Clinicians, providers and guideline panels use absolute effects to weigh the advantages and downsides of treatment alternatives. Relative measures have the potential to mislead readers. However, little is known about the reporting of absolute measures in systematic reviews. The objectives of our study are to determine the proportion of systematic reviews that report absolute measures of effect for the most important outcomes, and ascertain how they are analyzed, reported and interpreted.
We will conduct a methodological survey of systematic reviews published in 2010. We will conduct a 1:1 stratified random sampling of Cochrane vs. non-Cochrane systematic reviews. We will calculate the proportion of systematic reviews reporting at least one absolute estimate of effect for the most patient-important outcome for the comparison of interest. We will conduct multivariable logistic regression analyses with the reporting of an absolute estimate of effect as the dependent variable and pre-specified study characteristics as the independent variables. For systematic reviews reporting an absolute estimate of effect, we will document the methods used for the analysis, reporting and interpretation of the absolute estimate.
Our methodological survey will inform current practices regarding reporting of absolute estimates in systematic reviews. Our findings may influence recommendations on reporting, conduct and interpretation of absolute estimates. Our results are likely to be of interest to systematic review authors, funding agencies, clinicians, guideline developers and journal editors.
Systematic reviews; Meta-analysis; Statistical data; Evidence-based medicine; Numbers needed to treat; Data reporting; Absolute effect measures
Acknowledgment of all serious limitations to research evidence is important for patient care and scientific progress. Formal research on how biomedical authors acknowledge limitations is scarce.
To assess the extent to which limitations are acknowledged in biomedical publications explicitly, and implicitly by investigating the use of phrases that express uncertainty, so-called hedges; to assess the association between industry support and the extent of hedging.
We analyzed reporting of limitations and use of hedges in 300 biomedical publications published in 30 high and medium -ranked journals in 2007. Hedges were assessed using linguistic software that assigned weights between 1 and 5 to each expression of uncertainty.
Twenty-seven percent of publications (81/300) did not mention any limitations, while 73% acknowledged a median of 3 (range 1–8) limitations. Five percent mentioned a limitation in the abstract. After controlling for confounders, publications on industry-supported studies used significantly fewer hedges than publications not so supported (p = 0.028).
Detection and classification of limitations was – to some extent – subjective. The weighting scheme used by the hedging detection software has subjective elements.
Reporting of limitations in biomedical publications is probably very incomplete. Transparent reporting of limitations may protect clinicians and guideline committees against overly confident beliefs and decisions and support scientific progress through better design, conduct or analysis of new studies.
Cochrane Reviews are intended to help providers, practitioners and patients make informed decisions about health care. The goal of the Cochrane Applicability and Recommendation Methods Group (ARMG) is to develop approaches, strategies and guidance that facilitate the uptake of information from Cochrane Reviews and their use by a wide audience with specific focus on developers of recommendations and on healthcare decision makers. This paper is part of a series highlighting developments in systematic review methodology in the 20 years since the establishment of The Cochrane Collaboration, and its aim is to present current work and highlight future developments in assessing and presenting summaries of evidence, with special focus on Summary of Findings (SoF) tables and Plain Language Summaries.
A SoF table provides a concise and transparent summary of the key findings of a review in a tabular format. Several studies have shown that SoF tables improve accessibility and understanding of Cochrane Reviews.
The ARMG and GRADE Working Group are working on further development of the SoF tables, for example by evaluating the degree of acceptable flexibility beyond standard presentation of SoF tables, developing SoF tables for diagnostic test accuracy reviews and interactive SoF tables (iSoF).
The plain language summary (PLS) is the other main building block for dissemination of review results to end-users. The PLS aims to summarize the results of a review in such a way that health care consumers can readily understand them. Current efforts include the development of a standardized language to describe statistical results, based on effect size and quality of supporting evidence.
Producing high quality PLS and SoF tables and making them compatible and linked would make it easier to produce dissemination products targeting different audiences (for example, providers, health policy makers, guideline developers).
Current issues of debate include optimal presentation formats of SoF tables, the training required to produce SoF tables, and the extent to which the authors of Cochrane Reviews should provide explicit guidance to target audiences of patients, clinicians and policy-makers.
In spite of the negative health effects of waterpipe tobacco smoking, its use is becoming more common. The objective of this study is to systematically review the medical literature for motives, beliefs and attitudes towards waterpipe tobacco smoking.
