated input data for accurately locating risk groups. We have shown here that sufficient data exist to map the distribution of key vulnerable groups, and that doing so has substantial impacts on derived metrics through accounting for spatial demographic heterogeneities that exist within nations across Africa.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-11
PMCID: PMC3724578  PMID: 23875684
Population; Demography; Mapping; Millenium development goals
17.  Rigorous science as the road to better public health 
In the current issue of Population Health Metrics, two reports paint a bleak picture of American public health. Both physical inactivity and obesity remain highly prevalent; yet, it is not clear that increased physical activity will reduce the burden of obesity. There continue to be widespread disparities in life expectancy across United States counties. These reports appear against a backdrop of debate regarding how we should allocate our scarce resources for improving health: should we focus more on improving access to high-quality medical care, or should we instead focus on more and better public health interventions? While optimal solutions remain obscure, a look at prior successes suggests that ultimately they will come from the conduct and implementation of rigorous science, and in particular event-driven trials.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-10
PMCID: PMC3710508  PMID: 23842137
Public health; Population science; Obesity; Physical activity; Life-expectancy; Randomized trials
18.  Fat chance for physical activity 
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-9
PMCID: PMC3717023  PMID: 23842428
Obesity; Salt; Fat; Sugar; Tobacco; Government; Industry; Regulation
19.  Left behind: widening disparities for males and females in US county life expectancy, 1985–2010 
Background
The United States spends more than any other country on health care. The poor relative performance of the US compared to other high-income countries has attracted attention and raised questions about the performance of the US health system. An important dimension to poor national performance is the large disparities in life expectancy.
Methods
We applied a mixed effects Poisson statistical model and Gaussian Process Regression to estimate age-specific mortality rates for US counties from 1985 to 2010. We generated uncertainty distributions for life expectancy at each age using standard simulation methods.
Results
Female life expectancy in the United States increased from 78.0 years in 1985 to 80.9 years in 2010, while male life expectancy increased from 71.0 years in 1985 to 76.3 years in 2010. The gap between female and male life expectancy in the United States was 7.0 years in 1985, narrowing to 4.6 years in 2010. For males at the county level, the highest life expectancy steadily increased from 75.5 in 1985 to 81.7 in 2010, while the lowest life expectancy remained under 65. For females at the county level, the highest life expectancy increased from 81.1 to 85.0, and the lowest life expectancy remained around 73. For male life expectancy at the county level, there have been three phases in the evolution of inequality: a period of rising inequality from 1985 to 1993, a period of stable inequality from 1993 to 2002, and rising inequality from 2002 to 2010. For females, in contrast, inequality has steadily increased during the 25-year period. Compared to only 154 counties where male life expectancy remained stagnant or declined, 1,405 out of 3,143 counties (45%) have seen no significant change or a significant decline in female life expectancy from 1985 to 2010. In all time periods, the lowest county-level life expectancies are seen in the South, the Mississippi basin, West Virginia, Kentucky, and selected counties with large Native American populations.
Conclusions
The reduction in the number of counties where female life expectancy at birth is declining in the most recent period is welcome news. However, the widening disparities between counties and the slow rate of increase compared to other countries should be viewed as a call for action. An increased focus on factors affecting health outcomes, morbidity, and mortality such as socioeconomic factors, difficulty of access to and poor quality of health care, and behavioral, environmental, and metabolic risk factors is urgently required.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-8
PMCID: PMC3717281  PMID: 23842281
20.  Prevalence of physical activity and obesity in US counties, 2001–2011: a road map for action 
Background
Obesity and physical inactivity are associated with several chronic conditions, increased medical care costs, and premature death.
Methods
We used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based random-digit telephone survey that covers the majority of United States counties, and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of the US civilian noninstitutionalized population. About 3.7 million adults aged 20 years or older participated in the BRFSS from 2000 to 2011, and 30,000 adults aged 20 or older participated in NHANES from 1999 to 2010. We calculated body mass index (BMI) from self-reported weight and height in the BRFSS and adjusted for self-reporting bias using NHANES. We calculated self-reported physical activity—both any physical activity and physical activity meeting recommended levels—from self-reported data in the BRFSS. We used validated small area estimation methods to generate estimates of obesity and physical activity prevalence for each county annually for 2001 to 2011.
Results
Our results showed an increase in the prevalence of sufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2009. Levels were generally higher in men than in women, but increases were greater in women than men. Counties in Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, and California reported the largest gains. This increase in level of activity was matched by an increase in obesity in almost all counties during the same time period. There was a low correlation between level of physical activity and obesity in US counties. From 2001 to 2009, controlling for changes in poverty, unemployment, number of doctors per 100,000 population, percent rural, and baseline levels of obesity, for every 1 percentage point increase in physical activity prevalence, obesity prevalence was 0.11 percentage points lower.
