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1.  Midwives’ knowledge, attitudes and practice about alcohol exposure and the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder 
Background
Midwives are an influential profession and a key group in informing women about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its consequences. There are no current quantitative Australian data on midwives’ knowledge, attitudes and practice in relation to alcohol consumption during pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. We aimed to reduce this knowledge gap by understanding midwives’ perceptions of their practice in addressing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Methods
This cross-sectional study was conducted at 19 maternity sites across the seven health regions of country Western Australia. A questionnaire was designed following review of the literature and other relevant surveys. Midwifery managers of the maternity sites distributed questionnaires to all midwives working in their line of management. A total of 334 midwives were invited to participate in the research and (n = 245, 73.4%) of these were eligible.
Results
The response fraction was (n = 166, 67.8%). Nearly all (n = 151, 93.2%) midwives asked pregnant women about their alcohol consumption during pregnancy and (n = 164, 99.4%) offered advice about alcohol consumption in accordance with the Australian Alcohol Guideline, which states “For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option”. Nearly two thirds (n = 104, 64.2%) of the midwives informed pregnant women about the effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, they did not always use the recommended AUDIT screening tool (n = 66, 47.5%) to assess alcohol consumption during pregnancy, nor conduct brief intervention when indicated (n = 107, 70.4%). Most midwives endorsed professional development about screening tools (n = 145, 93.5%), brief intervention (n = 144, 92.9%), and alcohol consumption during pregnancy and FASD (n = 144, 92.9%).
Conclusion
Nearly all midwives in this study asked and advised about alcohol consumption in pregnancy and around two thirds provided information about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. Our findings support the need for further professional development for midwives on screening and brief intervention. Policy should support midwives’ practice to screen for alcohol consumption in pregnancy and offer brief intervention when indicated.
doi:10.1186/s12884-014-0377-z
PMCID: PMC4228156  PMID: 25366388
Midwives; Knowledge; Attitude; Practice; Alcohol; Pregnancy; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
2.  Consensus diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia: a modified Delphi study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001918.
Objective
To evaluate health professionals' agreement with components of published diagnostic criteria for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in order to guide the development of standard diagnostic guidelines for Australia.
Design
A modified Delphi process was used to assess agreement among health professionals with expertise or experience in FASD screening or diagnosis. An online survey, which included 36 Likert statements on diagnostic methods, was administered over two survey rounds. For fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), health professionals were presented with concepts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), University of Washington (UW), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), revised IOM and Canadian diagnostic criteria. For partial FAS (PFAS), alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), and alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), concepts based on the IOM and the Canadian diagnostic criteria were compared.
Setting/participants
130 Australian and 9 international health professionals.
Results
Of 139 health professionals invited to complete the survey, 103 (74.1%) responded, and 74 (53.2%) completed one or more questions on diagnostic criteria. We found consensus agreement among participants on the diagnostic criteria for FAS, with the UW criteria most commonly endorsed when compared with all other published criteria for FAS. When health professionals were presented with concepts based on the Canadian and IOM diagnostic criteria, we found consensus agreement but no clear preference for either the Canadian or IOM criteria for the diagnosis of PFAS, and no consensus agreement on diagnostic criteria for ARND. We also found no consensus on the IOM diagnostic criteria for ARBD.
Conclusions
Participants indicated clear support for use of the UW diagnostic criteria for FAS in Australia. These findings should be used to develop guidelines to facilitate improved awareness of, and address identified gaps in the infrastructure for, FASD diagnosis in Australia.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001918
PMCID: PMC3488737  PMID: 23100447
3.  Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: development of consensus referral criteria for specialist diagnostic assessment in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2014;14:178.
Background
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is known to be under-recognised in Australia. The use of standard methods to identify when to refer individuals who may have FASD for specialist assessment could help improve the identification of this disorder. The purpose of this study was to develop referral criteria for use in Australia.
Method
An online survey about FASD screening and diagnosis in Australia, which included 23 statements describing criteria for referral for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and FASD based on published recommendations for referral in North America, was sent to 139 health professionals who had expertise or involvement in FASD screening or diagnosis. Survey findings and published criteria for referral were subsequently reviewed by a panel of 14 investigators at a consensus development workshop where criteria for referral were developed.