We electronically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the ISI the Web of Science in January 2012. We included both quantitative and qualitative studies. We selected studies and abstracted data using standard systematic review methodology. We synthesized data qualitatively.
We included 58 papers reporting on 56 studies. The main motives for waterpipe tobacco smoking were socializing, relaxation, pleasure and entertainment. Peer pressure, fashion, and curiosity were additional motives for university and school students while expression of cultural identity was an additional motive for people in the Middle East and for people of Middle Eastern descent in Western countries. Awareness of the potential health hazards of waterpipe smoking was common across settings. Most but not all studies found that the majority of people perceived waterpipe smoking as less harmful than cigarette smoking. Waterpipe smoking was generally socially acceptable and more acceptable than cigarette smoking in general. In Middle Eastern societies, it was particularly more acceptable for women’s use compared to cigarette use. A majority perceived waterpipe smoking as less addictive than cigarette smoking. While users were confident in their ability to quit waterpipe smoking at any time, willingness to quit varied across settings.
Socializing, relaxation, pleasure and entertainment were the main motives for waterpipe use. While waterpipe users were aware of the health hazards of waterpipe smoking, they perceived it as less harmful, less addictive and more socially acceptable than cigarette smoking and were confident about their ability to quit.
Tobacco; Waterpipe; Addiction; Motives; Beliefs; Attitudes
Systematic reviewer authors intending to include all randomized participants in their meta-analyses need to make assumptions about the outcomes of participants with missing data.
The objective of this paper is to provide systematic reviewer authors with a relatively simple guidance for addressing dichotomous data for participants excluded from analyses of randomized trials.
This guide is based on a review of the Cochrane handbook and published methodological research. The guide deals with participants excluded from the analysis who were considered ‘non-adherent to the protocol’ but for whom data are available, and participants with missing data.
Systematic reviewer authors should include data from ‘non-adherent’ participants excluded from the primary study authors' analysis but for whom data are available. For missing, unavailable participant data, authors may conduct a complete case analysis (excluding those with missing data) as the primary analysis. Alternatively, they may conduct a primary analysis that makes plausible assumptions about the outcomes of participants with missing data. When the primary analysis suggests important benefit, sensitivity meta-analyses using relatively extreme assumptions that may vary in plausibility can inform the extent to which risk of bias impacts the confidence in the results of the primary analysis. The more plausible assumptions draw on the outcome event rates within the trial or in all trials included in the meta-analysis. The proposed guide does not take into account the uncertainty associated with assumed events.
This guide proposes methods for handling participants excluded from analyses of randomized trials. These methods can help in establishing the extent to which risk of bias impacts meta-analysis results.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that are inappropriately designed or executed may provide biased findings and mislead clinical practice. In view of recent interest in the treatment and prevention of thrombotic complications in cancer patients we evaluated the characteristics, risk of bias and their time trends in RCTs of anticoagulation in patients with cancer.
We conducted a comprehensive search, including a search of four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI the Web of Science, and CENTRAL) up to February 2010. We included RCTs in which the intervention and/or comparison consisted of: vitamin K antagonists, unfractionated heparin (UFH), low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), direct thrombin inhibitors or fondaparinux. We performed descriptive analyses and assessed the association between the variables of interest and the year of publication.
We included 67 RCTs with 24,071 participants. In twenty one trials (31%) DVT diagnosis was triggered by clinical suspicion; the remaining trials either screened for DVT or were unclear about their approach. 41 (61%), 22 (33%), and 11 (16%) trials respectively reported on major bleeding, minor bleeding, and thrombocytopenia. The percentages of trials satisfying risk of bias criteria were: adequate sequence generation (85%), adequate allocation concealment (61%), participants’ blinding (39%), data collectors’ blinding (44%), providers’ blinding (41%), outcome assessors’ blinding (75%), data analysts’ blinding (15%), intention to treat analysis (57%), no selective outcome reporting (12%), no stopping early for benefit (97%). The mean follow-up rate was 96%. Adequate allocation concealment and the reporting of intention to treat analysis were the only two quality criteria that improved over time.
