JMIR Publications

JMIR Public Health and Surveillance

A multidisciplinary journal that focuses on public health and technology, public health informatics, mass media campaigns, surveillance, participatory epidemiology, and innovation in public health practice and research.


Journal Description

JMIR Public Health & Surveillance (JPH, Editor-in-chief: Patrick Sullivan, Emory University/Rollins School of Public Health) is a new sister journal of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), the top cited journal in health informatics (Impact Factor 2015: 4.532). JPH is a multidisciplinary journal that focuses on innovation and technology in public health, and includes topics like health communication, public health informatics, surveillance, participatory epidemiology, infodemiology and infoveillance, digital disease detection, digital public health interventions, mass media/social media campaigns, and emerging population health analysis systems and tools.

We publish regular articles, reviews, protocols/system descriptions and viewpoint papers on all aspects of public health, with a focus on innovation and technology in public health.

Among other innovations, JPH is also dedicated to support rapid open data sharing and rapid open access to surveillance and outbreak data. As one of the novel features we plan to publish rapid or even real-time surveillance reports and open data. The methods and description of the surveillance system may be peer-reviewed and published only once in detail, in a  "baseline report" (in a JMIR Res Protoc or a JMIR Public Health & Surveill paper), and authors then have the possibility to publish data and reports in frequent intervals rapidly and with only minimal additional peer-review (we call this article type "Rapid Surveillance Reports"). JMIR Publications may even work with authors/researchers and developers of selected surveillance systems on APIs for semi-automated reports (e.g. weekly reports to be automatically published in JPHS and indexed in PubMed, based on data-feeds from surveillance systems and minmal narratives and abstracts).

Furthermore, duing epidemics and public health emergencies, submissions with critical data will be processed with expedited peer-review to enable publication within days or even in real-time.

We also publish descriptions of open data resources and open source software. Where possible, we can and want to publish or even host the actual software or dataset on the journal website.


Recent Articles:

  • Source:, CC0 Public Domain.

    Exploring Consumer and Patient Knowledge, Behavior, and Attitude Toward Medicinal and Lifestyle Products Purchased From the Internet: A Web-Based Survey


    Background: In recent years, lifestyle products have emerged to help improve people’s physical and mental performance. The Internet plays a major role in the spread of these products. However, the literature has reported issues regarding the authenticity of medicines purchased from the Internet and the impact of counterfeit medicines on public health. Little or no data are available on the authenticity of lifestyle products and actual toxicity associated with their use and misuse. Objective: Our aim was to investigate consumer and patient attitudes toward the purchase of lifestyle products from the Internet, their knowledge of product authenticity and toxicity, and their experiences with counterfeit lifestyle products. Methods: A Web-based study was performed between May 2014 and May 2015. Uniform collection of data was performed through an anonymous online questionnaire. Participants were invited worldwide via email, social media, or personal communication to complete the online questionnaire. A total of 320 participants completed the questionnaire. Results: The results of the questionnaire showed that 208 (65.0%) participants purchased lifestyle products from the Internet mainly due to convenience and reduced cost. More than half (55.6%, 178/320) of participants purchased cosmetic products, whereas only a minority purchased medicinal products. Yet, 62.8% (201/320) of participants were aware of the presence of counterfeit lifestyle products from the Internet, and 11.9% (38/320) experienced counterfeit products. In only 0.9% (3/320) of those cases were counterfeit lifestyle products reported to authorities. Moreover, 7.2% (23/320) of the participants experienced adverse effects due to counterfeit lifestyle products. Conclusions: In summary, patients experienced counterfeit lifestyle products that resulted in adverse effects on their health. Although certain adverse effects were reported in this study, counterfeit products were underreported to authorities. Further public awareness campaigns and patient education are needed.

  • Screenshots of the interface: part (a) is the landing page and parts (b and c) are a selection of 11 behaviors to record (user must scroll to see items at the bottom). From top to bottom, left to right: changing what you eat or how you eat, exercise, eat and eat, pills, powders, teas, drinks, drops, vomiting, smoking to lose weight, and drinking. Part (d) shows acknowledgment that recording was successful.