Conclusions
Our study showed that increased physical activity alone has a small impact on obesity prevalence at the county level in the US. Indeed, the rise in physical activity levels will have a positive independent impact on the health of Americans as it will reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Other changes such as reduction in caloric intake are likely needed to curb the obesity epidemic and its burden.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-7
PMCID: PMC3718620  PMID: 23842197
Physical activity; Obesity; Small area measurement; US counties
21.  Age of onset in chronic diseases: new method and application to dementia in Germany 
Background
Age of onset is an important outcome to characterize a population with a chronic disease. With respect to social, cognitive, and physical aspects for patients and families, dementia is especially burdensome. In Germany, like in many other countries, it is highly prevalent in the older population and imposes enormous efforts for caregivers and society.
Methods
We develop an incidence-prevalence-mortality model to derive the mean and variance of the age of onset in chronic diseases. Age- and sex-specific incidence and prevalence of dementia is taken from published values based on health insurance data from 2002. Data about the age distribution in Germany in 2002 comes from the Federal Statistical Office.
Results
Mean age of onset of a chronic disease depends on a) the age-specific incidence of the disease, b) the prevalence of the disease, and c) the age distribution of the population. The resulting age of onset of dementia in Germany in 2002 is 78.8 ± 8.1 years (mean ± standard deviation) for men and 81.9 ± 7.6 years for women.
Conclusions
Although incidence and prevalence of dementia in men are not greater than in women, men contract dementia approximately three years earlier than women. The reason lies in the different age distributions of the male and the female population in Germany.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-6
PMCID: PMC3665482  PMID: 23638981
22.  Association of blood lipids, creatinine, albumin, and CRP with socioeconomic status in Malawi 
Background
The objective of these analyses is to document the relationship between biomarker-based indicators of health and socioeconomic status (SES) in a low-income African population where the cumulative effects of exposure to multiple stressors on physiological functions and health in general are expected to be highly detrimental for the well-being of individuals.
Methods
Biomarkers were collected subsequent to the 2008 round of the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), a population-based study in rural Malawi, including blood lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, ratio of total cholesterol to HDL), biomarkers of renal and liver organ function (albumin and creatinine) and wide-range C-reactive protein (CRP) as a non-specific biomarker for inflammation. These biomarkers represent widely used indicators of health that are individually or cumulatively recognized as risk factors for age-related diseases among prime-aged and elderly individuals. Quantile regressions are used to estimate the age-gradient and the within-day variation of each biomarker distribution. Differences in biomarker levels by socioeconomic status are investigated using descriptive and multivariate statistics.
Results
Overall, the number of significant associations between the biomarkers and socioeconomic measures is very modest. None of the biomarkers significantly varies with schooling. Except for CRP where being married is weakly associated with lower risk of having an elevated CRP level, marriage is not associated with the biomarkers measured in the MLSFH. Similarly, being Muslim is associated with a lower risk of having elevated CRP but otherwise religion does not predict being in the high-risk quartiles of any of the MLSFH biomarkers. Wealth does not predict being in the high-risk quartile of any of the MLSFH biomarkers, with the exception of a weak effect on creatinine. Being overweight or obese is associated with increased likelihood of being in the high-risk quartile for cholesterol, Chol/HDL ratio, and LDL.
Conclusions
The results provide only weak evidence for variation of the biomarkers by socioeconomic indicators in a poor Malawian context. Our findings underscore the need for further research to understand the determinants of health outcomes in a poor low-income context such as rural Malawi.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-4
PMCID: PMC3701600  PMID: 23448548
Biomarkers; Blood lipids; Creatinine; Albumin; Wide-range CRP; Socioeconomic status; Variation; Malawi
23.  Mortality in an Aboriginal Medical Service (Redfern) cohort 
Background
Published estimates of Aboriginal mortality and life expectancy (LE) for the eastern Australian states are derived from demographic modelling techniques to estimate the population and extent of under-recording of Aboriginality in death registration. No reliable empirical information on Aboriginal mortality and LE exists for New South Wales (NSW), the most populous Australian state in which 29% of Aboriginal people reside.
This paper estimates mortality and LE in a large, mainly metropolitan cohort of Aboriginal clients from the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) Redfern, Sydney, NSW.
