Within Canada, many public health leaders have long identified the importance of improving the health of all Canadians especially those who face social and economic disadvantages. Future improvements in population health will be achieved by promoting health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Many Canadian documents, endorsed by government and public health leaders, describe commitments to improving overall health and promoting health equity. Public health has an important role to play in strengthening action on the social determinants and promoting health equity. Currently, public health services in British Columbia are being reorganized and there is a unique opportunity to study the application of an equity lens in public health and the contribution of public health to reducing health inequities. Where applicable, we have chosen mental health promotion, prevention of mental disorders and harms of substance use as exemplars within which to examine specific application of an equity lens.
This research protocol is informed by three theoretical perspectives: complex adaptive systems, critical social justice, and intersectionality. In this program of research, there are four inter-related research projects with an emphasis on both integrated and end of grant knowledge translation. Within an overarching collaborative and participatory approach to research, we use a multiple comparative case study research design and are incorporating multiple methods such as discourse analysis, situational analysis, social network analysis, concept mapping and grounded theory.
An important aim of this work is to help ensure a strong public health system that supports public health providers to have the knowledge, skills, tools and resources to undertake the promotion of health equity. This research will contribute to increasing the effectiveness and contributions of public health in reducing unfair and inequitable differences in health among population groups. As a collaborative effort between public health practitioners/decision makers and university researchers, this research will provide important understanding and insights about the implementation of the changes in public health with a specific focus on health equity, the promotion of mental health and the prevention of harms of substance use.
Health inequities; Health equity tools and frameworks; Public health services; Population health interventions; Public health policy; Determinants of health; Ethics and values; Complex adaptive systems; Intersectionality; Critical social justice
Ontario’s 36 Public Health Units (PHUs) were responsible for implementing the H1N1 Pandemic Influenza Plans (PIPs) to address the first pandemic influenza virus in over 40 years. It was the first under conditions which permitted mass immunization. This is therefore the first opportunity to learn and document what worked well, and did not work well, in Ontario’s response to pH1N1, and to make recommendations based on experience.
Our objectives were to: describe the PIP models, obtain perceptions on outcomes, lessons learned and to solicit policy suggestions for improvement. We conducted a 3-phase comparative analysis study comprised of semi-structured key informant interviews with local Medical Officers of Health (n = 29 of 36), and Primary Care Physicians (n = 20) and in Phase 3 with provincial Chief-Medical Officers of Health (n = 6) and a provincial Medical Organization. Phase 2 data came from a Pan-Ontario symposium (n = 44) comprised leaders representing: Public Health, Primary Care, Provincial and Federal Government.
PIPs varied resulting in diverse experiences and lessons learned. This was in part due to different PHU characteristics that included: degree of planning, PHU and Primary Care capacity, population, geographic and relationships with Primary Care. Main lessons learned were: 1) Planning should be more comprehensive and operationalized at all levels. 2) Improve national and provincial communication strategies and eliminate contradictory messages from different sources. 3) An integrated community-wide response may be the best approach to decrease the impact of a pandemic. 4) The best Mass Immunization models can be quickly implemented and have high immunization rates. They should be flexible and allow for incremental responses that are based upon: i) pandemic severity, ii) local health system, population and geographic characteristics, iii) immunization objectives, and iv) vaccine supply.
“We were very lucky that pH1N1 was not more severe.” Consensus existed for more detailed planning and the inclusion of multiple health system and community stakeholders. PIPs should be flexible, allow for incremental responses and have important decisions (E.g., under which conditions Public Health, Primary Care, Pharmacists or others act as vaccine delivery agents.) made prior to a crisis.
pH1N1; Pandemic influenza plans; Influenza responses; Public health; Primary care; Mass immunization; Public health policy
In 2003, 11 public health epidemiologists were placed in North Carolina's largest hospitals to enhance communication between public health agencies and healthcare systems for improved emergency preparedness. We describe the specific services public health epidemiologists provide to local health departments, the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and the hospitals in which they are based, and assess the value of these services to stakeholders.
We surveyed and/or interviewed public health epidemiologists, communicable disease nurses based at local health departments, North Carolina Division of Public Health staff, and public health epidemiologists' hospital supervisors to 1) elicit the services provided by public health epidemiologists in daily practice and during emergencies and 2) examine the value of these services. Interviews were transcribed and imported into ATLAS.ti for coding and analysis. Descriptive analyses were performed on quantitative survey data.
Public health epidemiologists conduct syndromic surveillance of community-acquired infections and potential bioterrorism events, assist local health departments and the North Carolina Division of Public Health with public health investigations, educate clinicians on diseases of public health importance, and enhance communication between hospitals and public health agencies. Stakeholders place on a high value on the unique services provided by public health epidemiologists.
