Microbiology reference laboratories are critical in the development of high-quality clinical and public health services. In Belgium, the reference laboratories performed their activities on a voluntary basis and lacked a legal status.
Pathogens or groups of pathogens necessitating a national reference center (NRC) were prioritized based on diagnostic and epidemiologic relevance. Terms of reference for each of these pathogens were developed.
Recently, 40 NRCs for different pathogens or groups of pathogens have been installed in Belgium to fulfill the following core functions: offering reference diagnostics, collecting reference materials, sharing information and scientific advice, participating in national and international networks, collaborating with research workgroups, and contributing to surveillance activities.
These NRCs are important focal points of the national and international network in public health microbiology.
National reference centers; Public health microbiology
Cancer is a major European public health issue and represents the second most important cause of death and morbidity in Europe. Moreover, as a result of constant advances in medicine, medical technology and other sciences, and due to improvements in economic circumstances, cancer survival rates are increasing in Europe and prevalent cases (i.e. number of subjects who have experienced cancer) represent a growing proportion of the population. In order to tackle cancer efficiently throughout the European Member states, the European Commission launched the Joint Action (JA) ‘European Partnership for Action Against Cancer’ (EPAAC) facilitated by the Community Health Programme, in September 2009. EPAAC is designed to fill a gap in cooperation, collaboration and shared experiences for countries with similar needs and diverse experience in the area of their national cancer control policies. Activities and studies are tackling the main challenges of cancer control in Europe as a whole and in the Member states, including the provision of services and health system responses, human resources and research. In contrast with previous European actions in the field of cancer, EPAAC joins different partners and stakeholders at various levels ranging from Member states (including Iceland and Norway) and Regions to patient representatives.
EPAAC; Cancer; Health policy; Public health; Joint Action
Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias are public health priorities in the European Union due to their prevalence, cost and profound impact on society. Because of these pressing implications, the European Union decided to create a Joint Action to share knowledge about dementia and health policy in order to preserve the health, quality of life, autonomy and dignity of people living with dementia and their carers in Europe.
ALCOVE is a European Community-funded Joint Action coordinated by the HAS (French National Authority for Health) with a 24-month duration. The project’s life cycle has been divided into the following four steps: (1) collection of existing information, (2) analysis of existing information and making comparisons across Member States, (3) identifying Evidence, Needs, and Priorities, (4) drafting recommendations and disseminating them.
19 countries are participating in the ALCOVE initiative. The project will publish its final findings in 2013. The project’s objectives, participants, method, on-going procedures and work plans are already available on the ALCOVE website:
http://www.alcove-project.eu/. Preliminary results show that recommendations will need to focus on clinical and epidemiological data collection, diagnostic system assessment, outstanding approaches for treating behavioural disorders, limiting antipsychotic use, and competence assessment in this vulnerable population.
The European Member States involved are mobilized to share best health policy practices in order to tackle the challenge of dementia’s threat on European health and social systems and to improve the quality of life and care for individuals and their family carers.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia; Dementia; Public health; BPSD; Antipsychotics; Risk reduction; Prevalence; Diagnosis; Advanced declaration of will; Health care system
Many studies suggest that high salt intakes are related to high blood pressure and consequently cardiovascular diseases. In addition salt intake was found to be related with obesity, renal stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. Belgium, such as other European countries, is suffering from both salt intakes that are twice as high as the recommended intakes and mild iodine deficiency. No comprehensive strategy encompassing both public health problems has been developed. While specific salt reduction targets for processed foods are still under discussion using a consensus approach with industry, an agreement was signed between the bakery sector and the Ministry of Health in April 2009, to encourage and increase the use of iodised salt in the production of bread. Based on results of recent surveys on population iodine status it is advised not to currently revise iodine concentrations in salt in bread but to advocate for a higher percentage of bakers using iodised salt and to install a good monitoring system to control the percentage of bakers effectively using adequately iodised salt. With regard to salt reduction, it is of utmost importance that all companies contribute and harmonise the salt content of their products according to the lowest possible thresholds in a first step. In order to achieve this goal, it will be necessary, in addition to the consensus approach, to come up with at least some legislative tools such as a salt tax or mandatory labelling of foods exceeding a specific sodium concentration. Once salt reduction targets have been clearly defined in Belgium over the longer term, a legal framework should be set in place where iodine concentration in salt for the production of bread and household salt is strictly regulated by law, to avoid a large variability in the iodine content of salt brands consumed. In conclusion, it is possible to tackle salt reduction and iodine deficiency at the same time on the condition that the approach is coordinated and well monitored. All the interventions and measures taken should clearly include education and communication directed towards consumers, food producers, public health professionals, pharmacists, healthcare workers, and media representatives.
