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.

    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

  • Rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men per 100 MSM, US states and District of Columbia, 2012-2013.

    Rates of Prevalent HIV Infection, Prevalent Diagnoses, and New Diagnoses Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in US States, Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and...


    Background: In the United States, men who have sex with men (MSM) increasingly represent the majority of people living with and acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Local and federal surveillance programs estimate the number of persons living with an HIV diagnosis, persons living with HIV infection, and new diagnoses. Given the absence of population-based estimates of the number of MSM for US states, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), or counties, it is not possible to accurately estimate rates using these indicators at these levels, inhibiting the ability to understand HIV burden and to direct prevention efforts. Objective: To synthesize recently published estimates of MSM population size with publicly available HIV surveillance data, in order to estimate the prevalence of HIV diagnosis and infection and the rate of new diagnoses, at the national, state, MSA, and county levels. Methods: The number of MSM living with HIV infection in 2012 (prevalence), living with an HIV diagnosis in 2012 (diagnosed prevalence), and newly diagnosed with HIV infection in 2013 (new diagnosis), at state, MSA, and county levels, were obtained from publicly available data from and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The estimated number of MSM living in every US county was calculated using recently published methodology that utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and American Community Survey. Estimated county-level MSM counts were aggregated to form MSA- and state-level totals. From this, we estimated HIV prevalence, diagnosed prevalence, and new diagnosis rates. Results: The estimated HIV prevalence among MSM in the United States in 2012 was 15.0% (666,900/4,452,772), the diagnosed HIV prevalence in 2012 was 11.1% (493,453/4,452,772), and the new diagnosis rate for 2013 was 0.7 per 100 MSM. For diagnosed prevalence at the state level, 6 states had both <15,000 cases and diagnosed prevalence rates of ≥15%, all in the South. Five highly populated states had ≥15,000 cases and rates between 10% and 15%. Georgia was the only state with ≥15,000 cases and ≥15% diagnosed prevalence rate. Of the 25 MSAs with the highest diagnosed prevalence rates in the United States, 21 were in the South and 6 had diagnosed prevalence of ≥25%. County-level data showed high diagnosed prevalence rates in both urban and rural counties of the South. Conclusions: HIV infection is hyperendemic among MSM in many areas of the United States, particularly in the South. Our data emphasize the priorities for HIV prevention and care set forth in the United States National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and provide updatable local estimates of NHAS indicators. Jurisdictions can use these results to direct resources, programs, and policies to optimally benefit the health of MSM.

  • Image created by and copyright author YS.

    Medical Institutions and Twitter: A Novel Tool for Public Communication in Japan


    Background: Twitter is a free social networking and microblogging service on the Internet. Medical professionals and patients have started to use Twitter in medicine. Twitter use by medical institutions can interactively and efficiently provide public health information and education for laypeople. Objective: This study examined Twitter usage by medical institutions. Methods: We reviewed all Japanese user accounts in which the names of medical institutions were described in the user’s Twitter profile. We then classified medical institutions’ tweets by content. Results: We extracted 168 accounts for medical institutions with ≥500 followers. The medical specialties of those accounts were dentistry and oral surgery (n=73), dermatology (n=12), cosmetic surgery (n=10), internal medicine (n=10), ophthalmology (n=6), obstetrics and gynecology (n=5), plastic surgery (n=2), and others (n=50). Of these, 21 accounts tweeted medical knowledge and 45 accounts tweeted guidance about medical practice and consultation hours, including advertisements. In the dentistry and oral surgery accounts, individual behavior or thinking was the most frequent (22/71, 31%) content. On the other hand, consultation including advertisements was the most frequent (14/23, 61%) in cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery, and dermatology. Conclusions: Some medical specialties used Twitter for disseminating medical knowledge or guidance including advertisements. This indicates that Twitter potentially can be used for various purposes by different medical specialties.

  • eMIS Thailand - Copyright BIOPHICS 2016 All rights reserved. 
(Picture was taken as permission).

