JMIR Publications

JMIR Public Health and Surveillance

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

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Journal Description

JMIR Public Health & Surveillance (JPHS, Editor-in-chief: Travis Sanchez, Emory University/Rollins School of Public Health) is a 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 with a unique focus on the intersection of 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.

Apart from publishing traditional public health research and viewpoint papers as well as reports from traditional surveillance systems, JPH was one of the first (if not the only) peer-reviewed journal which publishes papers with surveillance or pharmacovigilance data from non-traditional, unstructured big data and text sources such as social media and the Internet (infoveillance, digital disease detection), or reports on novel participatory epidemiology projects, where observations are solicited from the public.  

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:

  • Image Source: Freepik, licensed by the authors.

    Analysis of Patient Narratives in Disease Blogs on the Internet: An Exploratory Study of Social Pharmacovigilance

    Abstract:

    Background: Although several reports have suggested that patient-generated data from Internet sources could be used to improve drug safety and pharmacovigilance, few studies have identified such data sources in Japan. We introduce a unique Japanese data source: tōbyōki, which translates literally as “an account of a struggle with disease.” Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the basic characteristics of the TOBYO database, a collection of tōbyōki blogs on the Internet, and discuss potential applications for pharmacovigilance. Methods: We analyzed the overall gender and age distribution of the patient-generated TOBYO database and compared this with other external databases generated by health care professionals. For detailed analysis, we prepared separate datasets for blogs written by patients with depression and blogs written by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), because these conditions were expected to entail subjective patient symptoms such as discomfort, insomnia, and pain. Frequently appearing medical terms were counted, and their variations were compared with those in an external adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting database. Frequently appearing words regarding patients with depression and patients with RA were visualized using word clouds and word cooccurrence networks. Results: As of June 4, 2016, the TOBYO database comprised 54,010 blogs representing 1405 disorders. Overall, more entries were written by female bloggers (68.8%) than by male bloggers (30.8%). The most frequently observed disorders were breast cancer (4983 blogs), depression (3556), infertility (2430), RA (1118), and panic disorder (1090). Comparison of medical terms observed in tōbyōki blogs with those in an external ADR reporting database showed that subjective and symptomatic events and general terms tended to be frequently observed in tōbyōki blogs (eg, anxiety, headache, and pain), whereas events using more technical medical terms (eg, syndrome and abnormal laboratory test result) tended to be observed frequently in the ADR database. We also confirmed the feasibility of using visualization techniques to obtain insights from unstructured text-based tōbyōki blog data. Word clouds described the characteristics of each disorder, such as “sleeping” and “anxiety” in depression and “pain” and “painful” in RA. Conclusions: Pharmacovigilance should maintain a strong focus on patients’ actual experiences, concerns, and outcomes, and this approach can be expected to uncover hidden adverse event signals earlier and to help us understand adverse events in a patient-centered way. Patient-generated tōbyōki blogs in the TOBYO database showed unique characteristics that were different from the data in existing sources generated by health care professionals. Analysis of tōbyōki blogs would add value to the assessment of disorders with a high prevalence in women, psychiatric disorders in which subjective symptoms have important clinical meaning, refractory disorders, and other chronic disorders.

  • Newborn Baby Girl and Her Mother. Credit: Linda Kloosterhof. Image source: http://www.istockphoto.com/ca/photo/newborn-baby-girl-and-her-mother-gm538810769-58770562?st=_p_native%20american%20mum%20holding%20baby. Copyright: iStock by Getty Images.

    SmartMom Text Messaging for Prenatal Education: A Qualitative Focus Group Study to Explore Canadian Women’s Perceptions

    Abstract:

    Background: We engaged Canadian women in the development of a prenatal education program delivered via one-way text messaging called SmartMom. SmartMom is the first peer-reviewed, evidence-based mHealth program for prenatal education in Canada and the first to be endorsed by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Objective: To explore women’s preferences for a prenatal education program by text messaging. Methods: We conducted a qualitative focus group study in three Canadian communities in the Northern Health Authority. Women completed a demographic questionnaire, participated in a guided discussion about their pregnancy information-seeking behavior, reviewed a printed copy of the SmartMom text messages, and then engaged in a moderated discussion about their perceptions of the usability of the SmartMom program. Open-ended questions explored women’s perceptions regarding the message content, acceptability of receiving information by text message, positive health behaviors they might engage in after receiving a message, modifiable program factors, and intention to use the program. Thematic analysis of transcribed audio recordings was undertaken and modifications were made to the SmartMom program based on these findings. Results: A total of 40 women participated in seven focus groups in three rural northern communities. The vast majority had a mobile phone (39/40, 98%), used text messages “all the time” (28/40, 70%), and surfed the Internet on their phone (37/40, 93%). Participants perceived SmartMom to be highly acceptable and relevant. The text message modality reflected how participants currently sought pregnancy-related information and provided them with local information tailored to their gestational age, which they had not received through other pregnancy resources. Women recommended adding the opportunity to receive supplemental streams of messages tailored to their individual needs, for example, depression, pregnancy after previous cesarean, >35 years of age, new immigrants, and harm reduction for smoking and alcohol. Conclusions: This formative qualitative evaluation provides evidence that a prenatal education program by text messaging, SmartMom, is acceptable to the end users. These findings support the usability of the SmartMom program at a population level and the development of an evaluation program exploring the effects of the text messages on adoption of health-promoting behaviors and maternal-child health outcomes.

  • HIV disease indicators. Image source: iStock by Getty Images; http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/immunology-blood-tests-forms-gm184877959-18280237. Image sourced and licensed by CDC.

    HIV Trends in the United States: Diagnoses and Estimated Incidence

    Abstract:

    Background: The best indicator of the impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention programs is the incidence of infection; however, HIV is a chronic infection and HIV diagnoses may include infections that occurred years before diagnosis. Alternative methods to estimate incidence use diagnoses, stage of disease, and laboratory assays of infection recency. Using a consistent, accurate method would allow for timely interpretation of HIV trends. Objective: The objective of our study was to assess the recent progress toward reducing HIV infections in the United States overall and among selected population segments with available incidence estimation methods. Methods: Data on cases of HIV infection reported to national surveillance for 2008-2013 were used to compare trends in HIV diagnoses, unadjusted and adjusted for reporting delay, and model-based incidence for the US population aged ≥13 years. Incidence was estimated using a biomarker for recency of infection (stratified extrapolation approach) and 2 back-calculation models (CD4 and Bayesian hierarchical models). HIV testing trends were determined from behavioral surveys for persons aged ≥18 years. Analyses were stratified by sex, race or ethnicity (black, Hispanic or Latino, and white), and transmission category (men who have sex with men, MSM). Results: On average, HIV diagnoses decreased 4.0% per year from 48,309 in 2008 to 39,270 in 2013 (P<.001). Adjusting for reporting delays, diagnoses decreased 3.1% per year (P<.001). The CD4 model estimated an annual decrease in incidence of 4.6% (P<.001) and the Bayesian hierarchical model 2.6% (P<.001); the stratified extrapolation approach estimated a stable incidence. During these years, overall, the percentage of persons who ever had received an HIV test or had had a test within the past year remained stable; among MSM testing increased. For women, all 3 incidence models corroborated the decreasing trend in HIV diagnoses, and HIV diagnoses and 2 incidence models indicated decreases among blacks and whites. The CD4 and Bayesian hierarchical models, but not the stratified extrapolation approach, indicated decreases in incidence among MSM. Conclusions: HIV diagnoses and CD4 and Bayesian hierarchical model estimates indicated decreases in HIV incidence overall, among both sexes and all race or ethnicity groups. Further progress depends on effectively reducing HIV incidence among MSM, among whom the majority of new infections occur.

  • Social listening and the nonmedical use of noncontrolled drugs. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Using Social Listening Data to Monitor Misuse and Nonmedical Use of Bupropion: A Content Analysis

    Abstract:

    Background: The nonmedical use of pharmaceutical products has become a significant public health concern. Traditionally, the evaluation of nonmedical use has focused on controlled substances with addiction risk. Currently, there is no effective means of evaluating the nonmedical use of noncontrolled antidepressants. Objective: Social listening, in the context of public health sometimes called infodemiology or infoveillance, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, product, brand, or individual, within forms of electronic interactive media. The objectives of this study were (1) to determine whether content analysis of social listening data could be utilized to identify posts discussing potential misuse or nonmedical use of bupropion and two comparators, amitriptyline and venlafaxine, and (2) to describe and characterize these posts. Methods: Social listening was performed on all publicly available posts cumulative through July 29, 2015, from two harm-reduction Web forums, Bluelight and Opiophile, which mentioned the study drugs. The acquired data were stripped of personally identifiable identification (PII). A set of generic, brand, and vernacular product names was used to identify product references in posts. Posts were obtained using natural language processing tools to identify vernacular references to drug misuse-related Preferred Terms from the English Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) version 18 terminology. Posts were reviewed manually by coders, who extracted relevant details. Results: A total of 7756 references to at least one of the study antidepressants were identified within posts gathered for this study. Of these posts, 668 (8.61%, 668/7756) referenced misuse or nonmedical use of the drug, with bupropion accounting for 438 (65.6%, 438/668). Of the 668 posts, nonmedical use was discouraged by 40.6% (178/438), 22% (22/100), and 18.5% (24/130) and encouraged by 12.3% (54/438), 10% (10/100), and 10.8% (14/130) for bupropion, amitriptyline, and venlafaxine, respectively. The most commonly reported desired effects were similar to stimulants with bupropion, sedatives with amitriptyline, and dissociatives with venlafaxine. The nasal route of administration was most frequently reported for bupropion, whereas the oral route was most frequently reported for amitriptyline and venlafaxine. Bupropion and venlafaxine were most commonly procured from health care providers, whereas amitriptyline was most commonly obtained or stolen from a third party. The Fleiss kappa for interrater agreement among 20 items with 7 categorical response options evaluated by all 11 raters was 0.448 (95% CI 0.421-0.457). Conclusions: Social listening, conducted in collaboration with harm-reduction Web forums, offers a valuable new data source that can be used for monitoring nonmedical use of antidepressants. Additional work on the capabilities of social listening will help further delineate the benefits and limitations of this rapidly evolving data source.

  • UntitledMobile phone access in remote regions of Northern Kenya. Image copyright Richard Todd Lester 2015.

    Assessing Mobile Phone Access and Perceptions for Texting-Based mHealth Interventions Among Expectant Mothers and Child Caregivers in Remote Regions of...

    Abstract:

    Background: With a dramatic increase in mobile phone use in low- and middle-income countries, mobile health (mHealth) has great potential to connect health care services directly to participants enrolled and improve engagement of care. Rural and remote global settings may pose both significant challenges and opportunities. Objective: The objective of our study was to understand the demographics, phone usage and ownership characteristics, and feasibility among patients in rural and remote areas of Kenya of having text messaging (short messaging service, SMS)-based mHealth intervention for improvements in antenatal care attendance and routine immunization among children in Northern Kenya. Methods: A survey-based descriptive study was conducted between October 2014 and February 2015 at 8 health facilities in Northern Kenya as part of a program to scale up an mHealth service in rural and remote regions. The study was conducted at 6 government health facilities in Isiolo, Marsabit, and Samburu counties in remote and northern arid lands (NAL). Two less remote health facilities in Laikipia and Meru counties in more populated central highlands were included as comparison sites. Results: A total of 284 participants were surveyed; 63.4% (180/284) were from NAL clinics, whereas 36.6% (104/284) were from adjacent central highland clinics. In the NAL, almost half (48.8%, 88/180) reported no formal education and 24.4% (44/180) self-identified as nomads. The majority of participants from both regions had access to mobile phone: 99.0% (103/104) of participants from central highlands and 82.1% (147/180) of participants from NAL. Among those who had access to a phone, there were significant differences in network challenges and technology literacy between the 2 regions. However, there was no significant difference in the proportion of participants from NAL and central highlands who indicated that they would like to receive a weekly SMS text message from their health care provider (90.0% vs 95.0%; P=.52). Overall, 92.0% (230/250) of participants who had access to a telephone said that they would like to receive a weekly SMS text message from their health care provider. Most phone users already spent the equivalent of 626 SMS text messages on mobile credit for personal use. Conclusions: Despite the remoteness of northern Kenya’s NAL, the results indicate that the majority of pregnant women or care givers attending the maternal, newborn, and child health clinics have access to mobile phone and would like to receive text messages from their health care provider. mHealth programs, if designed appropriately for these settings, may be an innovative way for engaging women in care for improved maternal and newborn child health outcomes in order to achieve sustainable development goals.

  • HIV test. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-100810-M-8743T-701.jpg. Author: Cpl Cullen J Tiernan. Copyright: Public Domain.

    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...