Results
Among the 139 health professionals who were sent the survey, 103 (74%) responded, and 90 (65%) responded to the statements on criteria for referral. Over 80% of respondents agreed that referral for specialist evaluation should occur when there is evidence of significant prenatal alcohol exposure, defined as 7 or more standard drinks per week and at least 3 standard drinks on any one day, and more than 70% agreed with 13 of the 16 statements that described criteria for referral other than prenatal alcohol exposure. Workshop participants recommended five independent criteria for referral: confirmed significant prenatal alcohol exposure; microcephaly and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 2 or more significant central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure; 3 characteristic FAS facial anomalies; and 1 characteristic FAS facial anomaly, growth deficit and 1 or more CNS abnormalities.
Conclusion
Referral criteria recommended for use in Australia are similar to those recommended in North America. There is a need to develop resources to raise awareness of these criteria among health professionals and evaluate their feasibility, acceptability and capacity to improve the identification of FASD in Australia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-178
PMCID: PMC4123492  PMID: 25005425
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Referral; Consensus
4.  Recommendations from a consensus development workshop on the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:156.
Background
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are underdiagnosed in Australia, and health professionals have endorsed the need for national guidelines for diagnosis. The aim of this study was to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
Methods
A panel of 13 health professionals, researchers, and consumer and community representatives with relevant expertise attended a 2-day consensus development workshop to review evidence on the screening and diagnosis of FASD obtained from a systematic literature review, a national survey of health professionals and community group discussions. The nominal group technique and facilitated discussion were used to review the evidence on screening and diagnosis, and to develop consensus recommendations for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia.
Results
The use of population-based screening for FASD was not recommended. However, there was consensus support for the development of standard criteria for referral for specialist diagnostic assessment. Participants developed consensus recommendations for diagnostic categories, criteria and assessment methods, based on the adaption of elements from both the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code and the Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis. Panel members also recommended the development of resources to: facilitate consistency in referral and diagnostic practices, including comprehensive clinical guidelines and assessment instruments; and to support individuals undergoing assessment and their parents or carers.
Conclusions
These consensus recommendations provide a foundation for the development of guidelines and other resources to promote consistency in the diagnosis of FASD in Australia. Guidelines for diagnosis will require review and evaluation in the Australian context prior to national implementation as well as periodic review to incorporate new knowledge.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-156
PMCID: PMC3849849  PMID: 24083778
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Diagnosis; Consensus
5.  Involving consumers and the community in the development of a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
Background
Australia’s commitment to consumer and community participation in health and medical research has grown over the past decade. Participatory research models of engagement are the most empowering for consumers.
Methods
As part of a project to develop a diagnostic instrument for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia (FASD Project), the Australian FASD Collaboration (Collaboration), including a consumer advocate and two consumer representatives, was established. On completion of the FASD Project an on-line survey of Collaboration members was conducted to assess their views on consumer involvement. Women in the community were also invited to participate in Community Conversations to discuss real life situations regarding communications with health professionals about alcohol and pregnancy. Community Conversation feedback was analysed qualitatively and attendees were surveyed about their views of the Community Conversation process.
Results
The on-line survey was completed by 12 members of the Collaboration (71%). Consumer and community participation was considered important and essential, worked well, and was integral to the success of the project. The 32 women attending the Community Conversations generated 500 statements that made reference to prevention, how information and messages are delivered, and appropriate support for women. Nearly all the attendees at the Community Conversations (93%) believed that they had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and 96% viewed the Community Conversations as a positive experience.
Conclusions
The successful involvement of consumers and the community in the FASD Project can be attributed to active consumer and community participation, which included continued involvement throughout the project, funding of participation activities, and an understanding of the various contributions by the Collaboration members.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-11-26
PMCID: PMC3733745  PMID: 23898969
Consumer participation; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; Research
6.  Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sexually transmitted infections and blood borne virus notification rates in Western Australia: using linked data to improve estimates 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:404.
Background
National notification data for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) continue to have a high proportion of missing data on Indigenous status, potentially biasing estimates of notification rates by Aboriginality. We evaluated the use of data linkage to improve the accuracy of estimated notification rates for STIs and BBVs in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups in Western Australia.