Methods
Identifying information from patient records accrued by the AMS Redfern since 1980 of definitely Aboriginal clients, without distinction between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (n=24,035), was extracted and linked to the National Death Index (NDI) at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Age-specific mortality rates and LEs for each sex were estimated using the AMS patient population as the denominator, discounted for deaths. Directly age-standardised mortality and LEs were estimated for 1995–1999, 2000–2004 and 2005–2009, along with 95% confidence intervals. Comparisons were made with other estimates of Aboriginal mortality and LE and with the total Australian population.
Results
Mortality declined in the AMS Redfern cohort over 1995–2009, and the decline occurred mostly in the ≤44 year age range. Male LE at birth was estimated to be 64.4 years (95%CI:62.6-66.1) in 1995–1999, 65.6 years (95%CI:64.1-67.1) in 2000–2004, and 67.6 years (95%CI:65.9-69.2) for 2005–2009. In females, these LE estimates were 69.6 (95%CI:68.0-71.2), 71.1 (95%CI:69.9-72.4), and 71.4 (95%CI:70.0-72.8) years. LE in the AMS cohort was 11 years lower for males and 12 years lower for females than corresponding all-Australia LEs for the same periods. These were similar to estimates for Australian Aboriginal people overall for the same period by the Aboriginal Burden of Disease for 2009, using the General Growth Balance (GGB) model approach, and by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for 2005–2007. LE in the AMS cohort was somewhat lower than these estimates for NSW Aboriginal people, and higher than ABS 2005–2007 estimates for Aboriginal people from Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia.
Conclusions
The AMS Redfern cohort has provided the first empirically based estimates of mortality and LE trends in a large sample of Aboriginal people from NSW.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-2
PMCID: PMC3602118  PMID: 23391275
24.  Decomposing Indigenous life expectancy gap by risk factors: a life table analysis 
Background
The estimated gap in life expectancy (LE) between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was 12 years for men and 10 years for women, whereas the Northern Territory Indigenous LE gap was at least 50% greater than the national figures. This study aims to explain the Indigenous LE gap by common modifiable risk factors.
Methods
This study covered the period from 1986 to 2005. Unit record death data from the Northern Territory were used to assess the differences in LE at birth between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations by socioeconomic disadvantage, smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, pollution, and intimate partner violence. The population attributable fractions were applied to estimate the numbers of deaths associated with the selected risks. The standard life table and cause decomposition technique was used to examine the individual and joint effects on health inequality.
Results
The findings from this study indicate that among the selected risk factors, socioeconomic disadvantage was the leading health risk and accounted for one-third to one-half of the Indigenous LE gap. A combination of all six selected risks explained over 60% of the Indigenous LE gap.
Conclusions
Improving socioeconomic status, smoking cessation, and overweight reduction are critical to closing the Indigenous LE gap. This paper presents a useful way to explain the impact of risk factors of health inequalities, and suggests that reducing poverty should be placed squarely at the centre of the strategies to close the Indigenous LE gap.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-11-1
PMCID: PMC3585166  PMID: 23360645
Health status disparities; Risk factors; Life expectancy; Indigenous population; Socioeconomic factors
25.  Household food access and child malnutrition: results from the eight-country MAL-ED study 
Background
Stunting results from decreased food intake, poor diet quality, and a high burden of early childhood infections, and contributes to significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although food insecurity is an important determinant of child nutrition, including stunting, development of universal measures has been challenging due to cumbersome nutritional questionnaires and concerns about lack of comparability across populations. We investigate the relationship between household food access, one component of food security, and indicators of nutritional status in early childhood across eight country sites.
Methods
We administered a socioeconomic survey to 800 households in research sites in eight countries, including a recently validated nine-item food access insecurity questionnaire, and obtained anthropometric measurements from children aged 24 to 60 months. We used multivariable regression models to assess the relationship between household food access insecurity and anthropometry in children, and we assessed the invariance of that relationship across country sites.
Results
Average age of study children was 41 months. Mean food access insecurity score (range: 0–27) was 5.8, and varied from 2.4 in Nepal to 8.3 in Pakistan. Across sites, the prevalence of stunting (42%) was much higher than the prevalence of wasting (6%). In pooled regression analyses, a 10-point increase in food access insecurity score was associated with a 0.20 SD decrease in height-for-age Z score (95% CI 0.05 to 0.34 SD; p = 0.008). A likelihood ratio test for heterogeneity revealed that this relationship was consistent across countries (p = 0.17).
Conclusions
Our study provides evidence of the validity of using a simple household food access insecurity score to investigate the etiology of childhood growth faltering across diverse geographic settings. Such a measure could be used to direct interventions by identifying children at risk of illness and death related to malnutrition.
doi:10.1186/1478-7954-10-24
PMCID: PMC3584951  PMID: 23237098

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