Many RCTs of anticoagulation in patients with cancer appear to use insufficiently rigorous outcome assessment methods and to have deficiencies in key methodological features. It is not clear whether this reflects a problem in the design, conduct or the reporting of these trials, or both. Future trials should avoid the shortcomings described in this article.
The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach has been adopted by many national and international organisations as a systematic and transparent framework for evidence-based guideline development. With reference to an ongoing debate in the literature and within public health organisations, this study reviews current experience with the GRADE approach in rating the quality of evidence in the field of public health and identifies challenges encountered.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with individuals/groups that have applied the GRADE approach in the context of systematic reviews or guidelines in the field of public health, as well as with representatives of groups or organisations that actively decided against its use. We initially contacted potential participants by email. Responses were obtained by telephone interview or email, and written interview summaries were validated with participants. We analysed data across individual interviews to distil common themes and challenges.
Based on 25 responses, we undertook 18 interviews and obtained 15 in-depth responses relating to specific systematic reviews or guideline projects; a majority of the latter were contributed by groups within the World Health Organization. All respondents that have used the GRADE approach appreciated the systematic and transparent process of assessing the quality of the evidence. However, respondents reported a range of minor and major challenges relating to complexity of public health interventions, choice of outcomes and outcome measures, ability to discriminate between different types of observational studies, use of non-epidemiological evidence, GRADE terminology and the GRADE and guideline development process. Respondents’ suggestions to make the approach more applicable to public health interventions included revisiting terminology, offering better guidance on how to apply GRADE to complex interventions and making modifications to the current grading scheme.
Our findings suggest that GRADE principles are applicable to public health and well-received but also highlight common challenges. They provide a starting point for exploring options for improvements and, where applicable, testing these across different types of public health interventions. Several public health organisations are currently testing GRADE, and the GRADE Working Group is eager to engage with these groups to find ways to address concerns.
Authors of randomized trial reports seem to hold a variety of views regarding the relationship between missing outcome data (MOD) and intention to treat (ITT). The objectives of this study were to systematically investigate how authors of methodology articles define ITT in the presence of MOD, how they recommend handling MOD under ITT, and to make a proposal for potential improvement in the definition and use of ITT in relation to MOD.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched MEDLINE in February 2009 for methodological articles written in English that devoted at least one paragraph to ITT and two other paragraphs to either ITT or MOD. We excluded original trial reports, observational studies, and clinical systematic reviews. Working in teams of two, we independently extracted relevant information from each eligible article. Of 1007 titles and abstracts reviewed, 66 articles met eligibility criteria. Five (8%) did not provide a definition of ITT; 25 (38%) mentioned MOD but did not discuss its relationship to ITT; and 36 (55%) discussed the relationship of MOD with ITT. These 36 articles described one or more of three statements: complete follow-up is required for ITT (58%); ITT and MOD are separate issues (17%); and ITT requires a specific strategy for handling MOD (78%); 17 (47%) endorsed more than one relationship. The most frequently mentioned strategies for handling MOD within ITT were: using the last outcome carried forward (50%); sensitivity analysis (50%); and use of available data to impute missing data (46%).
We found that there is no consensus on the definition of ITT in relation to MOD. For conceptual clarity, we suggest that both reports of randomized trials and systematic reviews separately consider and describe how they deal with participants with complete data and those with MOD.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) may be discontinued because of apparent harm, benefit, or futility. Other RCTs are discontinued early because of insufficient recruitment. Trial discontinuation has ethical implications, because participants consent on the premise of contributing to new medical knowledge, Research Ethics Committees (RECs) spend considerable effort reviewing study protocols, and limited resources for conducting research are wasted. Currently, little is known regarding the frequency and characteristics of discontinued RCTs.
Our aims are, first, to determine the prevalence of RCT discontinuation for specific reasons; second, to determine whether the risk of RCT discontinuation for specific reasons differs between investigator- and industry-initiated RCTs; third, to identify risk factors for RCT discontinuation due to insufficient recruitment; fourth, to determine at what stage RCTs are discontinued; and fifth, to examine the publication history of discontinued RCTs.
We are currently assembling a multicenter cohort of RCTs based on protocols approved between 2000 and 2002/3 by 6 RECs in Switzerland, Germany, and Canada. We are extracting data on RCT characteristics and planned recruitment for all included protocols. Completion and publication status is determined using information from correspondence between investigators and RECs, publications identified through literature searches, or by contacting the investigators. We will use multivariable regression models to identify risk factors for trial discontinuation due to insufficient recruitment. We aim to include over 1000 RCTs of which an anticipated 150 will have been discontinued due to insufficient recruitment.