Methods
STI and BBV case notifications in Western Australia received in 2010 were linked with administrative health data collections in Western Australia to obtain additional data on Indigenous status. STI and BBV notification rates based on the pre- and post-linkage data among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups were compared.
Results
Data linkage decreased the proportion of notifications with unknown Indigenous status by 74% from 10.2% to 2.7%. There was no significant difference in disease-specific age-adjusted notification rate ratio estimates based on pre-linkage data and post-linkage data for Aboriginal people compared with non-Aboriginal people.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that reported STI and BBV disease-specific age-adjusted notification rates for 2010 in Western Australia are unlikely to be significantly biased by excluding notifications with unknown Indigenous status. This finding is likely to be dependent on recent improvements in the reporting of Indigenous status in notification data in Western Australia. Cost-effective and systematic solutions, including the better use of existing data linkage resources, are required to facilitate continued improvement in the completeness of reporting and accuracy of estimates for notifiable STIs and BBVs in Australia by Aboriginality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-404
PMCID: PMC3644244  PMID: 23621957
7.  A modified Delphi study of screening for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:13.
Background
There is little reliable information on the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in Australia and no coordinated national approach to facilitate case detection. The aim of this study was to identify health professionals’ perceptions about screening for FASD in Australia.
Method
A modified Delphi process was used to assess perceptions of the need for, and the process of, screening for FASD in Australia. We recruited a panel of 130 Australian health professionals with experience or expertise in FASD screening or diagnosis. A systematic review of the literature was used to develop Likert statements on screening coverage, components and assessment methods which were administered using an online survey over two survey rounds.
Results
Of the panel members surveyed, 95 (73%) responded to the questions on screening in the first survey round and, of these, 81 (85%) responded to the second round. Following two rounds there was consensus agreement on the need for targeted screening at birth (76%) and in childhood (84%). Participants did not reach consensus agreement on the need for universal screening at birth (55%) or in childhood (40%). Support for targeted screening was linked to perceived constraints on service provision and the need to examine the performance, costs and benefits of screening.
For targeted screening of high risk groups, we found highest agreement for siblings of known cases of FASD (96%) and children of mothers attending alcohol treatment services (93%). Participants agreed that screening for FASD primarily requires assessment of prenatal alcohol exposure at birth (86%) and in childhood (88%), and that a checklist is needed to identify the components of screening and criteria for referral at birth (84%) and in childhood (90%).
Conclusions
There is an agreed need for targeted but not universal screening for FASD in Australia, and sufficient consensus among health professionals to warrant development and evaluation of standardised methods for targeted screening and referral in the Australian context. Participants emphasised the need for locally-appropriate, evidence-based approaches to facilitate case detection, and the importance of ensuring that screening and referral programs are supported by adequate diagnostic and management capacity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-13
PMCID: PMC3583688  PMID: 23347677
8.  Health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:69.
Background
Despite the availability of five guidelines for the diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), there is no national endorsement for their use in diagnosis in Australia. In this study we aimed to describe health professionals’ perceptions about the adoption of existing guidelines for the diagnosis of FASD in Australia and identify implications for the development of national guidelines.
Methods
We surveyed 130 Australian and 9 international health professionals with expertise or involvement in the screening or diagnosis of FASD. An online questionnaire was used to evaluate participants’ familiarity with and use of five existing diagnostic guidelines for FASD, and to assess their perceptions about the adoption of these guidelines in Australia.
Results
Of the 139 participants surveyed, 84 Australian and 8 international health professionals (66.2%) responded to the questions on existing diagnostic guidelines. Participants most frequently reported using the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code (27.2%) and the Canadian guidelines (18.5%) for diagnosis. These two guidelines were also most frequently recommended for adoption in Australia: 32.5% of the 40 participants who were familiar with the University of Washington 4-Digit Diagnostic Code recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia, and 30.8% of the 26 participants who were familiar with the Canadian guidelines recommended adoption of this guideline in Australia. However, for the majority of guidelines examined, most participants were unsure whether they should be adopted in Australia. The adoption of existing guidelines in Australia was perceived to be limited by: their lack of evidence base, including the appropriateness of established reference standards for the Australian population; their complexity; the need for training and support to use the guidelines; and the lack of an interdisciplinary and interagency model to support service delivery in Australia.