    Development of an Ecological Momentary Assessment Mobile App for a Low-Literacy, Mexican American Population to Collect Disordered Eating Behaviors


    Background: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) is a popular method for understanding population health in which participants report their experiences while in naturally occurring contexts in order to increase the reliability and ecological validity of the collected data (as compared to retrospective recall). EMA studies, however, have relied primarily on text-based questionnaires, effectively eliminating low-literacy populations from the samples. Objective: To provide a case study of design of an EMA mobile app for a low-literacy population. In particular, we present the design process and final design of an EMA mobile app for low literate, Mexican American women to record unhealthy eating and weight control behaviors (UEWCBs). Methods: An iterative, user-centered design process was employed to develop the mobile app. An existing EMA protocol to measure UEWCBs in college-enrolled Mexican American women was used as the starting point for the application. The app utilizes an icon interface, with optional audio prompts, that is culturally sensitive and usable by a low-literacy population. A total of 41 women participated over the course of 4 phases of the design process, which included 2 interview and task-based phases (n=8, n=11), focus groups (n=15), and a 5-day, in situ deployment (n=7). Results: Participants’ mental models of UEWCBs differed substantially from prevailing definitions found in the literature, prompting a major reorganization of the app interface. Differences in health literacy and numeracy were better identified with the Newest Vital Sign tool, as compared with the Short Assessment of Health Literacy tool. Participants had difficulty imagining scenarios in the interviews to practice recording a specific UEWCB; instead, usability was best tested in situ. Participants were able to use the EMA mobile app over the course of 5 days to record UEWCBs. Conclusions: Results suggest that the iterative, user-centered design process was essential for designing the app to be made usable by the target population. Simply taking the protocol designed for a higher-literacy population and replacing words with icons and/or audio would have been unsuccessful with this population.

  • Source:; CC0 Public Domain.

    The Use of Social Media for Health Promotion in Hispanic Populations: A Scoping Systematic Review


    Background: The Internet is an increasingly popular platform for public health interventions due to its distinct ability to communicate with, engage, and educate communities. Given the widespread use of the Internet, these interventions could be a means of equalizing access to information to address health disparities in minority populations, such as Hispanics. Hispanics are disproportionately affected by poor health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Although underserved and underrepresented, Hispanics are among the leading users of social media in the United States. Previous reviews have examined the use of social media in public health efforts, but, to our knowledge, none have focused on the Hispanic population. Objective: To conduct a scoping systematic review of the published literature to capture the ways social media has been used in health interventions aimed at Hispanic populations and identify gaps in existing knowledge to provide recommendations for future research. Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature related to social media, public health, and Hispanics using the PubMed, PsycINFO, and EMBASE databases to locate peer-reviewed studies published between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2015. Each article was reviewed for the following inclusion criteria: social media as a main component of study methodology or content; public health topic; majority Hispanic/Latino study population; English or Spanish language; and original research study. Relevant data were extracted from articles meeting inclusion criteria including publication year, location, study design, social media platform, use of social media, target population, and public health topic. Results: Of the 267 articles retrieved, a total of 27 unique articles met inclusion criteria. All were published in 2012 or later. The most common study design was a cross-sectional survey, which was featured in 10 of the 27 (37%) articles. All articles used social media for at least one of the following three purposes: recruiting study participants (14 of 27, 52%), promoting health education (12 of 27, 44%), and/or describing social media users (12 of 27, 44%). All but one article used multiple social media platforms, though Facebook was by far the most popular appearing in 24 of the 27 (89%). A diverse array of Hispanic populations was targeted, and health topics featured. Of these, the most highly represented were articles on sexual health directed toward Latino men who have sex with men (12 of 27, 44%). Healthy eating and active living received the second greatest focus (4 of 27, 15%). Conclusions: Social media offers a potential accessible venue for health interventions aimed at Hispanics, a group at disproportionate risk for poor health outcomes. To date, most publications are descriptive in nature, with few indicating specific interventions and associated outcomes to improve health.

  • Source:; CC0 Public Domain.