Our study will provide insights into the prevalence and characteristics of RCTs that were discontinued. Effective recruitment strategies and the anticipation of problems are key issues in the planning and evaluation of trials by investigators, Clinical Trial Units, RECs and funding agencies. Identification and modification of barriers to successful study completion at an early stage could help to reduce the risk of trial discontinuation, save limited resources, and enable RCTs to better meet their ethical requirements.
Randomized controlled trial; Trial discontinuation; Slow recruitment; Ethics committees; Trial protocols
To estimate the effectiveness of anterior cervical discectomy with arthroplasty (ACDA) compared to anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF) for patient-important outcomes for single-level cervical spondylosis.
Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Register for Randomized Controlled Trials, BIOSIS and LILACS), archives of spine meetings and bibliographies of relevant articles.
We included RCTs of ACDF versus ACDA in adult patients with single-level cervical spondylosis reporting at least one of the following outcomes: functionality, neurological success, neck pain, arm pain, quality of life, surgery for adjacent level degeneration (ALD), reoperation and dysphonia/dysphagia. We used no language restrictions. We performed title and abstract screening and full text screening independently and in duplicate.
We used random-effects model to pool data using mean difference (MD) for continuous outcomes and relative risk (RR) for dichotomous outcomes. We used GRADE to evaluate the quality of evidence for each outcome.
Of 2804 citations, 9 articles reporting on 9 trials (1778 participants) were eligible. ACDA is associated with a clinically significant lower incidence of neurologic failure (RR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.37–0.75, p = 0.0004) and improvement in the Neck pain visual analogue scale (VAS) (MD = 6.56, 95% CI = 3.22–9.90, p = 0.0001; Minimal clinically important difference (MCID) = 2.5. ACDA is associated with a statistically but not clinically significant improvement in Arm pain VAS and SF-36 physical component summary. ACDA is associated with non-statistically significant higher improvement in the Neck Disability Index Score and lower incidence of ALD requiring surgery, reoperation, and dysphagia/dysphonia.
There is no strong evidence to support the routine use of ACDA over ACDF in single-level cervical spondylosis. Current trials lack long-term data required to assess safety as well as surgery for ALD. We suggest that ACDA in patients with single level cervical spondylosis is an option although its benefits and indication over ACDF remain in question.
Many academic medical centres have introduced strategies to assess the productivity of faculty as part of compensation schemes. We conducted a systematic review of the effects of such strategies on faculty productivity.
We searched the MEDLINE, Healthstar, Embase and PsycInfo databases from their date of inception up to October 2011. We included studies that assessed academic productivity in clinical, research, teaching and administrative activities, as well as compensation, promotion processes and satisfaction.
Of 531 full-text articles assessed for eligibility, we included 9 articles reporting on eight studies. The introduction of strategies for assessing academic productivity as part of compensation schemes resulted in increases in clinical productivity (in six of six studies) in terms of clinical revenue, the work component of relative-value units (these units are nonmonetary standard units of measure used to indicate the value of services provided), patient satisfaction and other departmentally used standards. Increases in research productivity were noted (in five of six studies) in terms of funding and publications. There was no change in teaching productivity (in two of five studies) in terms of educational output. Such strategies also resulted in increases in compensation at both individual and group levels (in three studies), with two studies reporting a change in distribution of compensation in favour of junior faculty. None of the studies assessed effects on administrative productivity or promotion processes. The overall quality of evidence was low.
Strategies introduced to assess productivity as part of a compensation scheme appeared to improve productivity in research activities and possibly improved clinical productivity, but they had no effect in the area of teaching. Compensation increased at both group and individual levels, particularly among junior faculty. Higher quality evidence about the benefits and harms of such assessment strategies is needed.
We recently proposed that Lebanon could become a regional ‘academic hub’ through the repatriation of emigrated Lebanese physicians who would then provide clinical services in the Arab Gulf region on a locum tenens basis. The objectives of this study were to assess the willingness of Lebanese medical graduates practicing in the United States of America to relocate to Lebanon and the Arab Gulf region and to explore the factors associated with this willingness.