Conclusions
Participants indicated some support for the adoption of the University of Washington or Canadian guidelines for FASD diagnosis; however, concerns were raised about the adoption of these diagnostic guidelines in their current form. Australian diagnostic guidelines will require evaluation to establish their validity in the Australian context, and a comprehensive implementation model is needed to facilitate improved diagnostic capacity in Australia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-69
PMCID: PMC3416706  PMID: 22697051
9.  A cross-sectional study of pre-travel health-seeking practices among travelers departing Sydney and Bangkok airports 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:321.
Background
Pre-travel health assessments aim to promote risk reduction through preventive measures and safe behavior, including ensuring travelers are up-to-date with their immunizations. However, studies assessing pre-travel health-seeking practices from a variety of medical and non-medical sources and vaccine uptake prior to travel to both developing and developed countries within the Asia-Pacific region are scarce.
Methods
Cross-sectional surveys were conducted between July and December 2007 to assess pre-travel health seeking practices, including advice from health professionals, health information from other sources and vaccine uptake, in a sample of travelers departing Sydney and Bangkok airports. A two-stage cluster sampling technique was used to ensure representativeness of travelers and travel destinations. Pre-travel health seeking practices were assessed using a self-administered questionnaire distributed at the check-in queues of departing flights. Logistic regression models were used to identify significant factors associated with seeking pre-travel health advice from a health professional, reported separately for Australian residents, residents of other Western countries and residents of countries in Asia.
Results
A total of 843 surveys were included in the final sample (Sydney 729, response rate 56%; Bangkok 114, response rate 60%). Overall, pre-travel health information from any source was sought by 415 (49%) respondents with 298 (35%) seeking pre-travel advice from a health professional, the majority through general practice. Receipt of a pre-travel vaccine was reported by 100 (12%) respondents. Significant factors associated with seeking pre-travel health advice from a health professional differed by region of residence. Asian travelers were less likely to report seeking pre-travel health advice and uptake of pre-travel vaccines than Australian or other Western travelers. Migrant Australians were less likely to report seeking pre-travel health advice than Australian-born travelers.
Conclusions
This study highlights differences in health-seeking practices including the uptake of pre-travel health advice by region of residence and country of birth. There is a public health need to identify strategies targeting these travel groups. This includes the promotion of affordable and accessible travel clinics in low resource countries as traveler numbers increase and travel health promotion targeting migrant groups in high resource countries. General practitioners should play a central role. Determining the most appropriate strategies for increasing pre-travel health preparation, particularly for vaccine preventable diseases in travelers is the next stage in advancing travel medicine research.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-321
PMCID: PMC3441818  PMID: 22550996
10.  Testing for sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses on admission to Western Australian prisons 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:385.
Background
Prison populations are known to be at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs). In accordance with State health guidelines, the Western Australian Department of Correctional Services' policy is to offer testing for STIs and BBVs to all new prison entrants. This audit was undertaken to assess the completeness and timeliness of STI and BBV testing among recent prison entrants in Western Australia, and estimate the prevalence of STIs and BBVs on admission to prison.
Methods
A retrospective audit of prison medical records was conducted among 946 individuals admitted to prison in Western Australia after the 1st January 2005, and discharged between the 1st January and 31st December 2007 inclusive. Quota sampling was used to ensure adequate sampling of females, juveniles, and individuals from regional prisons. Main outcomes of interest were the proportion of prisoners undergoing STI and BBV testing, and the prevalence of STIs and BBVs.
Results
Approximately half the sample underwent testing for the STIs chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and almost 40% underwent testing for at least one BBV. Completeness of chlamydia and gonorrhoea testing was significantly higher among juveniles (84.1%) compared with adults (39.8%; p < 0.001), and Aboriginal prisoners (58.3%) compared with non-Aboriginal prisoners (40.4%; p < 0.001). Completeness of BBV testing was significantly higher among adults (46.5%) compared with juveniles (15.8%; p < 0.001) and males (43.3%) compared with females (33.1%; p = 0.001). Among prisoners who underwent testing, 7.3% had a positive chlamydia test result and 24.8% had a positive hepatitis C test result.