Public health epidemiologists effectively link public health agencies and hospitals to enhance syndromic surveillance, communicable disease management, and public health emergency preparedness and response. This comprehensive description of the program and its value to stakeholders, both in routine daily practice and in responding to a major public health emergency, can inform other states that may wish to establish a similar program as part of their larger public health emergency preparedness and response system.
The large-scale deployment of antiviral drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile during the 2009 H1N1 influenza response provides a unique opportunity to study local public health implementation of the medical countermeasure dispensing capability in a prolonged event of national significance. This study aims to describe the range of methods used by local health departments (LHDs) in California to manage antiviral activities and to gain a better understanding of the related challenges experienced by health departments and their community partners.
This research employed a mixed-methods approach. First, a multi-disciplinary focus group of pandemic influenza planners from key stakeholder groups in California was convened in order to generate ideas and identify critical themes related to the local implementation of antiviral activities during the H1N1 influenza response. These qualitative data informed the development of a web-based survey, which was distributed to all 61 LHDs in California for the purpose of assessing the experiences of a representative sample of local health agencies in a large region.
Forty-four LHDs participated in this study, representing 72% of the local public health agencies in California. While most communities dispensed a modest number of publicly purchased antivirals, LHDs nevertheless drew on their previous work and engaged in a number of antiviral activities, including: acquiring, allocating, distributing, dispensing, tracking, developing guidance, and communicating to the public and clinical community. LHDs also identified specific antiviral challenges presented by the H1N1 pandemic, including: reconciling multiple sources and versions of antiviral guidance, determining appropriate uses and recipients of publicly purchased antivirals, and staffing shortages.
The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic presented an unusual opportunity to learn about the role of local public health in the management of antiviral response activities during a real public health emergency. Results of this study offer an important descriptive account of LHD management of publicly purchased antivirals, and provide practitioners, policy makers, and academics with a practice-based assessment of these events. The issues raised and the challenges faced by LHDs should be leveraged to inform public health planning for future pandemics and other emergency events that require medical countermeasure dispensing activities.
Public health preparedness and response; Public health systems research; Influenza
Public health surveillance and epidemiologic investigations are critical public health functions for identifying threats to the health of a community. Very little is known about how these functions are conducted at the local level. The purpose of the Epidemiology Networks in Action (EpiNet) Study was to describe the epidemiology and surveillance response to the 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) by city and county health departments in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. The study also documented lessons learned from the response in order to strengthen future public health preparedness and response planning efforts in the region.
In order to characterize the epidemiology and surveillance response, we conducted key informant interviews with public health professionals from twelve local health departments in the San Francisco Bay Area. In order to contextualize aspects of organizational response and performance, we recruited two types of key informants: public health professionals who were involved with the epidemiology and surveillance response for each jurisdiction, as well as the health officer or his/her designee responsible for H1N1 response activities. Information about the organization, data sources for situation awareness, decision-making, and issues related to surge capacity, continuity of operations, and sustainability were collected during the key informant interviews. Content and interpretive analyses were conducted using ATLAS.ti software.
The study found that disease investigations were important in the first months of the pandemic, often requiring additional staff support and sometimes forcing other public health activities to be put on hold. We also found that while the Incident Command System (ICS) was used by all participating agencies to manage the response, the manner in which it was implemented and utilized varied. Each local health department (LHD) in the study collected epidemiologic data from a variety of sources, but only case reports (including hospitalized and fatal cases) and laboratory testing data were used by all organizations. While almost every LHD attempted to collect school absenteeism data, many respondents reported problems in collecting and analyzing these data. Laboratory capacity to test influenza specimens often aided an LHD’s ability to conduct disease investigations and implement control measures, but the ability to test specimens varied across the region and even well-equipped laboratories exceeded their capacity. As a whole, the health jurisdictions in the region communicated regularly about key decision-making (continued on next page) (continued from previous page) related to the response, and prior regional collaboration on pandemic influenza planning helped to prepare the region for the novel H1N1 influenza pandemic. The study did find, however, that many respondents (including the majority of epidemiologists interviewed) desired an increase in regional communication about epidemiology and surveillance issues.
The study collected information about the epidemiology and surveillance response among LHDs in the San Francisco Bay Area that has implications for public health preparedness and emergency response training, public health best practices, regional public health collaboration, and a perceived need for information sharing.
Influenza A (H1N1); Epidemiology; Surveillance; Public health preparedness; Public health emergency response
In order to better understand factors that influence decisions for public health, we undertook a qualitative study to explore issues relating to the time horizons used in decision-making.
Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. 33 individuals involved in the decision making process around coronary heart disease were purposively sampled from the UK National Health Service (national, regional and local levels), academia and voluntary organizations. Analysis was based on the framework method using N-VIVO software. Interviews were transcribed, coded and emergent themes identified.