Sodium; Iodine; Belgium
Low back pain (LBP) is a major public health problem and the identification of individuals at risk of persistent LBP poses substantial challenges to clinical management. The STarT Back questionnaire is a validated nine-item patient self-report questionnaire that classifies patients with LBP at low, medium or high-risk of poor prognosis for persistent non-specific LBP. The objective of this study was to translate and cross-culturally adapt the English version of the STarT Back questionnaire into French.
The translation was performed using best practice translation guidelines. The following phases were performed: contact with the STarT Back questionnaire developers, initial translations (English into French), synthesis, back translations, expert committee review, test of the pre-final version on 44 individuals with LBP, final version.
The linguistic translation required minor semantic alterations. The participants interviewed indicated that all items of the questionnaire were globally clear and comprehensible. However, 6 subjects (14%) wondered if two questions were related to back pain or general health. After discussion within the expert committee and with the developer of the STarT Back tool, it was decided to modify the questionnaire and to add a reference to back pain in these two questions.
The French version of the STarT Back questionnaire has been shown to be comprehensible and adapted to the French speaking general population. Investigations are now required to test the psychometric properties (reliability, internal and external validity, responsiveness) of this translated version of the questionnaire.
Low back pain; Questionnaire; Translation
Children are not always recognized as being susceptible to stress, although childhood stressors may originate from multiple events in their everyday surroundings with negative effects on children’s health.
As there is a lack of large-scale, European prevalence data on childhood adversities, this study presents the prevalence of (1) negative life events and (2) familial and social adversities in 4637 European pre- and primary-school children (4–11 years old), using a parentally-reported questionnaire embedded in the IDEFICS project (‘Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS’).
The following findings were observed: (1) Certain adversities occur only rarely, while others are very regular (i.e. parental divorce); (2) A large percentage of children is shielded from stressors, while a small group of children is exposed to multiple, accumulating adversities; (3) The prevalence of childhood adversity is influenced by geographical location (e.g. north versus south), age group and sex; (4) Childhood adversities are associated and co-occur, resulting in potential cumulative childhood stress.
This study demonstrated the importance of not only studying traumatic events but also of focusing on the early familial and social environment in childhood stress research and indicated the importance of recording or monitoring childhood adversities.
Child; Life events; Adversity; Prevalence; Stress; Epidemiology
A problem repeatedly reported in birth certificate data is the presence of missing data. In 2008, a Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology was created inter alia to assist the Health Departments of Brussels-Capital City Region to check birth certificates. The purpose of this study is to assess the changes brought by the Centre in terms of completeness of data registration for the entire population and according to immigration status.
Birth certificates from the birth registry of 2008 and 2009 of Brussels were considered. We evaluated the initial missing information in January 2008 (baseline situation) and the corresponding rate at the end of 2008 after oral and written information had been given to the city civil servants and health providers. The data were evaluated again at the end of 2009 where no reinforcement rules were adopted. We also measured residual missing data after correction in socio-economic and medical data, for the entire population and according to maternal nationality of origin. Changes in registration of stillbirths were estimated by comparison to 2007 baseline data, and all multiple births were checked for complete identification of pairs.
Missing information initially accounted for 64.0%, 20.8% and 19.5% of certificates in January 2008, December 2008, and 2009 respectively. After correction with lists sent back to the hospitals or city offices, the mean residual missing data rate was 2.1% in 2008 and 0.8% in 2009. Education level and employment status were missing more often in immigrant mothers compared to Belgian natives both in 2008 and 2009. Mothers from Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest missing rate of socio-economic data. The stillbirth rate increased from 4.6 ‰ in 2007 to 8.2 ‰ in 2009. All twin pairs were identified, but early loss of a co-twin before 22 weeks was rarely reported.
Reinforcement of data collection was associated with a decrease of missing information. The residual missing data rate was very low. The stillbirth rate was also improved but the early loss of a co-twin before 22 weeks seems to remain underreported.
Birth certificates; Validation studies; Bias; Epidemiologic
The objective of this paper is to provide analytical research that supported the European Commission in setting the global target of additional two healthy life years (HLY) at birth by 2020 in the EU on average, within the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (the EIP on AHA). It produces a straightforward analysis of HLY projections that helped the European Commission set a firm, politically sound, target. In order to reach that goal, policy makers need to commit to redefining health priorities and goals and developing and implementing relevant strategies and programmes.
