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:; By Tungilik (Own work) [CC0] via Wikimedia Common.

    Determining Survey Satisficing of Online Longitudinal Survey Data in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: A Group-Based Trajectory Analysis


    Background: Survey satisficing occurs when participants respond to survey questions rapidly without carefully reading or comprehending them. Studies have demonstrated the occurrence of survey satisficing, which can degrade survey quality, particularly in longitudinal studies. Objective: The aim of this study is to use a group-based trajectory analysis method to identify satisficers when similar survey questions were asked periodically in a long-standing cohort, and to examine factors associated with satisficing in the surveys having sensitive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related behavioral questions. Methods: Behavioral data were collected semiannually online at all four sites of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) from October 2008 through March 2013. Based on the start and end times, and the word counts per variable, response speed (word counts per second) for each participant visit was calculated. Two-step group-based trajectory analyses of the response speed across 9 study visits were performed to identify potential survey satisficing. Generalized linear models with repeated measures were used to investigate the factors associated with satisficing on HIV-related behavioral surveys. Results: Among the total 2138 male participants, the median baseline age was 51 years (interquartile range, 45-58); most of the participants were non-Hispanic white (62.72%, 1341/2138) and college graduates (46.59%, 996/2138), and half were HIV seropositive (50.00%, 1069/2138). A total of 543 men (25.40%, 543/2138) were considered potential satisficers with respect to their increased trajectory tendency of response speed. In the multivariate analysis, being 10 years older at the baseline visit increased the odds of satisficing by 44% (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.27-1.62, P<.001). Compared with the non-Hispanic white participants, non-Hispanic black participants were 122% more likely to satisfice the HIV-related behavioral survey (OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.69-2.91, P<.001), and 99% more likely to do so for the other race/ethnicity group (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.39-2.83, P<.001). Participants with a high school degree or less were 67% more likely to satisfice the survey (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.26-2.21, P<.001) compared with those with a college degree. Having more than one sex partner and using more than one recreational drug reduced the odds of satisficing by 24% (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.61-0.94, P=.013) and 28% (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.55-0.93, P=.013), respectively. No statistically significant association of HIV serostatus with satisficing was observed. Conclusions: Using a group-based trajectory analysis method, we could identify consistent satisficing on HIV-related behavioral surveys among participants in the MACS, which was associated with being older, being non-white, and having a lower education level; however, there was no significant difference by HIV serostatus. Methods to minimize satisficing using longitudinal survey data are warranted.

  • Image Source: laboratory, copyright Nicolas Nova,,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Acceptability of a Community-Based Outreach HIV-Testing Intervention Using Oral Fluid Collection Devices and Web-Based HIV Test Result Collection Among...


    Background: Late human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis is common among sub-Saharan African migrants. To address their barriers to HIV testing uptake and improve timely HIV diagnoses and linkage to care, the outreach HIV testing intervention, “swab2know,” was developed. It combined a community-based approach with innovative testing methods: oral fluid self-sampling and the choice between Web-based HIV test result collections using a secured website or post-test counseling at a sexual health clinic. The sessions included an informational speech delivered by a physician of sub-Saharan African origin and testimonies by community members living with HIV. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to evaluate the intervention’s acceptability among sub-Saharan African migrants and its potential to reach subgroups at higher risk for HIV infection and to identify facilitators and barriers for HIV testing uptake. Methods: This mixed-method study combined qualitative (participant observations and informal interviews with testers and nontesters) and quantitative data (paper–pencil survey, laboratory data, and result collection files). Data were analyzed using a content analytical approach for qualitative and univariate analysis for quantitative data. Results: A total of 10 testing sessions were organized in sub-Saharan African migrant community venues in the city of Antwerp, Belgium, between December 2012 and June 2013. Overall, 18.2% of all people present (N=780) underwent HIV testing; 29.8% of them tested for HIV for the first time, 22.3% did not have a general practitioner, and 21.5% reported 2 or more sexual partners (last 3 months). Overall, 56.3% of participants chose to collect their HIV test results via the protected website. In total, 78.9% collected their results. The qualitative analysis of 137 participant observation field notes showed that personal needs and Internet literacy determined the choice of result collection method. Generally, the oral fluid collection devices were well accepted mainly because sub-Saharan African migrants dislike blood taking. For some participants, the method raised concerns about HIV transmission via saliva. The combination of information sessions, testimonies, and oral fluid collection devices was perceived as effectively reducing thresholds to participation. Acceptability of the intervention differed between individual participants and settings. Acceptance was higher among women, in churches and settings where community leaders were engaged in HIV awareness raising. Higher preventive outcomes were observed in settings with lower acceptance. The presence of the intervention team visualized the magnitude of the HIV epidemic to the public and promoted HIV testing uptake at large, for example, those who declined indicated they would take up testing later. Conclusions: When accompanied by tailored provision of information, outreach HIV testing interventions adopting a community-based approach and innovative methods such as Web-based result collection and oral fluid collection devices are acceptable and reduce thresholds for HIV testing uptake. The swab2know intervention was able to reach sub-Saharan African migrants at risk of HIV infection, and with limited access to regular HIV testing. Among nontesters, the intervention contributed to awareness raising and therefore has a place in a multipronged HIV test promotion strategy.