Many participants suggested that the timescales for public health decision-making are too short. Commissioners and some practitioners working at the national level particularly felt constrained in terms of planning for the long-term. Furthermore respondents felt that longer term planning was needed to address the wider determinants of health and to achieve societal level changes. Three prominent 'systems' issues were identified as important drivers of short term thinking: the need to demonstrate impact within the 4 year political cycle; the requirement to 'balance the books' within the annual commissioning cycle and the disruption caused by frequent re-organisations within the health service. In addition respondents suggested that the tools and evidence base for longer term planning were not well established.
Many public health decision and policy makers feel that the timescales for decision-making are too short. Substantial systemic barriers to longer-term planning exist. Policy makers need to look beyond short-term targets and budget cycles to secure investment for long-term improvement in public health.
Although an increasing number of studies are documenting uses of syndromic surveillance by front line public health, few detail the value added from linking syndromic data to public health decision-making. This study seeks to understand how syndromic data informed specific public health actions during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with participants from Ontario’s public health departments, the provincial ministry of health and federal public health agency to gather information about syndromic surveillance systems used and the role of syndromic data in informing specific public health actions taken during the pandemic. Responses were compared with how the same decisions were made by non-syndromic surveillance users.
Findings from 56 interviews (82% response) show that syndromic data were most used for monitoring virus activity, measuring impact on the health care system and informing the opening of influenza assessment centres in several jurisdictions, and supporting communications and messaging, rather than its intended purpose of early outbreak detection. Syndromic data had limited impact on decisions that involved the operation of immunization clinics, school closures, sending information letters home with school children or providing recommendations to health care providers. Both syndromic surveillance users and non-users reported that guidance from the provincial ministry of health, communications with stakeholders and vaccine availability were driving factors in these public health decisions.
Syndromic surveillance had limited use in decision-making during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in Ontario. This study provides insights into the reasons why this occurred. Despite this, syndromic data were valued for providing situational awareness and confidence to support public communications and recommendations. Developing an understanding of how syndromic data are utilized during public health events provides valuable evidence to support future investments in public health surveillance.
Decision making; Pandemic influenza; Public health; Surveillance; Syndromic surveillance
The International Health Regulations (IHR (2005)) require countries to notify WHO of any event which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern. This notification relies on reports of events occurring at the local level reaching the national public health authorities. By June 2012 WHO member states are expected to have implemented the capacity to "detect events involving disease or death above expected levels for the particular time and place" on the local level and report essential information to the appropriate level of public health authority. Our objective was to develop tools to assist European countries improve the reporting of unusual events of public health significance from frontline healthcare workers to public health authorities.
We investigated obstacles and incentives to event reporting through a systematic literature review and expert consultations with national public health officials from various European countries. Multi-day expert meetings and qualitative interviews were used to gather experiences and examples of public health event reporting. Feedback on specific components of the toolkit was collected from healthcare workers and public health officials throughout the design process.
Evidence from 79 scientific publications, two multi-day expert meetings and seven qualitative interviews stressed the need to clarify concepts and expectations around event reporting in European countries between the frontline and public health authorities. An analytical framework based on three priority areas for improved event reporting (professional engagement, communication and infrastructure) was developed and guided the development of the various tools. We developed a toolkit adaptable to country-specific needs that includes a guidance document for IHR National Focal Points and nine tool templates targeted at clinicians and laboratory staff: five awareness campaign tools, three education and training tools, and an implementation plan. The toolkit emphasizes what to report, the reporting process and the need for follow-up, supported by real examples.
This toolkit addresses the importance of mutual exchange of information between frontline healthcare workers and public health authorities. It may potentially increase frontline healthcare workers' awareness of their role in the detection of events of public health concern, improve communication channels and contribute to creating an enabling environment for event reporting. However, the effectiveness of the toolkit will depend on the national body responsible for dissemination and training.
Pain is an enormous problem globally. Estimates suggest that 20% of adults suffer from pain globally and 10% are newly diagnosed with chronic pain each year. Nevertheless, the problem of pain has primarily been regarded as a medical problem, and has been little addressed by the field of public health.
Despite the ubiquity of pain, whether acute, chronic or intermittent, public health scholars and practitioners have not addressed this issue as a public health problem. The importance of viewing pain through a public health lens allows one to understand pain as a multifaceted, interdisciplinary problem for which many of the causes are the social determinants of health. Addressing pain as a global public health issue will also aid in priority setting and formulating public health policy to address this problem, which, like most other chronic non-communicable diseases, is growing both in absolute numbers and in its inequitable distribution across the globe.