The study computes a simple simulation of the HLY at birth based on three demographic scenarios: compression of morbidity, expansion of morbidity and an intermediary scenario, the dynamic equilibrium, given the expected 2.1 year gain in male and 1.6 in female life expectancy (LE) by 2020. Data on HLY and projections of life expectancy were obtained from Eurostat and 2008 was taken as a baseline. For consistency and given data gaps, EU27 average values of HLY were calculated.
In the EU27 as a whole, the difference between LE and HLY in 2008 was nearly 15 years for men and 20 years for women. The developments of healthy life expectancies across the EU Member States (MSs) are even more diverse that makes it difficult to model any robust EU level trends.
Under compression of morbidity, life expectancy and HLY would increase by 2020 on average by 2.1 and 2.0 years for men and by 1.6 and 1.4 years for women respectively. The expected years with disability would remain unchanged while the HLY/LE ratio would improve leading to a 0.5% gain for both genders. Under expansion of morbidity, life expectancy would increase by 2.1 years for men and 1.4 years for women by 2020, while HLY would remain unchanged and the expected years with disability would increase by 2.1 years and 1.6 years in women. This would imply the deterioration of the HLY/LE ratio for both men and women generating a 2.2% and 1.4% loss of health for men and women accordingly. Under dynamic equilibrium, the HLY would increase but to a lesser extent as the rise in life expectancy. The HLY would increase by 1.6 and 1.2 years for men and women respectively. HLY/LE ratio would remain unchanged for both men (+0.1%) and women. The study shows that the first scenario would reduce the HLY gap between the EU MSs by 1.4 years in men and 1.2 years in women, the second would generate no change, while the third one would reduce the gap by 0.9 years in men and increase it by 0.7 years in women.
The results of the study triggered the political decision of setting the global target of 2 additional HLY for the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing to be achieved by 2020. It is a ‘grand’ goal but can be achieved. Statistics clearly show that EU countries characterise very different levels of health progress, with a gap of 2 decades and diverging trends. With this in mind, the EU HLY target should be complemented by national HLY targets for men and women, set by MSs.
Healthy life years; Life expectancy; EU target; Compression; Expansion; Equilibrium; Disability; Morbidity; Mortality; Healthy ageing
The story of the implementation of the joint EU health indicators (ECHI indicators) began in the 1990s after the Amsterdam Treaty. The first concrete step in establishing a health monitoring capacity for EU was the Commission working group set up in 1997. Several consecutive and parallel projects, notably the health indicator projects ECHI-1 and ECHI-2 between the years 2000 and 2005 led to a preparedness to implement the jointly agreed health indicators (ECHI shortlist) in all European countries. ECHIM (2005 – 2008) and the Joint Action for ECHIM (2009 - ) laid the foundation for the implementation of health indicators, and initiated Europe wide implementation proper. After the European recession of 2008 the circumstances in different countries were not optimal. Also the collaboration with the Commission could have been better. Nevertheless, the implementation process of the ECHI indicators is now well underway in most countries. By June 2012 half of the Member States had incorporated the ECHI indicators into their national health information system, and, if work can continue, by 2014 most countries are likely to have done so. Unfortunately, a gap may occur between the current programme and the next public health programme. The current momentum must not be lost. Therefore, all those responsible need to urge that the Commission (DG SANCO) together with the Member States helps to bridge the gap from June 2012 to January 2014. The new Public Health Programme provides the necessary financial instruments for setting up a permanent EU health information and reporting system.
Health indicators; Health information; European Community Health Indicators (ECHI); EU Joint Action
Little work has been done to assess the quality of health care and the use of evidence-based methods by occupational physicians in Belgium. Therefore, the main objective is to describe one aspect of occupational health assessments, namely the common use of dipstick urinalysis, and to compare the current practice with international guidelines.
A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 211 members of the Scientific Association of Occupational Medicine in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.
A total of 120 occupational physicians responded, giving a response rate of 57%. Dipstick urinalysis was a routine investigation for the vast majority of physicians (69%). All test strips screened for protein and in 90% also for blood. Occupational health services offered clinical tests to satisfy customer wants as international guidelines do not recommend screening for haematuria and proteinuria in asymptomatic adults. A lack of knowledge concerning positive testing and referral criteria was demonstrated in almost half of the study participants.