    Applying Sparse Machine Learning Methods to Twitter: Analysis of the 2012 Change in Pap Smear Guidelines. A Sequential Mixed-Methods Study


    Background: It is difficult to synthesize the vast amount of textual data available from social media websites. Capturing real-world discussions via social media could provide insights into individuals’ opinions and the decision-making process. Objective: We conducted a sequential mixed methods study to determine the utility of sparse machine learning techniques in summarizing Twitter dialogues. We chose a narrowly defined topic for this approach: cervical cancer discussions over a 6-month time period surrounding a change in Pap smear screening guidelines. Methods: We applied statistical methodologies, known as sparse machine learning algorithms, to summarize Twitter messages about cervical cancer before and after the 2012 change in Pap smear screening guidelines by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). All messages containing the search terms “cervical cancer,” “Pap smear,” and “Pap test” were analyzed during: (1) January 1–March 13, 2012, and (2) March 14–June 30, 2012. Topic modeling was used to discern the most common topics from each time period, and determine the singular value criterion for each topic. The results were then qualitatively coded from top 10 relevant topics to determine the efficiency of clustering method in grouping distinct ideas, and how the discussion differed before vs. after the change in guidelines . Results: This machine learning method was effective in grouping the relevant discussion topics about cervical cancer during the respective time periods (~20% overall irrelevant content in both time periods). Qualitative analysis determined that a significant portion of the top discussion topics in the second time period directly reflected the USPSTF guideline change (eg, “New Screening Guidelines for Cervical Cancer”), and many topics in both time periods were addressing basic screening promotion and education (eg, “It is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month! Click the link to see where you can receive a free or low cost Pap test.”) Conclusions: It was demonstrated that machine learning tools can be useful in cervical cancer prevention and screening discussions on Twitter. This method allowed us to prove that there is publicly available significant information about cervical cancer screening on social media sites. Moreover, we observed a direct impact of the guideline change within the Twitter messages.

  • Student-Specific Weight Loss Programs. Image sourced and copyright owned by Sarah Lynch et al.

    Availability and Accessibility of Student-Specific Weight Loss Programs and Other Risk Prevention Health Services on College Campuses


    Background: More than one third of college students who are overweight or obese are in need of weight loss programs tailored to college students. However, the availability and accessibility of these programs is unknown. Objective: The aim of this study is to examine the availability and ease of access to weight loss programs for students at 10 universities with the largest undergraduate enrollment. Methods: The 10 public universities with the largest student bodies with a mean (SD) undergraduate enrollment of 41,122 (7657) students were examined. The websites of the universities were assessed to determine the availability of weight loss programs. Services for high-risk health needs common to university campuses (ie, alcohol and other drugs, victim services, sexual health, and eating disorders) were searched. Results: Of the universities searched, 3 (30%, 3/10) offered weight loss programming, however, none met the predetermined criteria. Comparatively, all schools (100%, 10/10) offered no-cost and continual enrollment programming for the other high-risk health needs. Conclusions: There are limited weight loss services available to undergraduate students compared with other university services. Collaboration between existing college health service providers is suggested for the delivery of appropriate programming for overweight and obese undergraduates wanting to lose weight.

  • Mobile health surveys. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors Scott McIntosh et al.

    Development and Implementation of Culturally Tailored Offline Mobile Health Surveys


    Background: In low and middle income countries (LMICs), and other areas with low resources and unreliable access to the Internet, understanding the emerging best practices for the implementation of new mobile health (mHealth) technologies is needed for efficient and secure data management and for informing public health researchers. Innovations in mHealth technology can improve on previous methods, and dissemination of project development details and lessons learned during implementation are needed to provide lessons learned to stakeholders in both the United States and LMIC settings. Objective: The aims of this paper are to share implementation strategies and lessons learned from the development and implementation stages of two survey research projects using offline mobile technology, and to inform and prepare public health researchers and practitioners to implement new mobile technologies in survey research projects in LMICs. Methods: In 2015, two survey research projects were developed and piloted in Puerto Rico and pre-tested in Costa Rica to collect face-to-face data, get formative evaluation feedback, and to test the feasibility of an offline mobile data collection process. Fieldwork in each setting involved survey development, back translation with cultural tailoring, ethical review and approvals, data collector training, and piloting survey implementation on mobile tablets. Results: Critical processes and workflows for survey research projects in low resource settings were identified and implemented. This included developing a secure mobile data platform tailored to each survey, establishing user accessibility, and training and eliciting feedback from data collectors and on-site LMIC project partners. Conclusions: Formative and process evaluation strategies are necessary and useful for the development and implementation of survey research projects using emerging mHealth technologies in LMICs and other low resource settings. Lessons learned include: (1) plan institutional review board (IRB) approvals in multiple countries carefully to allow for development, implementation, and feedback, (2) in addition to testing the content of survey instruments, allow time and consideration for testing the use of novel mHealth technology (hardware and software), (3) incorporate training for and feedback from project staff, LMIC partner staff, and research participants, and (4) change methods accordingly, including content, as mHealth technology usage influences and is influenced by the content and structure of the survey instrument. Lessons learned from early phases of LMIC research projects using emerging mHealth technologies are critical for informing subsequent research methods and study designs.