The prevalence, incidence, and vast social and health consequences of global pain requires that the public health community give due attention to this issue. Doing so will mean that health care providers and public health professionals will have a more comprehensive understanding of pain and the appropriate public health and social policy responses to this problem.
Health care providers (HCPs) play an important role in public health emergency preparedness and response (PHEPR) so need to be aware of public health threats and emergencies. To inform HCPs, public health issues PHEPR messages that provide guidelines and updates, and facilitate surveillance so HCPs will recognize and control communicable diseases, prevent excess deaths and mitigate suffering. Public health agencies need to know that the PHEPR messages sent to HCPs reach their target audience and are effective and informative. Public health agencies need to know that the PHEPR messages sent to HCPs reach their target audience and are effective and informative. We conducted a literature review to investigate the systems and tools used by public health to generate PHEPR communications to HCPs, and to identify specific characteristics of message delivery mechanisms and formats that may be associated with effective PHEPR communications.
A systematic review of peer- and non-peer-reviewed literature focused on the following questions: 1) What public health systems exist for communicating PHEPR messages from public health agencies to HCPs? 2) Have these systems been evaluated and, if yes, what criteria were used to evaluate these systems? 3) What have these evaluations discovered about characterizations of the most effective ways for public health agencies to communicate PHEPR messages to HCPs?
We identified 25 systems or tools for communicating PHEPR messages from public health agencies to HCPs. Few articles assessed PHEPR communication systems or messaging methods or outcomes. Only one study compared the effectiveness of the delivery format, device or message itself. We also discovered that the potential is high for HCPs to experience "message overload" given redundancy of PHEPR messaging in multiple formats and/or through different delivery systems.
We found that detailed descriptions of PHEPR messaging from public health to HCPs are scarce in the literature and, even when available are rarely evaluated in any systematic fashion. To meet present-day and future information needs for emergency preparedness, more attention needs to be given to evaluating the effectiveness of these systems in a scientifically rigorous manner.
Although the adoption of health information technology (HIT) has advanced in Canada over the past decade, considerable challenges remain in supporting the development, broad adoption, and effective use of HIT in the public health system. Policy makers and practitioners have long recognized that improvements in HIT infrastructure are necessary to support effective and efficient public health practice. The objective of this study was to identify aspects of health information technology (HIT) policy related to public health in Canada that have succeeded, to identify remaining challenges, and to suggest future directions to improve the adoption and use of HIT in the public health system.
A qualitative case study was performed with 24 key stakeholders representing national and provincial organizations responsible for establishing policy and strategic direction for health information technology.
Identified benefits of HIT in public health included improved communication among jurisdictions, increased awareness of the need for interoperable systems, and improvement in data standardization. Identified barriers included a lack of national vision and leadership, insufficient investment, and poor conceptualization of the priority areas for implementing HIT in public health.
The application of HIT in public health should focus on automating core processes and identifying innovative applications of HIT to advance public health outcomes. The Public Health Agency of Canada should develop the expertise to lead public health HIT policy and should establish a mechanism for coordinating public health stakeholder input on HIT policy.
Health information technology; Electronic infrastructure; Informatics; Surveillance; Public health; Canada
There is a major gradient in burden of disease between Central and Eastern Europe compared to Western Europe. Many of the underlying causes and risk factors are amenable to public health interventions. The purpose of the study was to explore perceptions of public health experts from Central and Eastern European countries on public health challenges in their countries.
We invited 179 public health experts from Central and Eastern European countries to a 2-day workshop in Berlin, Germany. A total of 25 public health experts from 14 countries participated in May 2008. The workshop was structured into 8 sessions of 1.5 hours each, with the topic areas covering coronary heart disease, stroke, prevention, obesity, alcohol, tobacco, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. The workshop was recorded and the proceedings transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were entered into atlas.ti for content analysis and coded according to the session headings. After analysis of the content of each session discussion, a re-coding of the discussions took place based on the themes that emerged from the analysis.
Themes discussed recurred across disease entities and sessions. Major themes were the relationship between clinical medicine and public health, the need for public health funding, and the problems of proving the effectiveness of disease prevention. Areas for action identified included the need to engage with the public, to create a better scientific basis for public health interventions, to identify “best practices” of disease prevention, and to implement registries/surveillance instruments. The need for improved data collection was seen throughout all areas discussed, as was the need to harmonize data across countries.
To reduce the burden of disease across Europe, closer collaboration of countries across Europe seems important in order to learn from each other. A more credible scientific basis for effective public health interventions is urgently needed. The monitoring of health trends is crucial to evaluate the impact of public health programmes.
Governments may be overwhelmed by a large-scale public health emergency, such as a massive bioterrorist attack or natural disaster, requiring collaboration with businesses and other community partners to respond effectively. In Georgia, public health officials and members of the Business Executives for National Security have successfully collaborated to develop and test procedures for dispensing medications from the Strategic National Stockpile. Lessons learned from this collaboration should be useful to other public health and business leaders interested in developing similar partnerships.