Belgian occupational physicians still routinely perform dipstick testing although there is no evidence to support this screening in healthy workers. To practice evidence-based medicine, occupational physicians need more instruction and training. Development and implementation of more guidelines is not only of use for the individual practitioner, it may also enhance professionalization and efficiency of occupational health care.
Evidence-based practice; Occupational health; Guidelines; Health surveillance
Health Examination Surveys (HESs) can provide essential information on the health and health determinants of a population, which is not available from other data sources. Nevertheless, only some European countries have systems of national HESs. A study conducted in 2006–2008 concluded that it is feasible to organize national HESs using standardized measurement procedures in nearly all EU countries. The feasibility study also outlined a structure for a European Health Examination Survey (EHES), which is a collaboration to organize standardized HESs in countries across Europe.
To facilitate setting up national surveys and to gain experience in applying the EHES methods in different cultures, EHES Joint Action (2010–2011) planned and piloted standardized HESs in the working age population in 12 countries. This included countries with earlier national HESs and countries which were planning their first national HES. The core measurements included in all surveys were weight, height, waist circumference and blood pressure, and blood samples were taken to measure lipid profiles and glucose or glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c). These are modifiable determinants of major chronic diseases not identified in health interview surveys. There was a questionnaire to complement the data on the examination measurements.
Evaluation of the pilot surveys was based on review of national manuals and evaluation reports of survey organizers; observations and discussions of survey procedures during site visits and training seminars; and other communication with the survey organizers.
Despite unavoidable differences in the ways HESs are organized in the various countries, high quality and comparability of the data seems achievable. The biggest challenge in each country was obtaining high participation rate. Most of the pilot countries are now ready to start their full-size national HES, and six of them have already started.
The EHES Pilot Project has set up the structure for obtaining comparable high quality health indicators on health and important modifiable risk factors of major non-communicable diseases from the European countries. The European Union is now in a key position to make this structure sustainable. The EHES core survey can be expanded to cover other measurements.
Health surveys; Population health monitoring; Risk factors; Chronic diseases; EHES; Survey methods
In 1978, the Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care (PHC) recognized that the world’s health issues required more than just hospital-based and physician-centered policies. The declaration called for a paradigm change that would allow governments to provide essential care to their population in a universally acceptable manner. The figure of the community health worker (CHW) remains a central feature of participation within the PHC approach, and being a CHW is still considered to be an important way of participation within the health system.
This study explores how the values and personal motivation of community health workers influences their experience with this primary health care strategy in in the municipality of Palencia, Guatemala. To do this, we used an ethnographic approach and collected data in January-March of 2009 and 2010 by using participant observation and in-depth interviews.
We found that the CHWs in the municipality had a close working relationship with the mobile health team and with the community, and that their positions allowed them to develop leadership and teamwork skills that may prove useful in other community participation processes. The CHWs are motivated in their work and volunteerism is a key value in Palencia, but there is a lack of infrastructure and growth opportunities.
Attention should be paid to keeping the high levels of commitment and integration within the health team as well as keeping up supervision and economic funds for the program.
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration
The last decades, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased. Apart from other lifestyle factors, the effect of chronic psychosocial stress on the development of obesity has been recognized. However, more research is needed into the influence of chronic stress on appetite regulation, energy balance and body composition, as well as on the interaction with physical activity/sedentary behavior, diet and sleep in children. In this regard, the ChiBS study (Children’s Body composition and Stress) was designed at the Ghent University. Within this paper, we describe the aims, design, methods, participation and population characteristics of the ChiBS study.
The influence of chronic stress on changes in body composition is investigated over a two-year follow-up period (February-June 2010, 2011 and 2012) in primary-school children between 6 and 12 years old in the city Aalter (Flanders, Belgium).
Stress is measured by child- and parent-reported stress-questionnaires, as well as by objective stress biomarkers (serum, salivary and hair cortisol) and heart rate variability. Body composition is evaluated using basic anthropometric measurements and air displacement plethysmography. Additional information on socio-economic status, medical history, physical activity, dietary intake and sleep are obtained by questionnaires, and physical activity by accelerometers.
The participation percentage was 68.7% (N = 523/761), with 71.3% of the children willing to participate in the first follow-up survey. Drop-out proportions were highest for serum sampling (12.1%), salivary sampling (8.3%) and heart rate variability measurements (7.4%).
The ChiBS project is unique in its setting: its standardized and longitudinal approach provides valuable data and new insights into the relationship between stress and changes in body composition in a large cohort of young children. In addition, this study allows an in-depth investigation of the validity of the different methods that were used to assess stress levels in children.