In 2009 we surveyed Lebanese medical graduates practicing medicine in the United States. The questionnaire included questions about their willingness to relocate to Lebanon and to the Arab Gulf region and the associated timeframes. The questionnaire also included questions about family factors. We linked responders’ answers to their personal, educational, and practice characteristics provided by the American Medical Association Physicians’ Dataset. We conducted both descriptive and regression analyses.
A total of 286 physicians participated in the survey (57% response rate). A majority (61%) was willing to relocate to Lebanon (51% possibly, 10% definitely). A third (33%) were willing to relocate to the Arab Gulf region (31% possibly, 2% definitely). About half (54%) were willing to relocate to Lebanon as a base for clinical missions to the Arab Gulf region (49% possibly, 5% definitely). Willingness to relocate to Lebanon was independently associated with Lebanese citizenship and the birthplace of the spouse being Lebanon, and inversely associated with US citizenship. Willingness to relocate to the Arab Gulf region was independently associated with being board certified, and inversely associated with being married, the age of the oldest child, and practicing in direct patient care. Willingness to relocate to Lebanon as a base was not independently associated with any factor.
The findings of this study support the feasibility of the proposal of Lebanon becoming a regional ‘academic hub’. Future research should explore other factors important for the feasibility of the proposal as well as actual relocation.
Physician migration; Repatriation; Lebanese physician workforce
Lebanon is witnessing an increased emigration of physicians. The objective of this study was to understand the perceptions of Lebanese policymakers of this emigration, and elicit their proposals for future policies and strategies to deal with this emigration.
We conducted semi-structured individual interviews with the deans of Lebanon’s seven medical schools, the presidents of the two physicians professional associations, and governmental officials. We analyzed the results qualitatively.
Participants differed in the assessment of the extent and gravity of emigration. Lebanon has a surplus of physicians, driven largely by the over-production of graduates by a growing number of medical schools. Participants cited advantages and disadvantages of the emigration on the personal, financial, medical education system, healthcare system, and national levels. Proposed strategies included limiting the number of students entering medical schools, creating job opportunities for graduating students, and implementing quality standards. Most participants acknowledged the globalization of the Lebanese physician workforce, including exchanges with the Gulf region, exchanges with developed countries, and the involvement of North American medical education institutions in the region.
Many Lebanese policy makers, particularly deans of medical schools, perceive the emigration of the physician workforce as an opportunity in the context of the globalization of the profession.
Emigration and immigration; Health manpower; Medical education; Physicians
Pregnant women with prior venous thromboembolism (VTE) are at risk of recurrence. Low molecular weight heparin (LWMH) reduces the risk of pregnancy-related VTE. LMWH prophylaxis is, however, inconvenient, uncomfortable, costly, medicalizes pregnancy, and may be associated with increased risks of obstetrical bleeding. Further, there is uncertainty in the estimates of both the baseline risk of pregnancy-related recurrent VTE and the effects of antepartum LMWH prophylaxis. The values and treatment preferences of pregnant women, crucial when making recommendations for prophylaxis, are currently unknown. The objective of this study is to address this gap in knowledge.
We will perform a multi-center cross-sectional interview study in Canada, USA, Norway and Finland. The study population will consist of 100 women with a history of lower extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), and who are either pregnant, planning pregnancy, or may in the future consider pregnancy (women between 18 and 45 years). We will exclude individuals who are on full dose anticoagulation or thromboprophylaxis, who have undergone surgical sterilization, or whose partners have undergone vasectomy. We will determine each participant's willingness to receive LMWH prophylaxis during pregnancy through direct choice exercises based on real life and hypothetical scenarios, preference-elicitation using a visual analog scale (“feeling thermometer”), and a probability trade-off exercise. The primary outcome will be the minimum reduction (threshold) in VTE risk at which women change from declining to accepting LMWH prophylaxis. We will explore possible determinants of this choice, including educational attainment, the characteristics of the women’s prior VTE, and prior experience with LMWH. We will determine the utilities that women place on the burden of LMWH prophylaxis, pregnancy-related DVT, pregnancy-related PE and pregnancy-related hemorrhage. We will generate a “personalized decision analysis” using participants’ utilities and their personalized risk of recurrent VTE as inputs to a decision analytic model. We will compare the personalized decision analysis to the participant’s stated choice.