The authors conducted a case study based on interviews with 26 government, business, and academic participants in this collaboration.
The partnership is based on shared objectives to protect public health and assure community cohesion in the wake of a large-scale disaster, on the recognition that acting alone neither public health agencies nor businesses are likely to manage such a response successfully, and on the realization that business and community continuity are intertwined. The partnership has required participants to acknowledge and address multiple challenges, including differences in business and government cultures and operational constraints, such as concerns about the confidentiality of shared information, liability, and the limits of volunteerism. The partnership has been facilitated by a business model based on defining shared objectives, identifying mutual needs and vulnerabilities, developing carefully-defined projects, and evaluating proposed project methods through exercise testing. Through collaborative engagement in progressively more complex projects, increasing trust and understanding have enabled the partners to make significant progress in addressing these challenges.
As a result of this partnership, essential relationships have been established, substantial private resources and capabilities have been engaged in government preparedness programs, and a model for collaborative, emergency mass dispensing of pharmaceuticals has been developed, tested, and slated for expansion. The lessons learned from this collaboration in Georgia should be considered by other government and business leaders seeking to develop similar partnerships.
In Ontario, local public health inspectors play an important frontline role in protecting the public from foodborne illness. This study was an in-depth exploration of public health inspectors' perceptions of the key food safety issues in public health, and their opinions and needs with regards to food safety information resources.
Four focus group discussions were conducted with public health inspectors from the Central West region of Ontario, Canada during June and July, 2008. A questioning route was used to standardize qualitative data collection. Audio recordings of sessions were transcribed verbatim and data-driven content analysis was performed.
A total of 23 public health inspectors participated in four focus group discussions. Five themes emerged as key food safety issues: time-temperature abuse, inadequate handwashing, cross-contamination, the lack of food safety knowledge by food handlers and food premise operators, and the lack of food safety information and knowledge about specialty foods (i.e., foods from different cultures). In general, participants reported confidence with their current knowledge of food safety issues and foodborne pathogens. Participants highlighted the need for a central source for food safety information, access to up-to-date food safety information, resources in different languages, and additional food safety information on specialty foods.
The information gathered from these focus groups can provide a basis for the development of resources that will meet the specific needs of public health inspectors involved in protecting and promoting food safety.
To explore whether there is a potential for greater use of research-based information in public health practice in a local setting. Secondly, if research-based information is relevant, to explore the extent to which this generates questioning behaviour.
Qualitative study using focus group discussions, observation and interviews.
Public health practices in Norway.
52 public health practitioners.
In general, the public health practitioners had a positive attitude towards research-based information, but believed that they had few cases requiring this type of information. They did say, however, that there might be a potential for greater use. During five focus groups and six observation days we identified 28 questions/cases where it would have been appropriate to seek out research evidence according to our definition. Three of the public health practitioners identified three of these 28 cases as questions for which research-based information could have been relevant. This gap is interpreted as representing unrecognised information needs.
There is an unrealised potential in public health practice for more frequent and extensive use of research-based information. The practitioners did not appear to reflect on the need for scientific information when faced with new cases and few questions of this type were generated.
There is a growing recognition that many public health issues are complex and
can be best understood by examining the relationship between human health
and the health of the ecosystems in which people live. Two approaches, One
Health and Ecosystem Approaches to Health (EcoHealth), can help us to better
understand these intricate and complex connections, and appear to hold great
promise for tackling many modern public health dilemmas. Although both One
Health and EcoHealth have garnered recognition from numerous health bodies
in Canada and abroad, there is still a need to better understand how these
approaches are shaping the practice of public health in Ontario.
The purpose of this study was to characterize how public health actors in
Ontario are influenced by the holistic principles which underlie One Health
and EcoHealth, and to identify important lessons from their experiences.
Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten participants from the
public health sphere in Ontario. Participants encompassed diverse
perspectives including infectious disease, food systems, urban agriculture,
and environmental health. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed
using qualitative content analysis to identify major themes and
Four major themes emerged from the interviews: the importance of connecting
human health with the environment; the role of governance in promoting these
ideas; the value of partnerships and collaborations in public health
practice; and the challenge of operationalizing holistic approaches to
public health. Overall study participants were found to be heavily
influenced by concepts couched in EcoHealth and One Health literature,
despite a lack of familiarity with these fields.
Although One Health and EcoHealth are lesser known approaches in the public
health sphere, their holistic and systems-based principles were found to
influence the thoughts, values and experiences of public health actors
interviewed in this study. This study also highlights the critical role of
governance and partnerships in facilitating a holistic approach to health.