Stress; Child; Body composition; Obesity; Cortisol; Heart rate variability; Questionnaire; Food habits; Physical activity; Sleep
Participation rate and response rate are key issues in a cross sectional large-scale epidemiological study. The objective of this paper is to describe the study population and to evaluate participation and response rate as well as the key nutritional status variables in male and female adolescents involved in the HELENA study.
A multi-stage random cluster sampling with a target sample of 3000 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years, stratified for geographical location and age, was carried out. Information for participants and non-participants (NP) was compared, and participation and response rates to specific questionnaires were discussed.
3,865 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years (1,845 females) participated in the HELENA study, of whom 1,076 (568 females) participated in the blood sampling. 3,528 (1,845 females) adolescents were finally kept for statistical analysis. Participation rates for the schools and classes differed importantly between countries. The participation rate of pupils within the participating classes also differed importantly between countries. Sex ratio, mean age and BMI were similar between NP and participating adolescents within each centre, and in the overall sample. For all the questionnaires included in the database, the response rate of questionnaires was high (more than 80% of questions were completed).
From this study it could be concluded that participation rate differed importantly between countries, though no bias could be identified when comparing the key study variables between participants and non-participants. Response rate for questionnaires was very high. Future studies investigating lifestyle and health in adolescents can optimize their methods when considering the opportunities and barriers observed in the HELENA study.
Industrial composting is a relatively new and expanding activity. Several studies indicate that compost workers are at risk to develop health symptoms. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of work-related health symptoms among compost workers compared with control subjects.
A questionnaire was distributed among 62 workers (31 exposed and 31 non-exposed workers). Data were analyzed using simple and multiple logistic regression analyses.
Workers exposed to organic dust reported significantly more often respiratory, irritation (e.g., eyes, nose and throat), gastrointestinal, and skin symptoms than the non-exposed group. Moreover, all work-related symptoms were significantly more often reported by exposed than non-exposed workers. After adjustment for smoking status and age, the associations between exposure and respiratory, gastrointestinal, and skin symptoms remained statistically significant, in particular if these symptoms were work-related.
This study confirms that workers at compost facilities are at risk to develop occupational health problems, most likely related to organic dust exposure.
Belgium; Compost; Industry; Occupational health; Organic dust; Workers
Substance abuse puts a burden on the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals and their families, particularly parents. Parents of substance-abusing young people are in need of professional or informal support and information. Potential and easy accessible sources are support groups. We explored the experiences of parents of substance-abusing young people attending support groups regarding several topics related to the substance-abuse of their son or daughter, the impact on their lives and their views on social support.
In this small-scale qualitative study based on in-depth interviews, we interviewed parents of substance-abusing young people focusing on their experiences concerning having a substance-abusing relative and attending the support group.
All parents displayed feelings of stress and strain. They appeared to be highly satisfied with their participation in a support group. The expert status and knowledge of the facilitator and the provision of accurate information in the support group was also much appreciated. They were however dissatisfied by the attitude and knowledge of their GP.
Our findings suggest that parents benefit from joining support groups, particularly in terms of emotional and social support and the practical information they received.
Substance abuse; Young adults; Parents; Support groups; Feelings of stress; General practitioners; Flanders
Hepatitis B and C cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Little is known about the existence of hepatitis B and C among high risk groups of the Pakistani population. The present study was conducted to determine the prevalence of Hepatitis B and C in high risk groups, their comparison and the possible mode of acquisition by obtaining the history of exposure to known risk factors.
This cross sectional study was carried out in Karachi, from January 2007 to June 2008.
HBsAg and Anti HCV screening was carried out in blood samples collected from four vulnerable or at risk groups which included injecting drug users (IDUs), prisoners, security personnel and health care workers (HCWs). Demographic information was recorded and the possible mode of acquisition was assessed by detailed interview. Logistic regression analysis was conducted using the STATA software.
We screened 4202 subjects, of these, 681 individuals were reactive either with hepatitis B or C. One hundred and thirty three (3.17%) were hepatitis B reactive and 548 (13.0%) were diagnosed with hepatitis C. After adjusting for age, security personnel, prisoners and IV drug users were 5, 3 and 6 times more likely to be hepatitis B reactive respectively as compared to the health care workers. IDUs were 46 times more likely to be hepatitis C positive compared with health care workers.
The prevalence of hepatitis B and C was considerably higher in IDUs, prisoners and security personnel compared to HCWs group. Hepatitis C is more prevalent than hepatitis B in all these risk groups. Prevalence of hepatitis C increased with the increase in age. Use of unsterilized syringes, used syringes, body piercing and illicit sexual relations were found to be important associated risk factors for higher prevalence of Hepatitis B and C in these groups.
Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; High Risk Group; Pakistan
One of the greatest problems for India is undernutrition among children. The country is still struggling with this problem. Malnutrition, the condition resulting from faulty nutrition, weakens the immune system and causes significant growth and cognitive delay. Growth assessment is the measurement that best defines the health and nutritional status of children, while also providing an indirect measurement of well-being for the entire population.
A cross-sectional study, in which we explored nutritional status in school-age slum children and analyze factors associated with malnutrition with the help of a pre-designed and pre-tested questionnaire, anthropometric measurements and clinical examination from December 2010 to April 2011 in urban slums of Bareilly, Uttar-Pradesh (UP), India.
The mean height and weight of boys and girls in the study group was lower than the CDC 2000 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) standards in all age groups. Regarding nutritional status, prevalence of stunting and underweight was highest in age group 11 yrs to 13 yrs whereas prevalence of wasting was highest in age group 5 yrs to 7 yrs. Except refractive errors all illnesses are more common among girls, but this gender difference is statistically significant only for anemia and rickets. The risk of malnutrition was significantly higher among children living in joint families, children whose mother's education was [less than or equal to] 6th standard and children with working mothers.
Most of the school-age slum children in our study had a poor nutritional status. Interventions such as skills-based nutrition education, fortification of food items, effective infection control, training of public healthcare workers and delivery of integrated programs are recommended.
Growth monitoring; Malnutrition; School-age Children; Stunting; Wasting
In medical and biomedical areas, binary and binomial outcomes are very common. Such data are often collected longitudinally from a given subject repeatedly overtime, which result in clustering of the observations within subjects, leading to correlation, on the one hand. The repeated binary outcomes from a given subject, on the other hand, constitute a binomial outcome, where the prescribed mean-variance relationship is often violated, leading to the so-called overdispersion.
Two longitudinal binary data sets, collected in south western Ethiopia: the Jimma infant growth study, where the child’s early growth is studied, and the Jimma longitudinal family survey of youth where the adolescent’s school attendance is studied over time, are considered. A new model which combines both overdispersion, and correlation simultaneously, also known as the combined model is applied. In addition, the commonly used methods for binary and binomial data, such as the simple logistic, which accounts neither for the overdispersion nor the correlation, the beta-binomial model, and the logistic-normal model, which accommodate only for the overdispersion, and correlation, respectively, are also considered for comparison purpose. As an alternative estimation technique, a Bayesian implementation of the combined model is also presented.
The combined model results in model improvement in fit, and hence the preferred one, based on likelihood comparison, and DIC criterion. Further, the two estimation approaches result in fairly similar parameter estimates and inferences in both of our case studies. Early initiation of breastfeeding has a protective effect against the risk of overweight in late infancy (p = 0.001), while proportion of overweight seems to be invariant among males and females overtime (p = 0.66). Gender is significantly associated with school attendance, where girls have a lower rate of attendance (p = 0.001) as compared to boys.
We applied a flexible modeling framework to analyze binary and binomial longitudinal data. Instead of accounting for overdispersion, and correlation separately, both can be accommodated simultaneously, by allowing two separate sets of the beta, and the normal random effects at once.
Bernoulli model; Beta-binomial model; Binomial model; Logistic-normal model; Maximum likelihood
When calculating life expectancy, it is usually assumed that deaths are uniformly distributed within each of the age intervals. As most of the infant deaths are neonatal deaths, this calls for a better assessment for that age group.
The Flemish unified death and birth certificates database for all calendar years between 1999 and 2008 was used. A Kaplan-Meier survival analysis on a yearly basis was performed to assess the mean time-to-event and to compare survival curves between both genders.
Over the last years, a slight though not steady decrease of the infant mortality rate is observed. In 2008, the probability among live births of dying before their first anniversary is 4.6‰ in boys and 3.5‰ in girls. The large majority (about 85%) of these have died in their year of birth. The mean survival time of deaths in their year of birth was found to centre around 1 month (about 30 days), which results in a 'mean proportion of the calendar year lived' (k1) close to 0.09. Among those who died in the year after their year of birth yet before their first anniversary, no such concentration in time of the deaths is observed. Differences between the gender groups are small and generally not statistically significant.
Statistics Belgium, the federal statistics office, imputes a value for k1 equal to 0.1 for infant deaths in their year of birth when calculating life expectancy. Our data fully support this value. We think such refinement is generally feasible in calculating life expectancy.