  • Source: HealthMap, Copyright: author John Brownstein.

    Utilizing Nontraditional Data Sources for Near Real-Time Estimation of Transmission Dynamics During the 2015-2016 Colombian Zika Virus Disease Outbreak


    Background: Approximately 40 countries in Central and South America have experienced local vector-born transmission of Zika virus, resulting in nearly 300,000 total reported cases of Zika virus disease to date. Of the cases that have sought care thus far in the region, more than 70,000 have been reported out of Colombia. Objective: In this paper, we use nontraditional digital disease surveillance data via HealthMap and Google Trends to develop near real-time estimates for the basic (R0) and observed (Robs) reproductive numbers associated with Zika virus disease in Colombia. We then validate our results against traditional health care-based disease surveillance data. Methods: Cumulative reported case counts of Zika virus disease in Colombia were acquired via the HealthMap digital disease surveillance system. Linear smoothing was conducted to adjust the shape of the HealthMap cumulative case curve using Google search data. Traditional surveillance data on Zika virus disease were obtained from weekly Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) epidemiological bulletin publications. The Incidence Decay and Exponential Adjustment (IDEA) model was used to estimate R0 and Robs for both data sources. Results: Using the digital (smoothed HealthMap) data, we estimated a mean R0 of 2.56 (range 1.42-3.83) and a mean Robs of 1.80 (range 1.42-2.30). The traditional (INS) data yielded a mean R0 of 4.82 (range 2.34-8.32) and a mean Robs of 2.34 (range 1.60-3.31). Conclusions: Although modeling using the traditional (INS) data yielded higher R0 estimates than the digital (smoothed HealthMap) data, modeled ranges for Robs were comparable across both data sources. As a result, the narrow range of possible case projections generated by the traditional (INS) data was largely encompassed by the wider range produced by the digital (smoothed HealthMap) data. Thus, in the absence of traditional surveillance data, digital surveillance data can yield similar estimates for key transmission parameters and should be utilized in other Zika virus-affected countries to assess outbreak dynamics in near real time.

  • Source and copyright: the authors.

    Facebook Advertising Across an Engagement Spectrum: A Case Example for Public Health Communication


    Background: The interpersonal, dialogic features of social networking sites have untapped potential for public health communication. We ran a Facebook advertising campaign to raise statewide awareness of Michigan’s newborn screening and biobanking programs. Objective: We ran a Facebook advertising campaign to stimulate public engagement on the complex and sensitive issue of Michigan’s newborn screening and biobank programs. Methods: We ran an 11-week, US $15,000 Facebook advertising campaign engaging Michigan Facebook users aged 18-64 years about the state’s newborn screening and population biobank programs, and we used a novel “engagement spectrum” framework to contextualize and evaluate engagement outcomes ranging from observation to multi-way conversation. Results: The campaign reached 1.88 million Facebook users, yielding a range of engagement outcomes across ad sets that varied by objective, content, budget, duration, and bid type. Ad sets yielded 9009 page likes (US $4125), 15,958 website clicks (US $5578), and 12,909 complete video views to 100% (US $3750). “Boosted posts” yielded 528 comments and 35,966 page post engagements (US $1500). Overall, the campaign led to 452 shares and 642 comments, including 176 discussing newborn screening and biobanking. Conclusions: Facebook advertising campaigns can efficiently reach large populations and achieve a range of engagement outcomes by diversifying ad types, bid types, and content. This campaign provided a population-based approach to communication that also increased transparency on a sensitive and complex topic by creating a forum for multi-way interaction.

  • Number of MSM participants in the American Men's Internet Survey by state, 2014.