Further research on governance and partnership models, as well as
systems-based organizational working practices, is needed to close the gap
between One Health and EcoHealth theory and public health practice.
Public health practice; One Health; EcoHealth; Governance; Sustainability; Cross-sectoral partnerships
Sustainable development and public health quite strongly correlate, being connected and conditioned by one another. This paper therein attempts to offer a representation of Europe’s current situation of sustainable development in the area of public health.
A dataset on sustainable development in the area of public health consisting of 31 European countries (formally proposed by the European Union Commission and EUROSTAT) has been used in this paper in order to evaluate said issue for the countries listed thereof. A statistical method which synthesizes several indicators into one quantitative indicator has also been utilized. Furthermore, the applied method offers the possibility to obtain an optimal set of variables for future studies of the problem, as well as for the possible development of indicators.
According to the results obtained, Norway and Iceland are the two foremost European countries regarding sustainable development in the area of public health, whereas Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia, some of the European Union’s newest Member States, rank lowest. The results also demonstrate that the most significant variables (more than 80%) in rating countries are found to be “healthy life years at birth, females” (r2 = 0.880), “healthy life years at birth, males” (r2 = 0.864), “death rate due to chronic diseases, males” (r2 = 0.850), and “healthy life years, 65, females” (r2 = 0.844).
Based on the results of this paper, public health represents a precondition for sustainable development, which should be continuously invested in and improved.
After the assessment of the dataset, proposed by EUROSTAT in order to evaluate progress towards the agreed goals of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS), this paper offers an improved set of variables, which it is hoped, may initiate further studies concerning this problem.
Public health; Sustainable development; I-distance method; Rating countries
Formulation and evaluation of public health policy commonly employs science-based mathematical models. For instance, epidemiological dynamics of TB is dominated, in general, by flow between actively and latently infected populations. Thus modelling is central in planning public health intervention. However, models are highly uncertain because they are based on observations that are geographically and temporally distinct from the population to which they are applied.
We aim to demonstrate the advantages of info-gap theory, a non-probabilistic approach to severe uncertainty when worst cases cannot be reliably identified and probability distributions are unreliable or unavailable. Info-gap is applied here to mathematical modelling of epidemics and analysis of public health decision-making.
Applying info-gap robustness analysis to tuberculosis/HIV (TB/HIV) epidemics, we illustrate the critical role of incorporating uncertainty in formulating recommendations for interventions. Robustness is assessed as the magnitude of uncertainty that can be tolerated by a given intervention. We illustrate the methodology by exploring interventions that alter the rates of diagnosis, cure, relapse and HIV infection.
We demonstrate several policy implications. Equivalence among alternative rates of diagnosis and relapse are identified. The impact of initial TB and HIV prevalence on the robustness to uncertainty is quantified. In some configurations, increased aggressiveness of intervention improves the predicted outcome but also reduces the robustness to uncertainty. Similarly, predicted outcomes may be better at larger target times, but may also be more vulnerable to model error.
The info-gap framework is useful for managing model uncertainty and is attractive when uncertainties on model parameters are extreme. When a public health model underlies guidelines, info-gap decision theory provides valuable insight into the confidence of achieving agreed-upon goals.
TB management; HIV-AIDS; Public health; Epidemiology; Uncertainty; Robustness; Info-gap
Literature related to the effectiveness of knowledge translation (KT) strategies used in public health is lacking. The capacity to seek, analyze, and synthesize evidence-based information in public health is linked to greater success in making policy choices that have the best potential to yield positive outcomes for populations. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify the effectiveness of KT strategies used to promote evidence-informed decision making (EIDM) among public health decision makers.
A search strategy was developed to identify primary studies published between 2000–2010. Studies were obtained from multiple electronic databases (CINAHL, Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews). Searches were supplemented by hand searching and checking the reference lists of included articles. Two independent review authors screened studies for relevance, assessed methodological quality of relevant studies, and extracted data from studies using standardized tools.
After removal of duplicates, the search identified 64, 391 titles related to KT strategies. Following title and abstract review, 346 publications were deemed potentially relevant, of which 5 met all relevance criteria on full text screen. The included publications were of moderate quality and consisted of five primary studies (four randomized controlled trials and one interrupted time series analysis). Results were synthesized narratively. Simple or single KT strategies were shown in some circumstances to be as effective as complex, multifaceted ones when changing practice including tailored and targeted messaging. Multifaceted KT strategies led to changes in knowledge but not practice. Knowledge translation strategies shown to be less effective were passive and included access to registries of pre-processed research evidence or print materials. While knowledge brokering did not have a significant effect generally, results suggested that it did have a positive effect on those organizations that at baseline perceived their organization to place little value on evidence-informed decision making.