Belgium; Flemish Region; Infant mortality; Life expectancy at birth
Despite numerous educational programmes to create awareness about iodized salt and iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), a survey conducted in the Western Region of Ghana in 2007 revealed that the goitre rate stood at 18.8%; and 78.1% of households consumed iodized salt, which is below the goal of the IDD programme in Ghana which aimed at 90% household consumption of iodized salt by the end of 2005 and sustaining the gains by 2011. It was therefore, considered timely to investigate the knowledge levels and the extent of utilization of iodized salt among the people living in Bia District, the District with the lowest intake (77.4%) of iodized salt based on findings of the 2007 survey.
This was a descriptive cross-sectional study. It was conducted among a total of 280 household members, mainly in charge of meal preparation, who were interviewed using a structured interview guide. A combination of cluster and simple random sampling techniques was used to select the respondents from all the seven sub- districts in Bia District.
The study revealed that 75.6% of households in the district consumed iodized salt (including households described as occasional users of iodized salt), and knowledge of iodized salt was quite high, as 72% of the respondents knew that not every salt contained iodine. In addition, 69.3% indicated that an inadequate intake of iodized salt can lead to the development of goitre. Despite the high awareness level, only 64.6% of respondents indicated that they exclusively used iodized salt for cooking. The main reason given by exclusive users of common salt was that the price of iodized salt is a little higher than that of common salt.
Although majority of the respondents are aware of the importance of iodized salt and iodine deficiency disorders, only 64.6% exclusively used iodized salt, suggesting that respondents' high knowledge levels did not necessarily translate into an increase in the number of households who used iodized salt. Existing laws and policies on universal salt iodization and quality assurance of iodized salt from the production stage to the distribution/selling stage should be enforced.
Knowledge; Practices; Iodized salt; Iodine deficiency disorders; Ghana
In malaria endemic areas, fever has been used as an entry point for presumptive treatment of malaria. At present, the decrease in malaria transmission in Africa implies an increase in febrile illnesses related to other causes among underfives. Moreover, it is estimated that more than half of the children presenting with fever to public clinics in Africa do not have a malaria infection. Thus, for a better management of all febrile illnesses among under-fives, it becomes relevant to understand the underlying aetiology of the illness. The present study was conducted to determine the relative prevalence and predictors of P. falciparum malaria, urinary tract infections and bacteremia among under-fives presenting with a febrile illness at the Makongoro Primary Health Centre, North-Western Tanzania.
From February to June 2011, a cross-sectional analytical survey was conducted among febrile children less than five years of age. Demographic and clinical data were collected using a standardized pre-tested questionnaire. Blood and urine culture was done, followed by the identification of isolates using in-house biochemical methods. Susceptibility patterns to commonly used antibiotics were investigated using the disc diffusion method. Giemsa stained thin and thick blood smears were examined for any malaria parasites stages.
A total of 231 febrile under-fives were enrolled in the study. Of all the children, 20.3% (47/231, 95%CI, 15.10-25.48), 9.5% (22/231, 95%CI, 5.72-13.28) and 7.4% (17/231, 95%CI, 4.00-10.8) had urinary tract infections, P. falciparum malaria and bacteremia respectively. In general, 11.5% (10/87, 95%CI, 8.10-14.90) of the children had two infections and only one child had all three infections. Predictors of urinary tract infections (UTI) were dysuria (OR = 12.51, 95% CI, 4.28-36.57, P < 0.001) and body temperature (40-41 C) (OR = 12.54, 95% CI, 4.28-36.73, P < 0.001). Predictors of P. falciparum severe malaria were pallor (OR = 4.66 95%CI, 1.21-17.8, P = 0.025) and convulsion (OR = 102, 95% CI, 10-996, P = 0.001). Escherichia coli were the common gram negative isolates from urine (72.3%, 95% CI, 66.50-78.10) and blood (40%, 95%CI, and 33.70-46.30). Escherichia coli from urine were 100% resistant to ampicillin, 97% resistant to co-trimoxazole, 85% resistant to augmentin and 32.4% resistant to gentamicin; and they were 100%, 91.2% and 73.5% sensitive to meropenem, ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone respectively.