    Abstract:

    Background: Little information is available about care before death among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–infected persons who die of HIV infection, compared with those who die of other causes. Objective: The objective of our study was to compare HIV care and outcome before death among persons with HIV who died of HIV-attributable versus other causes. Methods: We used National HIV Surveillance System data on CD4 T-lymphocyte counts and viral loads within 12 months before death in 2012, as well as on underlying cause of death. Deaths were classified as “HIV-attributable” if the reported underlying cause was HIV infection, an AIDS-defining disease, or immunodeficiency and as attributable to “other causes” if the cause was anything else. Persons were classified as “in continuous care” if they had ≥2 CD4 or viral load test results ≥3 months apart in those 12 months and as having “viral suppression” if their last viral load was <200 copies/mL. Results: Among persons dying of HIV-attributable or other causes, respectively, 65.28% (2104/3223) and 30.88% (1041/3371) met AIDS criteria within 12 months before death, and 33.76% (1088/3223) and 50.96% (1718/3371) had viral suppression. The percentage of persons who received ≥2 tests ≥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 for those who never had AIDS. Conclusions: The lower prevalence of viral suppression among persons who died of HIV than among those who died of other causes implies a need to improve viral suppression strategies to reduce mortality due to HIV infection.

  • Tweeting in inclement weather. Photo by and copyright owned by authors.

    Investigating Subjective Experience and the Influence of Weather Among Individuals With Fibromyalgia: A Content Analysis of Twitter

    Abstract:

    Background: Little is understood about the determinants of symptom expression in individuals with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). While individuals with FMS often report environmental influences, including weather events, on their symptom severity, a consistent effect of specific weather conditions on FMS symptoms has yet to be demonstrated. Content analysis of a large number of messages by individuals with FMS on Twitter can provide valuable insights into variation in the fibromyalgia experience from a first-person perspective. Objective: The objective of our study was to use content analysis of tweets to investigate the association between weather conditions and fibromyalgia symptoms among individuals who tweet about fibromyalgia. Our second objective was to gain insight into how Twitter is used as a form of communication and expression by individuals with fibromyalgia and to explore and uncover thematic clusters and communities related to weather. Methods: Computerized sentiment analysis was performed to measure the association between negative sentiment scores (indicative of severe symptoms such as pain) and coincident environmental variables. Date, time, and location data for each individual tweet were used to identify corresponding climate data (such as temperature). We used graph analysis to investigate the frequency and distribution of domain-related terms exchanged in Twitter and their association strengths. A community detection algorithm was applied to partition the graph and detect different communities. Results: We analyzed 140,432 tweets related to fibromyalgia from 2008 to 2014. There was a very weak positive correlation between humidity and negative sentiment scores (r=.009, P=.001). There was no significant correlation between other environmental variables and negative sentiment scores. The graph analysis showed that “pain” and “chronicpain” were the most frequently used terms. The Louvain method identified 6 communities. Community 1 was related to feelings and symptoms at the time (subjective experience). It also included a list of weather-related terms such as “weather,” “cold,” and “rain.” Conclusions: According to our results, a uniform causal effect of weather variation on fibromyalgia symptoms at the group level remains unlikely. Any impact of weather on fibromyalgia symptoms may vary geographically or at an individual level. Future work will further explore geographic variation and interactions focusing on individual pain trajectories over time.

  • Disability. Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/wheelchair-disability-paraplegic-1595794/. Author: Stevepb. Copyright: CC0 Public Domain.

    Using Administrative Data to Ascertain True Cases of Muscular Dystrophy: Rare Disease Surveillance

    Abstract:

    Background: Administrative records from insurance and hospital discharge data sources are important public health tools to conduct passive surveillance of disease in populations. Identifying rare but catastrophic conditions is a challenge since approaches for maximizing valid case detection are not firmly established. Objective: The purpose of our study was to explore a number of algorithms in which International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes and other administrative variables could be used to identify cases of muscular dystrophy (MD). Methods: We used active surveillance to identify possible cases of MD in medical practices in neurology, genetics, and orthopedics in 5 urban South Carolina counties and to identify the cases that had diagnostic support (ie, true cases). We then developed an algorithm to identify cases based on a combination of ICD-9-CM codes and administrative variables from a public (Medicaid) and private insurer claims-based system and a statewide hospital discharge dataset (passive surveillance). Cases of all types of MD and those with Duchenne or Becker MD (DBMD) that were common to both surveillance systems were examined to identify the most specific administrative variables for ascertainment of true cases. Results: Passive statewide surveillance identified 3235 possible cases with MD in the state, and active surveillance identified 2057 possible cases in 5 actively surveilled counties that included 2 large metropolitan areas where many people seek medical care. There were 537 common cases found in both the active and passive systems, and 260 (48.4%) were confirmed by active surveillance to be true cases. Of the 260 confirmed cases, 70 (26.9%) were recorded as DBMD. Conclusions: Accuracy of finding a true case in a passive surveillance system was improved substantially when specific diagnosis codes, number of times a code was used, age of the patient, and specialty provider variables were used.