    The Annual American Men's Internet Survey of Behaviors of Men Who have Sex with Men in the United States: 2014 Key Indicators Report


    The American Men’s Internet Survey (AMIS) is an annual Web-based behavioral survey of men who have sex with men (MSM) who live in the United States. The purpose of this Rapid Surveillance Report is to report on the second cycle of data collection (November 2014 through April 2015; AMIS-2014) on the same key indicators previously reported for AMIS (December 2013 through May 2014; AMIS-2013). The AMIS survey methodology has not substantively changed since AMIS-2013. MSM were recruited from a variety of websites using banner advertisements or email blasts. Adult men currently residing in the United States were eligible to participate if they had ever had sex with a man. We examined demographic and recruitment characteristics using multivariable regression modeling (P<.05) stratified by the participants' self-reported human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status. The AMIS-2014 round of data collection resulted in 9248 completed surveys from MSM representing every US state. Participants were mainly white, 40 years or older, living in the US South, living in urban/suburban areas, and recruited from a general social networking website. Self-reported HIV prevalence was 11.34% (1049/9248). Compared with HIV-negative/unknown status participants, HIV-positive participants were more likely to have had anal sex without a condom with any male partner in the past 12 months (76.55% vs 67.17%; P<.001) and more likely to have had anal sex without a condom with their last male sex partner who was discordant/unknown HIV status (39.66% vs 18.77%; P<.001). Marijuana and other illicit substance use in the past 12 months was more likely to be reported by HIV-positive participants than HIV-negative/unknown status participants (26.02% vs 21.27%, and 27.26% vs 17.60%, respectively; both P<.001). The vast majority (86.90%, 7127/8199) of HIV-negative/unknown status participants had been previously HIV tested, and 58.23% (4799/8199) had been tested in the past 12 months. Sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and diagnosis was also more likely to be reported by HIV-positive participants than HIV-negative/unknown status participants (71.02% vs 37.34%, and 20.59% vs 7.54%, respectively; both P<.001). HIV-negative/unknown status participants <40 years of age were more likely than those 40 years or older to have had anal sex without a condom, were more likely to report substance use, were less likely to have been HIV tested, but were more likely to been tested for and diagnosed with an STI. Compared with those from general social networking, HIV-negative/unknown status participants from a geospatial social networking website were more likely to have reported all risk behaviors but were more likely to have been HIV tested, STI tested, and diagnosed with an STI.

  • Source: Flickr
Image Source: Computer Keyboard, copyright Marcie Casas,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Construct Validity of the eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) Among Two Adult Populations: A Rasch Analysis


    Background: The Internet has become a ubiquitous venue for information seeking, especially for health information. Public health practitioners have noticed the promise and potential of the Internet, however, little is known about individuals' skills of their eHealth literacy. The eHealth Literacy Scale, eHEALS, was designed to measure perceptions of individuals' eHealth literacy skills. Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the psychometric validity and reliability of the eHEALS with two adult populations using the Rasch Model. Methods: A college-aged sample and an Internet-based sample (Amazon's MTurk) were recruited to complete the eHEALS, demographic questions, and a health literacy scale. Using WINSTEPS and SPSS, unidimensionality, item fit, rating scale, item hierarchy, person ability-item match, and reliability were analyzed, compared, and contrasted against each sample and to other samples found in the literature. Results: An exploratory factor analysis supported unidimensionality in both samples. More than 90% of respondents from both samples fit the model. No items were outright misfitting. Both samples separated into three distinct groups. Conclusions: Based on the results, the eHEALS is a reliable and consistent measurement tool for a college sample and an Internet-based sample. As these individuals are most likely to use the Internet as a health resource, it is necessary to learn and know their skills versus perceiving that they can critically and successfully navigate the Internet. Further analyses are necessary to ensure that the eHEALS can serve as a standard eHealth literacy measure for public health.

  • Source:; CC0 Licensed; Attribution: GoaShape.

    The Importance of Population Denominators for High-Impact Public Health for Marginalized Populations


    Background: Commentary -- no abstract Objective: Commentary Methods: Commentary Results: Commentary Conclusions: Commentary Clinical Trial: N/A

  • Source:; CC BY-SA 2.0; Attribution: jacinta lluch valero; modified by removing text.

    Shining a Light on America’s HIV Epidemic among Men who Have Sex with Men

    Authors List:


    This is an Editorial on two published articles

Citing this Article

Right click to copy or hit: ctrl+c (cmd+c on mac)