Urinary tract infection caused by multi drug resistant Escherichia coli was the common cause of febrile illness in our setting. Improvement of malaria diagnosis and its differential diagnosis from other causes of febrile illnesses may provide effective management of febrile illnesses among children in Tanzania
Fever; Malaria; Urinary tract infection; Bacteremia; Under-fives; Tanzania
This article aims at describing, in a Belgian town, the frequency of the fear of falling and of subsequent activity restriction among non-institutionalised people aged 65 years and over, and at identifying persons affected by these two issues.
Cross-sectional survey conducted in Fontaine l'Evêque (Belgium) in 2006, using a self-administered questionnaire.
The participants could fill in the questionnaire on their own or with the help of a third party if needed. The latter were not taken into account in this article. Analyses covered 419 questionnaires. Fear of falling and activity restriction were reported by, respectively, 59.1% and 33.2% of participants. They were more frequent among fallers but also affected non-fallers. In logistic regression analyses: gender, the fact of living alone and the number of falls were significantly associated with fear of falling; gender, age and the number of falls were significantly associated with activity restriction.
Our study, despite various limitations, shows the importance of fear of falling and of subsequent activity restriction among older people, among fallers as well as among non-fallers. It also provides information, though limited, concerning persons affected by these two issues in Belgium, and in other contexts as well. Given the ageing of our populations, it is important to take these problems into account when caring for older people.
Accidental falls; activity restriction; aged; aged 80 and over; fear of falling
Although disabled elderly people mostly prefer to receive care at home or in other community settings, many of them reside in nursing homes. That is why several researchers have tried to identify predictors of institutionalisation. Various different dependency factors seem to explain the request for residential care. The aim of this study is to discover the most important factor triggering an urgent request for nursing home admission.
On the basis of social field research, we analysed the profiles and motives of an admission cohort of 125 elderly (31 men and 94 women) who were admitted to four nursing homes in Antwerp (Belgium) between January 2000 and April 2001. The study used data of the 'intake conversation', performed by an experienced social worker of the nursing home, subsequent to the request for nursing home admission.
Gender, age, Katz category, marital status, disease, living conditions, Personal and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (P-ADL and I-ADL) were the independent variables.
The variable 'time span' was introduced as dependent variable. This is the time between the onset of dependency and the request for institutionalisation. Nursing home carers have classified this time span in three periods: < 3, 3-12, and > 12 months. The statistical analysis focused on the characteristics of the two extremes, namely the earliest versus the latest applicants (n = 74). This was the best strategy to go about investigating the issue due to the vagueness and uncertain status of the data in the midrange.
The applicants had an average age of 83 years. 31% of the elderly were defined as functioning good (needing assistance from another person in no to maximum two ADLs - washing and dressing) and 69% were classified as ill functioning (needing assistance in minimum three ADLs). Women were more likely to be widowed (83%) and to live alone and isolated (55%) and they had a lower degree of dependency (both P-ADL and I-ADL) when entering institutions. Of the women, 57% had a mental illness, compared with 48% of the men. Of the applicants, 34% were unwilling or unable to start home care and applied for an urgent request (within the first 3 months); 41% tried home care for a time and 26% applied after one year of home care.
The stepwise logistic regression analysis identified I-ADL as the decisive factor explaining the difference in 'decision speed' towards institutionalisation. An increase of one unit on the I-ADL score increased the chance of a request within the first three months by 63% (95%CI: 19 to135%, p = 0.006).
The only factor related to an urgent request for nursing home admission seems to be the I-ADL score. These results have important implications for targeting sheltered housing and further extension of home care services to postpone or prevent institutionalisation.
Financial barriers are an important obstacle for access to emergency obstetric care and a contributing factor to too slow a reduction in the level of maternal mortality. In Morocco, in 2009, a fee exemption policy for delivery and caesarean section was implemented in public maternity hospitals. As in most countries where a fee exemption policy has been implemented, fee exemption is considered synonym to free care. However, other direct costs may subsist. The objective of this study was to get an estimate of the actual cost of caesarean sections from the patients' perspective.
This study was carried out in April 2010 in the three public hospitals in Fez. We carried out semi-structured interviews among a sample of 100 women who gave birth by caesarian section in the public hospitals in Fez. The results showed that households paid between US$169 (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 153, 185) at the provincial and regional hospitals, and US$291 (95% CI: 224-359) at the university hospital (UH) where the fee exemption was not applied. The direct cost of a caesarean was mainly influenced by the price of the drugs the families bought, the invoice paid at UH, and the transport. Finally, although the fee exemption policy for caesareans has probably reduced the total cost for households who did not have access to a poverty card, it has not led to 'truly' free caesarean deliveries.
Access to care; caesarean section; cost of care; Morocco; maternal mortality