  • E-Cigarette. Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:E-Cigarette-Electronic_Cigarette-E-Cigs-E-Liquid-Vaping-Cloud_Chasing_(16323004716).jpg. Author: TBEC Review. Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

    The Readability of Electronic Cigarette Health Information and Advice: A Quantitative Analysis of Web-Based Information

    Abstract:

    Background: The popularity and use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has increased across all demographic groups in recent years. However, little is currently known about the readability of health information and advice aimed at the general public regarding the use of e-cigarettes. Objective: The objective of our study was to examine the readability of publicly available health information as well as advice on e-cigarettes. We compared information and advice available from US government agencies, nongovernment organizations, English speaking government agencies outside the United States, and for-profit entities. Methods: A systematic search for health information and advice on e-cigarettes was conducted using search engines. We manually verified search results and converted to plain text for analysis. We then assessed readability of the collected documents using 4 readability metrics followed by pairwise comparisons of groups with adjustment for multiple comparisons. Results: A total of 54 documents were collected for this study. All 4 readability metrics indicate that all information and advice on e-cigarette use is written at a level higher than that recommended for the general public by National Institutes of Health (NIH) communication guidelines. However, health information and advice written by for-profit entities, many of which were promoting e-cigarettes, were significantly easier to read. Conclusions: A substantial proportion of potential and current e-cigarette users are likely to have difficulty in fully comprehending Web-based health information regarding e-cigarettes, potentially hindering effective health-seeking behaviors. To comply with NIH communication guidelines, government entities and nongovernment organizations would benefit from improving the readability of e-cigarettes information and advice.

  • Man using a laptop. Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-couch-working-laptop-7066/. Author: Startup Stock Photos. Copyright: CC0 License.

    A Test of Concept Study of At-Home, Self-Administered HIV Testing With Web-Based Peer Counseling Via Video Chat for Men Who Have Sex With Men

    Abstract:

    Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly MSM who identify as African-American or Black (BMSM), are the sociodemographic group that is most heavily burdened by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in the United States. To meet national HIV testing goals, there must be a greater emphasis on novel ways to promote and deliver HIV testing to MSM. Obstacles to standard, clinic-based HIV testing include concerns about stigmatization or recognition at in-person testing sites, as well as the inability to access a testing site due to logistical barriers. Objective: This study examined the feasibility of self-administered, at-home HIV testing with Web-based peer counseling to MSM by using an interactive video chatting method. The aims of this study were to (1) determine whether individuals would participate in at-home HIV testing with video chat–based test counseling with a peer counselor, (2) address logistical barriers to HIV testing that individuals who report risk for HIV transmission may experience, and (3) reduce anticipated HIV stigma, a primary psychosocial barrier to HIV testing.   Methods: In response to the gap in HIV testing, a pilot study was developed and implemented via mailed, at-home HIV test kits, accompanied by HIV counseling with a peer counselor via video chat. A total of 20 MSM were enrolled in this test of concept study, 80% of whom identified as BMSM. Results: All participants reported that at-home HIV testing with a peer counseling via video chat was a satisfying experience. The majority of participants (13/18, 72%) said they would prefer for their next HIV testing and counseling experience to be at home with Web-based video chat peer counseling, as opposed to testing in an office or clinic setting. Participants were less likely to report logistical and emotional barriers to HIV testing at the 6-week and 3-month follow-ups. Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that self-administered HIV testing with Web-based peer counseling is feasible and that MSM find it to be a satisfactory means by which they can access their test results. This study can serve as a general guideline for future, larger-scale studies of Web-based HIV test counseling for MSM.

  • Social Media Messages. Image created and copyright owned by authors.