No singular KT strategy was shown to be effective in all contexts. Conclusions about interventions cannot be taken on their own without considering the characteristics of the knowledge that was being transferred, providers, participants and organizations.
Knowledge translation; Public health; Research utilisation; Research transfer
Maternity care providers, particularly midwives, have a window of opportunity to influence pregnant women about positive health choices. This aim of this paper is to identify evidence of effective public health interventions from good quality systematic reviews that could be conducted by midwives.
Relevant databases including MEDLINE, Pubmed, EBSCO, CRD, MIDIRS, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library and Econlit were searched to identify systematic reviews in October 2010. Quality assessment of all reviews was conducted.
Thirty-six good quality systematic reviews were identified which reported on effective interventions. The reviews were conducted on a diverse range of interventions across the reproductive continuum and were categorised under: screening; supplementation; support; education; mental health; birthing environment; clinical care in labour and breast feeding. The scope and strength of the review findings are discussed in relation to current practice. A logic model was developed to provide an overarching framework of midwifery public health roles to inform research policy and practice.
This review provides a broad scope of high quality systematic review evidence and definitively highlights the challenge of knowledge transfer from research into practice. The review also identified gaps in knowledge around the impact of core midwifery practice on public health outcomes and the value of this contribution. This review provides evidence for researchers and funders as to the gaps in current knowledge and should be used to inform the strategic direction of the role of midwifery in public health in policy and practice.
Systematic review; Public health; Midwife; Pregnancy
In Quebec, the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic was managed using a top-down style that left many involved players with critical views and frustrations. We aimed to describe physicians' perceptions - infectious diseases specialists/medical microbiologists (IDMM) and public health/preventive medicine specialists (PHPMS) - in regards to issues encountered with the pandemics management at the physician level and highlight suggested improvements for future healthcare emergencies.
In April 2010, Quebec IDMM and PHPMS physicians were invited to anonymously complete a web-based learning needs assessment. The survey included both open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Descriptive statistics were used to report on the frequency distribution of multiple choice responses whereas thematic content analysis was used to analyse qualitative data generated from the survey and help understand respondents' experience and perceptions with the pandemics.
Of the 102 respondents, 85.3% reported difficulties or frustrations in their practice during the pandemic. The thematic analysis revealed two core themes describing the problems experienced in the pandemic management: coordination and resource-related difficulties. Coordination issues included communication, clinical practice guidelines, decision-making, roles and responsibilities, epidemiological investigation, and public health expert advisory committees. Resources issues included laboratory resources, patient management, and vaccination process.
Together, the quantitative and qualitative data suggest a need for improved coordination, a better definition of roles and responsibilities, increased use of information technologies, merged communications, and transparency in the decisional process. Increased flexibility and less contradiction in clinical practice guidelines from different sources and increased laboratory/clinical capacity were felt critical to the proper management of infectious disease emergencies.
Influenza; Pandemic; Public health emergency; Management; Physicians' perceptions; Mixed methods exploratory survey
Hospital HIV care and public sexual health care (a Sexual Health Care Centre) services were integrated to provide sexual health counselling and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) testing and treatment (sexual health care) to larger numbers of HIV patients. Services, need and usage were assessed using a patient perspective, which is a key factor for the success of service integration.
The study design was a one-group pre-test and post-test comparison of 447 HIV-infected heterosexual individuals and men who have sex with men (MSM) attending a hospital-based HIV centre serving the southern region of the Netherlands. The intervention offered comprehensive sexual health care using an integrated care approach. The main outcomes were intervention uptake, patients’ pre-test care needs (n=254), and quality rating.
Pre intervention, 43% of the patients wanted to discuss sexual health (51% MSM; 30% heterosexuals). Of these patients, 12% to 35% reported regular coverage, and up to 25% never discussed sexual health topics at their HIV care visits. Of the patients, 24% used our intervention. Usage was higher among patients who previously expressed a need to discuss sexual health. Most patients who used the integrated services were new users of public health services. STIs were detected in 13% of MSM and in none of the heterosexuals. The quality of care was rated good.
The HIV patients in our study generally considered sexual health important, but the regular counselling and testing at the HIV care visit was insufficient. The integration of public health and hospital services benefited both care sectors and their patients by addressing sexual health questions, detecting STIs, and conducting partner notification. Successful sexual health care uptake requires increased awareness among patients about their care options as well as a cultural shift among care providers.
HIV; Quality of care; Services integration; Public health care; Hospital care; STI
Due to the uncommon nature of large-scale disasters and emergencies, public health practitioners often turn to simulated emergencies, known as “exercises”, for preparedness assessment and improvement. Under the right conditions, exercises can also be used to conduct original public health systems research. This paper describes the integration of a research framework into a statewide operations-based exercise program in California as a systems-based approach for studying public health emergency preparedness and response.