The preferences of pregnant women at risk of VTE with respect to the use of antithrombotic therapy remain unexplored. This research will provide explicit, quantitative expressions of women's valuations of health states related to recurrent VTE and its prevention with LMWH. This information will be crucial for both guideline developers and for clinicians.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Department of HIV/AIDS led the development of public health guidelines for delivering an evidence-based, essential package of interventions for the prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people in the health sector in low- and middle-income countries. The objective of this paper is to review the methodological challenges faced and solutions applied during the development of the guidelines.
The development of the guidelines followed the WHO guideline development process, which utilizes the GRADE approach. We identified, categorized and labeled the challenges identified in the guidelines development process and described the solutions through an interactive process of in-person and electronic communication.
We describe how we dealt with the following challenges: (1) heterogeneous and complex interventions; (2) paucity of trial data; (3) selecting outcomes of interest; (4) using indirect evidence; (5) integrating values and preferences; (6) considering resource use; (7) addressing social and legal barriers; (8) wording of recommendations; and (9) developing global guidelines.
We were able to successfully apply the GRADE approach for developing recommendations for public health interventions. Applying the general principles of the approach while carefully considering specific challenges can enhance both the process and the outcome of guideline development.
In the third paper in a three-part series on health systems guidance, Simon Lewin and colleagues explore the challenge of assessing how much confidence to place in evidence on health systems interventions.
Unbiased and frank discussion of study limitations by authors represents a crucial part of the scientific discourse and progress. In today's culture of publishing many authors or scientific teams probably balance 'utter honesty' when discussing limitations of their research with the risk of being unable to publish their work. Currently, too few papers in the medical literature frankly discuss how limitations could have affected the study findings and interpretations. The goals of this commentary are to review how limitations are currently acknowledged in the medical literature, to discuss the implications of limitations in biomedical studies, and to make suggestions as to how to openly discuss limitations for scientists submitting their papers to journals. This commentary was developed through discussion and logical arguments by the authors who are doing research in the area of hedging (use of language to express uncertainty) and who have extensive experience as authors and editors of biomedical papers. We strongly encourage authors to report on all potentially important limitations that may have affected the quality and interpretation of the evidence being presented. This will not only benefit science but also offers incentives for authors: If not all important limitations are acknowledged readers and reviewers of scientific articles may perceive that the authors were unaware of them. Authors should take advantage of their content knowledge and familiarity with the study to prevent misinterpretations of the limitations by reviewers and readers. Articles discussing limitations help shape the future research agenda and are likely to be cited because they have informed the design and conduct of future studies. Instead of perceiving acknowledgment of limitations negatively, authors, reviewers and editors should recognize the potential of a frank and unbiased discussion of study limitations that should not jeopardize acceptance of manuscripts.
The objective of this study was to systematically review the medical literature for the prevalence of waterpipe tobacco use among the general and specific populations.
We electronically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the ISI the Web of Science. We selected studies using a two-stage duplicate and independent screening process. We included cohort studies and cross sectional studies assessing the prevalence of use of waterpipe in either the general population or a specific population of interest. Two reviewers used a standardized and pilot tested form to collect data from each eligible study using a duplicate and independent screening process. We stratified the data analysis by country and by age group. The study was not restricted to a specific context.
Of a total of 38 studies, only 4 were national surveys; the rest assessed specific populations. The highest prevalence of current waterpipe smoking was among school students across countries: the United States, especially among Arab Americans (12%-15%) the Arabic Gulf region (9%-16%), Estonia (21%), and Lebanon (25%). Similarly, the prevalence of current waterpipe smoking among university students was high in the Arabic Gulf region (6%), the United Kingdom (8%), the United States (10%), Syria (15%), Lebanon (28%), and Pakistan (33%). The prevalence of current waterpipe smoking among adults was the following: Pakistan (6%), Arabic Gulf region (4%-12%), Australia (11% in Arab speaking adults), Syria (9%-12%), and Lebanon (15%). Group waterpipe smoking was high in Lebanon (5%), and Egypt (11%-15%). In Lebanon, 5%-6% pregnant women reported smoking waterpipe during pregnancy. The studies were all cross-sectional and varied by how they reported waterpipe smoking.