Conclusion
The documented coverage of STI and BBV testing among prisoners in Western Australia is not comprehensive, and varies significantly by age, gender and Aboriginality. Given the high prevalence of STIs and BBVs among prisoners, increased test coverage is required to ensure optimal use of the opportunity that prison admission presents for the treatment and control of STIs and BBVs among this high risk group.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-385
PMCID: PMC2766389  PMID: 19825156
11.  An evaluation of the sensitivity of acute flaccid paralysis surveillance for poliovirus infection in Australia 
Background
World Health Organization (WHO) targets for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance, including the notification of a minimum rate of AFP among children, are used to assess the adequacy of AFP surveillance for the detection of poliovirus infection. Sensitive surveillance for poliovirus infection in both developed and developing countries is essential to support global disease eradication efforts. We applied recently developed methods for the quantitative evaluation of disease surveillance systems to evaluate the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for poliovirus infection in Australia.
Methods
A scenario tree model which accounted for administrative region, age, population immunity, the likelihood of AFP, and the probability of notification and stool sampling was used to assess the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for wild poliovirus infection among children aged less than 15 years in Australia. The analysis was based on historical surveillance data collected between 2000 and 2005. We used a surveillance time period of one month, and evaluated the ability of the surveillance system to detect poliovirus infection at a prevalence of 1 case per 100 000 persons and 1 case per million persons.
Results
There was considerable variation in the sensitivity of AFP surveillance for poliovirus infection among Australian States and Territories. The estimated median sensitivity of AFP surveillance in Australia among children aged less than 15 years was 8.2% per month at a prevalence of 1 case per 100,000 population, and 0.9% per month at a prevalence of 1 case per million population. The probability that Australia is free from poliovirus infection given negative surveillance findings following 5 years of continuous surveillance was 96.9% at a prevalence of 1 case per 100,000 persons and 56.5% at a prevalence of 1 case per million persons.
Conclusion
Given the ongoing risk of poliovirus importation prior to global eradication, long term surveillance is required to provide a high degree of confidence in freedom from poliovirus infection in Australia, particularly if a low prevalence of infection is assumed. Adherence to the WHO surveillance targets would considerably improve the sensitivity of surveillance for poliovirus infection in Australia.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-162
PMCID: PMC2761398  PMID: 19788763
12.  Disease surveillance using a hidden Markov model 
Background
Routine surveillance of disease notification data can enable the early detection of localised disease outbreaks. Although hidden Markov models (HMMs) have been recognised as an appropriate method to model disease surveillance data, they have been rarely applied in public health practice. We aimed to develop and evaluate a simple flexible HMM for disease surveillance which is suitable for use with sparse small area count data and requires little baseline data.
Methods
A Bayesian HMM was designed to monitor routinely collected notifiable disease data that are aggregated by residential postcode. Semi-synthetic data were used to evaluate the algorithm and compare outbreak detection performance with the established Early Aberration Reporting System (EARS) algorithms and a negative binomial cusum.
Results
Algorithm performance varied according to the desired false alarm rate for surveillance. At false alarm rates around 0.05, the cusum-based algorithms provided the best overall outbreak detection performance, having similar sensitivity to the HMMs and a shorter average time to detection. At false alarm rates around 0.01, the HMM algorithms provided the best overall outbreak detection performance, having higher sensitivity than the cusum-based Methods and a generally shorter time to detection for larger outbreaks. Overall, the 14-day HMM had a significantly greater area under the receiver operator characteristic curve than the EARS C3 and 7-day negative binomial cusum algorithms.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that the HMM provides an effective method for the surveillance of sparse small area notifiable disease data at low false alarm rates. Further investigations are required to evaluation algorithm performance across other diseases and surveillance contexts.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-9-39
PMCID: PMC2735038  PMID: 19664256
13.  Applying cusum-based methods for the detection of outbreaks of Ross River virus disease in Western Australia 
Background
The automated monitoring of routinely collected disease surveillance data has the potential to ensure that important changes in disease incidence are promptly recognised. However, few studies have established whether the signals produced by automated monitoring methods correspond with events considered by epidemiologists to be of public health importance. This study investigates the correspondence between retrospective epidemiological evaluation of notifications of Ross River virus (RRv) disease in Western Australia, and the signals produced by two cumulative sum (cusum)-based automated monitoring methods.