    Effectiveness of Implementation of Electronic Malaria Information System as the National Malaria Surveillance System in Thailand


    Background: In moving toward malaria elimination, one strategy is to implement an active surveillance system for effective case management. Thailand has developed and implemented the electronic Malaria Information System (eMIS) capturing individualized electronic records of suspected or confirmed malaria cases. Objective: The main purpose of this study was to determine how well the eMIS improves the quality of Thailand’s malaria surveillance system. In particular, the focus of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the eMIS in terms of the system users’ perception and the system outcomes (ie, quality of data) regarding the management of malaria patients. Methods: A mixed-methods technique was used with the framework based on system effectiveness attributes: data quality, timeliness, simplicity, acceptability, flexibility, stability, and usefulness. Three methods were utilized: data records review, survey of system users, and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders. From the two highest endemic provinces, paper forms matching electronic records of 4455 noninfected and 784 malaria-infected cases were reviewed. Web-based anonymous questionnaires were distributed to all 129 eMIS data entry staff throughout Thailand, and semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 management-level officers. Results: The eMIS is well accepted by system users at both management and operational levels. The data quality has enabled malaria personnel to perform more effective prevention and control activities. There is evidence of practices resulting in inconsistencies and logical errors in data reporting. Critical data elements were mostly completed, except for a few related to certain dates and area classifications. Timeliness in reporting a case to the system was acceptable with a delay of 3-4 days. The evaluation of quantitative and qualitative data confirmed that the eMIS has high levels of simplicity, acceptability, stability, and flexibility. Conclusions: Overall, the system implemented has achieved its objective. The results of the study suggested that the eMIS helps improve the quality of Thailand’s malaria surveillance system. As the national malaria surveillance system, the eMIS’s functionalities have provided the malaria staff working at the point of care with close-to-real-time case management data quality, covering case detection, case investigation, drug compliance, and follow-up visits. Such features has led to an improvement in the quality of the malaria control program; the government officials now have quicker access to both individual and aggregated data to promptly react to possible outbreak. The eMIS thus plays one of the key roles in moving toward the national goal of malaria elimination by the next decade.

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  • HIV care and viral suppression during the last year of life—a comparison of HIV-infected persons who died of HIV-attributable causes with persons who died of other causes in 2012, 13 jurisdictions, United States

    Date Submitted: Jun 15, 2016

    Open Peer Review Period: Jun 18, 2016 - Jul 2, 2016

    Background: Little information is available about care before death among HIV-infected persons who die of HIV infection, as compared with those who die of other causes. Objective: Determine, on a popu...

    Background: Little information is available about care before death among HIV-infected persons who die of HIV infection, as compared with those who die of other causes. Objective: Determine, on a population level, HIV care and outcome before death among persons with HIV who died of HIV-attributable or other causes. Methods: We used National HIV Surveillance System data to compare CD4 T-lymphocyte counts and viral loads within 12 months before death among persons who died of HIV-attributable causes with those among HIV-infected persons who died of other causes. Persons were classified as “in continuous care” if they had ≥2 CD4 or viral load test results at least 3 months apart in those 12 months, and as having “viral suppression” if their most recent viral load was <200 copies/mL. Deaths were classified as “HIV-attributable” if the underlying cause in death-certificate data was HIV infection itself, an AIDS-defining disease, or immunodeficiency. Results: Among persons who died of HIV-attributable or other causes, respectively, 65% and 31% had late stage disease (AIDS) in the last 12 months before death, and 34% and 51% had viral suppression. The percentage of persons who received ≥2 tests at least 3 months apart did not differ by cause of death. Prevalence of viral suppression for persons who ever had AIDS was lower among those who died of HIV, but did not differ by cause of death for persons who never had AIDS. Conclusions: The finding of a lower prevalence of viral suppression among HIV-infected persons who died of HIV than among those who died of other causes implies a need to improve strategies to achieve viral suppression to reduce mortality due to HIV.