    E-Cigarette Social Media Messages: A Text Mining Analysis of Marketing and Consumer Conversations on Twitter

    Abstract:

    Background: As the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) rises, social media likely influences public awareness and perception of this emerging tobacco product. Objective: This study examined the public conversation on Twitter to determine overarching themes and insights for trending topics from commercial and consumer users. Methods: Text mining uncovered key patterns and important topics for e-cigarettes on Twitter. SAS Text Miner 12.1 software (SAS Institute Inc) was used for descriptive text mining to reveal the primary topics from tweets collected from March 24, 2015, to July 3, 2015, using a Python script in conjunction with Twitter’s streaming application programming interface. A total of 18 keywords related to e-cigarettes were used and resulted in a total of 872,544 tweets that were sorted into overarching themes through a text topic node for tweets (126,127) and retweets (114,451) that represented more than 1% of the conversation. Results: While some of the final themes were marketing-focused, many topics represented diverse proponent and user conversations that included discussion of policies, personal experiences, and the differentiation of e-cigarettes from traditional tobacco, often by pointing to the lack of evidence for the harm or risks of e-cigarettes or taking the position that e-cigarettes should be promoted as smoking cessation devices. Conclusions: These findings reveal that unique, large-scale public conversations are occurring on Twitter alongside e-cigarette advertising and promotion. Proponents and users are turning to social media to share knowledge, experience, and questions about e-cigarette use. Future research should focus on these unique conversations to understand how they influence attitudes towards and use of e-cigarettes.

  • Performance Feedback Cycle. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Effect of Performance Feedback on Community Health Workers’ Motivation and Performance in Madhya Pradesh, India: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Small-scale community health worker (CHW) programs provide basic health services and strengthen health systems in resource-poor settings. This paper focuses on improving CHW performance by providing individual feedback to CHWs working with an mHealth program to address malnutrition in children younger than 5 years. Objective: The paper aims to evaluate the immediate and retention effects of providing performance feedback and supportive supervision on CHW motivation and performance for CHWs working with an mHealth platform to reduce malnutrition in five districts of Madhya Pradesh, India. We expected a positive impact on CHW performance for the indicator they received feedback on. Performance on indicators the CHW did not receive feedback on was not expected to change. Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, 60 CHWs were randomized into three treatment groups based on overall baseline performance ranks to achieve balanced treatment groups. Data for each treatment indicator were analyzed with the other two treatments acting as the control. In total, 10 CHWs were lost to follow-up. There were three performance indicators: case activity, form submissions, and duration of counseling. Each group received weekly calls to provide performance targets and discuss their performance on the specific indicator they were allocated to as well as any challenges or technical issues faced during the week for a 6-week period. Data were collected for a further 4 weeks to assess intertemporal sustained effects of the intervention. Results: We found positive and significant impacts on duration of counseling, whereas case activity and number of form submissions did not show significant improvements as a result of the intervention. We found a moderate to large effect (Glass’s delta=0.97, P=.004) of providing performance feedback on counseling times in the initial 6 weeks. These effects were sustained in the postintervention period (Glass’s delta=1.69, P<.001). The counseling times decreased slightly from the intervention to postintervention period by 2.14 minutes (P=.01). Case activity improved for all CHWs after the intervention. We also performed the analysis by replacing the CHWs lost to follow-up with those in their treatment groups with the closest ranks in baseline performance and found similar results. Conclusions: Calls providing performance feedback are effective in improving CHW motivation and performance. Providing feedback had a positive effect on performance in the case of duration of counseling. The results suggest that difficulty in achieving the performance target can affect results of performance feedback. Regardless of the performance information disclosed, calls can improve performance due to elements of supportive supervision included in the calls encouraging CHW motivation.

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  • Health information seeking on the Internet among sexual minority people in the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS)

    Date Submitted: Feb 16, 2017

    Open Peer Review Period: Feb 21, 2017 - Mar 7, 2017

    Background: Background. Individuals who face barriers to healthcare are more likely to access the Internet for health information seeking. Pervasive stigma and heterosexism in the healthcare setting a...