Methods
RRv disease case notification data between 1991 and 2004 were assessed retrospectively by two experienced epidemiologists, and the timing of identified outbreaks was compared with signals generated from two different types of cusum-based automated monitoring algorithms; the three Early Aberration Reporting System (EARS) cusum algorithms (C1, C2 and C3), and a negative binomial cusum.
Results
We found the negative binomial cusum to have a significantly greater area under the receiver operator characteristic curve when compared with the EARS algorithms, suggesting that the negative binomial cusum has a greater level of agreement with epidemiological opinion than the EARS algorithms with respect to the existence of outbreaks of RRv disease, particularly at low false alarm rates. However, the performance of individual EARS and negative binomial cusum algorithms were not significantly different when timeliness was also incorporated into the area under the curve analyses.
Conclusion
Our retrospective analysis of historical data suggests that, compared with the EARS algorithms, the negative binomial cusum provides greater sensitivity for the detection of outbreaks of RRv disease at low false alarm levels, and decreased timeliness early in the outbreak period. Prospective studies are required to investigate the potential usefulness of these algorithms in practice.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-37
PMCID: PMC2542357  PMID: 18700044
14.  Improving the accuracy of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal disease notification rates using data linkage 
Background
Routinely collected infectious disease surveillance data provide a valuable means to monitor the health of populations. Notifiable disease surveillance systems in Australia have consistently reported high levels of completeness for the demographic data fields of age and sex, but low levels of completeness for Aboriginality data. Significant amounts of missing data associated with case notifications can introduce bias in the estimation of disease rates by population subgroups. The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the use of data linkage to improve the accuracy of estimated notification rates for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups in Western Australia.
Methods
Probabilistic methods were used to link disease notification data received in Western Australia in 2004 with core population health datasets from the established Western Australian Data Linkage System. A comparative descriptive analysis of STI and BBV notification rates according to Aboriginality was conducted based on the original and supplemented notification datasets.
Results
Using data linkage, the proportion of STI and BBV notifications with missing Aboriginality data was reduced by 74 per cent. Compared with excluding notifications with unknown Aboriginality data from the analysis, or apportioning notifications with unknown Aboriginality based on the proportion of cases with known Aboriginality, the rate ratios of chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C among Aboriginal relative to non-Aboriginal people decreased when Aboriginality data from data linkage was included.
Conclusion
Although there is still a high incidence of STIs and BBVs in Aboriginal people, incompleteness of Aboriginality data contributes to overestimation of the risk associated with Aboriginality for these diseases. Data linkage can be effectively used to improve the accuracy of estimated disease notification rates.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-118
PMCID: PMC2429908  PMID: 18510777
15.  Timeliness of Data Sources Used for Influenza Surveillance 
Objective
In recent years, influenza surveillance data has expanded to include alternative sources such as emergency department data, absenteeism reports, pharmaceutical sales, website access and health advice calls. This study presents a review of alternative data sources for influenza surveillance, summarizes the time advantage or timeliness of each source relative to traditional reporting and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches.
Methods
A literature search was conducted on Medline to identify relevant articles published after 1990. A total of 15 articles were obtained that reported the timeliness of an influenza surveillance system. Timeliness was described by peak comparison, aberration detection comparison and correlation.
Results
Overall, the data sources were highly correlated with traditional sources and had variable timeliness. Over-the-counter pharmaceutical sales, emergency visits, absenteeism and health calls appear to be more timely than physician diagnoses, sentinel influenza-like-illness surveillance and virological confirmation.
Conclusions
The methods used to describe timeliness vary greatly between studies and hence no strong conclusions regarding the most timely source/s of data can be reached. Future studies should apply the aberration detection method to determine data source timeliness in preference to the peak comparison method and correlation.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M2328
PMCID: PMC1975801  PMID: 17600101
16.  Influenza pandemic preparedness: motivation for protection among small and medium businesses in Australia 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:157.
Background
Community-wide preparedness for pandemic influenza is an issue that has featured prominently in the recent news media, and is currently a priority for health authorities in many countries. The small and medium business sector is a major provider of private sector employment in Australia, yet we have little information about the preparedness of this sector for pandemic influenza. This study aimed to investigate the association between individual perceptions and preparedness for pandemic influenza among small and medium business owners and managers.