While very few national surveys have been conducted, the prevalence of waterpipe smoking appears to be alarmingly high among school students and university students in Middle Eastern countries and among groups of Middle Eastern descent in Western countries.
The response rates to physician postal surveys remain modest. The primary objective of this study was to assess the effect of tracking responses on physician survey response rate (i.e., determining whether each potential participant has responded or not). A secondary objective was to assess the effects of day of mailing (Monday vs. Friday) on physician survey response rate.
We conducted 3 randomized controlled trials. The first 2 trials had a 2×2 factorial design and tested the effect of day of mailing (Monday vs. Friday) and of tracking vs. no tracking responses. The third trial tested the effect of day of mailing (Monday vs. Friday). We meta-analyzed these 3 trials using a random effects model.
The total number of participants in the 3 trials was 1339. The response rate with tracked mailing was not statistically different from that with non-tracked mailing by the time of the first reminder (RR = 1.01 95% CI 0.84, 1.22; I2 = 0%). There was a trend towards lower response rate with tracked mailing by the time of the second reminder (RR = 0.91; 95% CI 0.78, 1.06; I2 = 0%). The response rate with mailing on Mondays was not statistically different from that with Friday mailing by the time of first reminder (RR = 1.01; 95% CI 0.87, 1.17; I2 = 0%), and by the time of the 2nd reminder (RR = 1.08; 95% CI 0.84, 1.39; I2 = 77%).
Tracking response may negatively affect physicians' response rate. The day of mailing does not appear to affect physicians' response rate.
Instruments to detect changes in attitudes towards people with disabilities are important for evaluation of training programs and for research. While we were interested in instruments specific for medical students, we aimed to systematically review the medical literature for validated survey instruments used to measure attitudes of healthcare students and professionals towards patients with physical disability.
We electronically searched Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Health and Psychosocial Instruments. We included papers reporting on the development and/or validation of survey instruments to measure attitudes of healthcare students and professionals towards patients with physical disability. We excluded papers in which the attitudes were not measured in a provider-patient context. Two reviewers carried out titles and abstracts screening, full texts screening, and data abstraction in a duplicate and independent manner using standardized and pilot tested forms.
We identified seven validated survey instruments used for healthcare students and professionals. These instruments were originally developed for the following target populations: general population (n = 4); dental students (n = 1); nursing students (n = 1); and rehabilitation professionals (n = 1). The types of validity reported for these instruments were content validity (n = 3), criterion-related validity (n = 1), construct validity (n = 2), face validity (n = 1), discriminant validity (n = 1), and responsiveness (n = 1). The most widely validated and used tool (ATDP) was developed in the late 1960s while the most recent instrument was developed in the early 1990s.
Of the seven identified validated instruments, less than half were specifically designed for healthcare students and professionals and none for medical students. There is a need to develop and validate a contemporary instrument specifically for medical students.
The primary objective was to systematically review the medical literature for instruments validated for use in epidemiological and clinical research on waterpipe smoking.
We searched the following databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and ISI the Web of Science. We selected studies using a two-stage duplicate and independent screening process. We included papers reporting on the development and/or validation of survey instruments to measure waterpipe tobacco consumption or related concepts. Two reviewers used a standardized and pilot tested data abstraction form to collect data from each eligible study using a duplicate and independent screening process. We also determined the percentage of observational studies assessing the health effects of waterpipe tobacco smoking and the percentage of studies of prevalence of waterpipe tobacco smoking that have used validated survey instruments.
We identified a total of five survey instruments. One instrument was designed to measure knowledge, attitudes, and waterpipe use among pregnant women and was shown to have internal consistency and content validity. Three instruments were designed to measure waterpipe tobacco consumption, two of which were reported to have face validity. The fifth instrument was designed to measure waterpipe dependence and was rigorously developed and validated. One of the studies of prevalence and none of the studies of health effects of waterpipe smoking used validated instruments.
A number of instruments for measuring the use of and dependence on waterpipe smoking exist. Future research should study content validity and cross cultural adaptation of these instruments.
Lebanon suffers from a large scale emigration of physicians coupled with an oversaturation of the physician job market. Lebanon is currently witnessing an expansion of its medical education capacity with the establishment of new private medical schools, raising the fears of a worsening market oversaturation.