    Background: Background. Individuals who face barriers to healthcare are more likely to access the Internet for health information seeking. Pervasive stigma and heterosexism in the healthcare setting are barriers to healthcare for sexual minority people (SMP); therefore SMP may be more likely to use the internet as a source of health and cancer-related information compared to heterosexual people (HP). Currently there is a dearth of published empirical evidence concerning health information seeking on the Internet among SMP, the current project addresses this gap. Objective: Currently there is a dearth of published empirical evidence [9] concerning health information seeking and exposure to health information on the Internet among SMP as compared to heterosexual people (HP). The current project addresses this gap. Our purpose was to determine the rates at which SMP use the Internet to seek health information, to describe incidental media exposure, and estimate how SMP use the Internet for seeking health information compared to HP. We hypothesized that SMP would report higher use of the Internet for health information seeking than HP and that SMP incidental exposure would be similar to HP. Methods: Methods. Data from the 2015 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) FDA Cycle were used to describe and summarize health information seeking among SMP (n=103) and heterosexual people (HP; n=1443). Results. More SMP in this sample reported having access to the Internet (92.4%) than HP (79.4%; p=.001). SMP used the internet for a broad range of health information seeking activities. SMP people were equally as likely as HP (59% vs 58%) to report unintentional exposure to health information while online. Conclusion. SMP are a difficult-to-reach population that experience significant health disparities. Our findings confirm that SMP access the Internet at high rates and seek out health information online. This suggests that online interventions could be valuable for delivering health promoting interventions for SMP. Results: Results. More SMP in this sample reported having access to the Internet (92.4%) than HP (79.4%; p=.001). SMP used the internet for a broad range of health information seeking activities. SMP people were equally as likely as HP (59% vs 58%) to report unintentional exposure to health information while online. Conclusions: Conclusion. SMP are a difficult-to-reach population that experience significant health disparities. Our findings confirm that SMP access the Internet at high rates and seek out health information online. This suggests that online interventions could be valuable for delivering health promoting interventions for SMP.

  • A techno-health approach to participatory community-based One Health disease surveillance in pastoral communities of East Africa

    Date Submitted: Jan 20, 2017

    Open Peer Review Period: Jan 20, 2017 - Mar 17, 2017

    We describe development and initial achievements of a participatory disease surveillance system that relies on mobile technology to promote community level One Health security in Africa. The objective...

    We describe development and initial achievements of a participatory disease surveillance system that relies on mobile technology to promote community level One Health security in Africa. The objective of this system, Enhancing Community-Based Disease Outbreak Detection and Response in East and Southern Africa (DODRES), is to empower community-based human and animal health reporters with training and Information Communication and Technology (ICT)-based solutions to contribute to disease detection and response, thereby complementing strategies to improve the efficiency of infectious disease surveillance at national, regional and global levels. Formal discussions on the use of digital technology to develop a Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease surveillance (SACIDS) participatory surveillance system began at EpiHack™ Tanzania in 2014. This event was attended by human and animal health experts as well as ICT programmers who collaborated to identify major challenges facing early detection, timely reporting, and prompt response to disease events. This was followed by a project inception workshop in August 2015, which brought together key stakeholders, including policy makers and community representatives, to refine the objectives and implementation plan of the DODRES project. Supported by Skoll Global Threats Fund and building on previous initiatives, four prototype technical solutions were developed by a dedicated design and implementation team and, after testing, three functional versions of these prototypes-- packaged together as the “AfyaData” app were adopted by SACIDS to support One Health disease surveillance. Community Health Reporters (CHRs) and officials from animal and human health sectors in Morogoro and Ngorongoro districts in Tanzania were trained to use the AfyaData app and participate in DODRES. The AfyaData tools support near- to real-time data collection and submission at both community and health facility levels as well as the provision of feedback to reporters. A One Health Knowledge Repository application (OHKR) has also been integrated into the AfyaData app to provide health information on case definitions of disease syndromes of humans and animals and to synthesize advice that can be transmitted to CHRswith “next step” response activities or interventions. Additionally, a WhatsAppsocial platform was developed to sustain interactions between community members, local government officials and DODRES team members. Within the first five months (August-December 2016) of AfyaData tool deployment in the field, a total number of 1,915 clinical cases in livestock (1,816) and humans (99) were reported in Morogoro Urban (83) and Ngorongoro (1,832) districts. These initial results suggest that the DODRES community-level model creates an opportunity for One Health engagement of people in their own communities in the detection of infectious human and animal disease threats. Participatory approaches supported by digital and mobile technologies should be promoted for early disease detection, timely reporting, and prompt response at the community, national, regional, and global levels.

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