Methods
Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 201 small and medium business owners or managers in New South Wales and Western Australia. Eligible small or medium businesses were defined as those that had less than 200 employees. Binomial logistic regression analysis was used to identify the predictors of having considered the impact of, having a plan for, and needing help to prepare for pandemic influenza.
Results
Approximately 6 per cent of participants reported that their business had a plan for pandemic influenza, 39 per cent reported that they had not thought at all about the impact of pandemic influenza on their business, and over 60 per cent stated that they required help to prepare for a pandemic. Beliefs about the severity of pandemic influenza and the ability to respond were significant independent predictors of having a plan for pandemic influenza, and the perception of the risk of pandemic influenza was the most important predictor of both having considered the impact of, and needing help to prepare for a pandemic.
Conclusion
Our findings suggest that small and medium businesses in Australia are not currently well prepared for pandemic influenza. We found that beliefs about the risk, severity, and the ability to respond effectively to the threat of pandemic influenza are important predictors of preparedness. Campaigns targeting small and medium businesses should emphasise the severity of the consequences to their businesses if a pandemic were to occur, and, at the same time, reassure them that there are effective strategies capable of being implemented by small and medium businesses to deal with a pandemic.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-157
PMCID: PMC1934907  PMID: 17634112
17.  Using GIS to create synthetic disease outbreaks 
Background
The ability to detect disease outbreaks in their early stages is a key component of efficient disease control and prevention. With the increased availability of electronic health-care data and spatio-temporal analysis techniques, there is great potential to develop algorithms to enable more effective disease surveillance. However, to ensure that the algorithms are effective they need to be evaluated. The objective of this research was to develop a transparent user-friendly method to simulate spatial-temporal disease outbreak data for outbreak detection algorithm evaluation.
A state-transition model which simulates disease outbreaks in daily time steps using specified disease-specific parameters was developed to model the spread of infectious diseases transmitted by person-to-person contact. The software was developed using the MapBasic programming language for the MapInfo Professional geographic information system environment.
Results
The simulation model developed is a generalised and flexible model which utilises the underlying distribution of the population and incorporates patterns of disease spread that can be customised to represent a range of infectious diseases and geographic locations. This model provides a means to explore the ability of outbreak detection algorithms to detect a variety of events across a large number of stochastic replications where the influence of uncertainty can be controlled. The software also allows historical data which is free from known outbreaks to be combined with simulated outbreak data to produce files for algorithm performance assessment.
Conclusion
This simulation model provides a flexible method to generate data which may be useful for the evaluation and comparison of outbreak detection algorithm performance.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-7-4
PMCID: PMC1805744  PMID: 17300714
18.  Approaches to the evaluation of outbreak detection methods 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:263.
Background
An increasing number of methods are being developed for the early detection of infectious disease outbreaks which could be naturally occurring or as a result of bioterrorism; however, no standardised framework for examining the usefulness of various outbreak detection methods exists. To promote comparability between studies, it is essential that standardised methods are developed for the evaluation of outbreak detection methods.
Methods
This analysis aims to review approaches used to evaluate outbreak detection methods and provide a conceptual framework upon which recommendations for standardised evaluation methods can be based. We reviewed the recently published literature for reports which evaluated methods for the detection of infectious disease outbreaks in public health surveillance data. Evaluation methods identified in the recent literature were categorised according to the presence of common features to provide a conceptual basis within which to understand current approaches to evaluation.
Results
There was considerable variation in the approaches used for the evaluation of methods for the detection of outbreaks in public health surveillance data, and appeared to be no single approach of choice. Four main approaches were used to evaluate performance, and these were labelled the Descriptive, Derived, Epidemiological and Simulation approaches. Based on the approaches identified, we propose a basic framework for evaluation and recommend the use of multiple approaches to evaluation to enable a comprehensive and contextualised description of outbreak detection performance.
Conclusion
The varied nature of performance evaluation demonstrated in this review supports the need for further development of evaluation methods to improve comparability between studies. Our findings indicate that no single approach can fulfil all evaluation requirements. We propose that the cornerstone approaches to evaluation identified provide key contributions to support internal and external validity and comparability of study findings, and suggest these be incorporated into future recommendations for performance assessment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-263
PMCID: PMC1626088  PMID: 17059615

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