The neighboring Arabian Gulf countries are suffering from a serious shortage of clinicians and academicians. In spite of their enormous investments in educational, clinical and research collaborative initiatives with some of the most renowned North American medical schools and institutions, their ability to recruit and retain highly qualified clinicians and academicians remains a major challenge. Lebanese universities have the opportunity to establish triangular collaborations with the Gulf regional medical centers and their North American partners. They could achieve this goal by tapping into the globalized and high quality Lebanese physician workforce and consequently regionalize healthcare delivery in the Middle East.
By recruiting its globalized and high quality physician workforce to establish collaborations with the Gulf regional, Lebanon could become a regional "academic hub".
To systematically review the medical literature to assess the effect of geriatric educational games on the satisfaction, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of health care professionals.
We conducted a systematic review following the Cochrane Collaboration methodology including an electronic search of 10 electronic databases. We included randomized controlled trials (RCT) and controlled clinical trials (CCT) and excluded single arm studies. Population of interests included members (practitioners or students) of the health care professions. Outcomes of interests were participants' satisfaction, knowledge, beliefs, attitude, and behaviors.
We included 8 studies evaluating 5 geriatric role playing games, all conducted in United States. All studies suffered from one or more methodological limitations but the overall quality of evidence was acceptable. None of the studies assessed the effects of the games on beliefs or behaviors. None of the 8 studies reported a statistically significant difference between the 2 groups in terms of change in attitude. One study assessed the impact on knowledge and found non-statistically significant difference between the 2 groups. Two studies found levels of satisfaction among participants to be high. We did not conduct a planned meta-analysis because the included studies either reported no statistical data or reported different summary statistics.
The available evidence does not support the use of role playing interventions in geriatric medical education with the aim of improving the attitudes towards the elderly.
The evidence supporting the effectiveness of educational games in graduate medical education is limited. Anecdotal reports suggest their popularity in that setting. The objective of this study was to explore the support for and the different aspects of use of educational games in family medicine and internal medicine residency programs in the United States.
We conducted a survey of family medicine and internal medicine residency program directors in the United States. The questionnaire asked the program directors whether they supported the use of educational games, their actual use of games, and the type of games being used and the purpose of that use.
Of 434 responding program directors (52% response rate), 92% were in support of the use of games as an educational strategy, and 80% reported already using them in their programs. Jeopardy like games were the most frequently used games (78%). The use of games was equally popular in family medicine and internal medicine residency programs and popularity was inversely associated with more than 75% of residents in the program being International Medical Graduates. The percentage of program directors who reported using educational games as teaching tools, review tools, and evaluation tools were 62%, 47%, and 4% respectively.
Given a widespread use of educational games in the training of medical residents, in spite of limited evidence for efficacy, further evaluation of the best approaches to education games should be explored.
It is arguable that modification of diet, given its potential for positive health outcomes, should be widely advocated and adopted. However, food intake, as a basic human need, and its modification may be accompanied by sensations of both pleasure and despondency and may consequently affect to quality of life (QoL). Thus, the feasibility and success of dietary changes will depend, at least partly, on whether potential negative influences on QoL can be avoided. This is of particular importance in the context of dietary intervention studies and in the development of new food products to improve health and well being. Instruments to measure the impact of nutrition on quality of life in the general population, however, are few and far between. Therefore, the aim of this project was to develop an instrument for measuring QoL related to nutrition in the general population.
Methods and results
We recruited participants from the general population and followed standard methodology for quality of life instrument development (identification of population, item selection, n = 24; item reduction, n = 81; item presentation, n = 12; pretesting of questionnaire and initial validation, n = 2576; construct validation n = 128; and test-retest reliability n = 20). Of 187 initial items, 29 were selected for final presentation. Factor analysis revealed an instrument with 5 domains. The instrument demonstrated good cross-sectional divergent and convergent construct validity when correlated with scores of the 8 domains of the SF-36 (ranging from -0.078 to 0.562, 19 out of 40 tested correlations were statistically significant and 24 correlations were predicted correctly) and good test-retest reliability (intra-class correlation coefficients from 0.71 for symptoms to 0.90).
We developed and validated an instrument with 29 items across 5 domains to assess quality of life related to nutrition and other aspects of food intake. The instrument demonstrated good face and construct validity as well as good reliability. Future work will focus on the evaluation of longitudinal construct validity and responsiveness.