We developed a research framework based on the premise that operations-based exercises conducted by medical and public health agencies can be described using epidemiologic concepts. Using this framework, we conducted a survey of key local and regional medical and health agencies throughout California following the 2010 Statewide Medical and Health Exercise. The survey evaluated: (1) the emergency preparedness capabilities activated and functions performed in response to the emergency scenario, and (2) the major challenges to inter-organizational communications and information management.
Thirty-five local health departments (LHDs), 24 local emergency medical services (EMS) agencies, 121 hospitals, and 5 Regional Disaster Medical and Health Coordinators/Specialists (RDMHC) responded to our survey, representing 57%, 77%, 26% and 83%, respectively, of target agencies in California. We found two sets of response capabilities were activated during the 2010 Statewide Exercise: a set of core capabilities that were common across all agencies, and a set of agency-specific capabilities that were more common among certain agency types. With respect to one response capability in particular, inter-organizational information sharing, we found that the majority of respondents’ comments were related to the complete or partial failure of communications equipment or systems.
Using the 2010 Statewide Exercise in California as an opportunity to develop our research framework, we characterized several aspects of the public health and medical system’s response to a standardized emergency scenario. From a research perspective, this study provides a potential new framework for conducting exercise-based research. From a practitioner’s perspective, our results provide a starting point for preparedness professionals’ dialogue about expected and actual organizational roles, responsibilities, and resource capacities within the public health system. Additionally, the identification of specific challenges to inter-organizational communications and information management offer specific areas for intervention.
Activities; Capabilities; Emergency response; Exercises; Functions; Information sharing; Inter-organizational communications; Preparedness; Systems research
Future public health professionals are especially important among students partly because their credibility in light of their professional messages and activities will be tested daily by their clients; and partly because health professionals' own lifestyle habits influence their attitudes and professional activities. A better understanding of public health students' health and its determinants is necessary for improving counselling services and tailoring them to demand. Our aim was to survey public health students' health status and behaviour with a focus on mental health.
A cross-sectional study was carried out among public health students at 1-5-years (N = 194) with a self-administered questionnaire that included standardized items on demographic data, mental wellbeing characterized by sense of coherence (SoC) and psychological morbidity, as well as health behaviour and social support. Correlations between social support and the variables for mental health, health status and health behaviour were characterized by pairwise correlation.
The response rate was 75% and represented students by study year, sex and age in the Faculty. Nearly half of the students were non-smokers, more than one quarter smoked daily. Almost one-fifth of the students suffered from notable psychological distress. The proportion of these students decreased from year 1 to 5. The mean score for SoC was 60.1 and showed an increasing trend during the academic years. 29% of the students lacked social support from their student peers. Significant positive correlation was revealed between social support and variables for mental health. Psychological distress was greater among female public health students than in the same age female group of the general population; whereas the lack of social support was a more prevalent problem among male students.
Health status and behaviour of public health students is similar to their non-students peers except for their worse mental health. Future public health professionals should be better prepared for coping with the challenges they face during their studies. Universities must facilitate this process by providing helping services targeted at those with highest risk, and developing training to improve coping skills. Social support is also a potentially amenable determinant of mental health during higher education.
Effective communication is a critical function within any public health system. Social media has enhanced communication between individuals and organizations and has the potential to augment public health communication. However, there is a lack of reported data on social media adoption within public health settings. The purposes of this study were to assess: 1) the extent to which state public health departments (SHDs) are using social media; 2) which social media applications are used most often; and 3) how often social media is used interactively to engage audiences.
This was a non-experimental, cross sectional study of SHD social media sites. Screen capture software Snag-It® was used to obtain screenshots of SHD social media sites across five applications. These sites were coded for social media presence, interactivity, reach, and topic.
Sixty percent of SHDs reported using at least one social media application. Of these, 86.7% had a Twitter account, 56% a Facebook account, and 43% a YouTube channel. There was a statistically significant difference between average population density and use of social media (p = .01). On average, SHDs made one post per day on social media sites, and this was primarily to distribute information; there was very little interaction with audiences. SHDs have few followers or friends on their social media sites. The most common topics for posts and tweets related to staying healthy and diseases and conditions. Limitations include the absence of a standard by which social media metrics measure presence, reach, or interactivity; SHDs were only included if they had an institutionally maintained account; and the study was cross sectional.
Social media use by public health agencies is in the early adoption stage. However, the reach of social media is limited. SHDs are using social media as a channel to distribute information rather than capitalizing on the interactivity available to create conversations and engage with the audience. If public health agencies are to effectively use social media then they must develop a strategic communication plan that incorporates best practices for expanding reach and fostering interactivity and engagement.