  • A Comparison of Web and Telephone Responses From a National HIV and AIDS Survey


    Background: Response differences to survey questions are known to exist for different modes of questionnaire completion. Previous research has shown that response differences by mode are larger for sensitive and complicated questions. However, it is unknown what effect completion mode may have on HIV and AIDS survey research, which addresses particularly sensitive and stigmatized health issues. Objectives: We seek to compare responses between self-selected Web and telephone respondents in terms of social desirability and item nonresponse in a national HIV and AIDS survey. Methods: A survey of 2085 people in Canada aged 18 years and older was conducted to explore public knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors around HIV and AIDS in May 2011. Participants were recruited using random-digit dialing and could select to be interviewed on the telephone or self-complete through the Internet. For this paper, 15 questions considered to be either sensitive, stigma-related, or less-sensitive in nature were assessed to estimate associations between responses and mode of completion. Multivariate regression analyses were conducted for questions with significant (P≤.05) bivariate differences in responses to adjust for sociodemographic factors. As survey mode was not randomly assigned, we created a propensity score variable and included it in our multivariate models to control for mode selection bias. Results: A total of 81% of participants completed the questionnaire through the Internet, and 19% completed by telephone. Telephone respondents were older, reported less education, had lower incomes, and were more likely from the province of Quebec. Overall, 2 of 13 questions assessed for social desirability and 3 of 15 questions assessed for item nonresponse were significantly associated with choice of mode in the multivariate analysis. For social desirability, Web respondents were more likely than telephone respondents to report more than 1 sexual partner in the past year (fully adjusted odds ratio (OR)=3.65, 95% CI 1.80-7.42) and more likely to have donated to charity in the past year (OR=1.63, 95% CI 1.15-2.29). For item nonresponse, Web respondents were more likely than telephone respondents to have a missing or “don’t know” response when asked about: the disease they were most concerned about (OR=3.02, 95% CI 1.67-5.47); if they had ever been tested for HIV (OR=8.04, 95% CI 2.46-26.31); and when rating their level of comfort with shopping at grocery store if the owner was known to have HIV or AIDS (OR=3.11, 95% CI 1.47-6.63). Conclusion: Sociodemographic differences existed between Web and telephone respondents, but for 23 of 28 questions considered in our analysis, there were no significant differences in responses by mode. For surveys with very sensitive health content, such as HIV and AIDS, Web administration may be subject to less social desirability bias but may also have greater item nonresponse for certain questions.

  • Image Source: Twitter, copyright Christopher,,
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution cc-by 2.0

    Reaction on Twitter to a Cluster of Perinatal Deaths: A Mixed Method Study


    Background: Participation in social networking sites is commonplace and the micro-blogging site Twitter can be considered a platform for the rapid broadcasting of news stories. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the Twitter status updates and subsequent responses relating to a number of perinatal deaths which occurred in a small maternity unit in Ireland. Methods: An analysis of Twitter status updates, over a two month period from January to March 2014, was undertaken to identify the key themes arising in relation to the perinatal deaths. Results: Our search identified 3577 tweets relating to the reported perinatal deaths. At the height of the controversy, Twitter updates generated skepticism in relation to the management of not only of the unit in question, which was branded as unsafe, but also the governance of the entire Irish maternity service. Themes of concern and uncertainty arose whereby the professional motives of the obstetric community and staffing levels in the maternity services were called into question. Conclusions: Twitter activity provides a useful insight into attitudes towards health-related events. The role of the media in influencing opinion is well-documented and this study underscores the challenges that clinicians face in light of an obstetric media scandal. Further study to identify how the obstetric community could develop tools to utilize Twitter to disseminate valid health information could be beneficial.

  • Image source: Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC0 Public Domain, No attribution required.

    The Prevalence of Sexual Behavior Stigma Affecting Gay Men and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men Across Sub-Saharan Africa and in the United States


    Background: There has been increased attention for the need to reduce stigma related to sexual behaviors among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) as part of comprehensive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and treatment programming. However, most studies focused on measuring and mitigating stigma have been in high-income settings, challenging the ability to characterize the transferability of these findings because of lack of consistent metrics across settings. Objective: The objective of these analyses is to describe the prevalence of sexual behavior stigma in the United States, and to compare the prevalence of sexual behavior stigma between MSM in Southern and Western Africa and in the United States using consistent metrics. Methods: The same 13 sexual behavior stigma items were administered in face-to-face interviews to 4285 MSM recruited in multiple studies from 2013 to 2016 from 7 Sub-Saharan African countries and to 2590 MSM from the 2015 American Men’s Internet Survey (AMIS), an anonymous Web-based behavioral survey. We limited the study sample to men who reported anal sex with a man at least once in the past 12 months and men who were aged 18 years and older. Unadjusted and adjusted prevalence ratios were used to compare the prevalence of stigma between groups. Results: Within the United States, prevalence of sexual behavior stigma did not vary substantially by race/ethnicity or geographic region except in a few instances. Feeling afraid to seek health care, avoiding health care, feeling like police refused to protect, being blackmailed, and being raped were more commonly reported in rural versus urban settings in the United States (P<.05 for all). In the United States, West Africa, and Southern Africa, MSM reported verbal harassment as the most common form of stigma. Disclosure of same-sex practices to family members increased prevalence of reported stigma from family members within all geographic settings (P<.001 for all). After adjusting for potential confounders and nesting of participants within countries, AMIS-2015 participants reported a higher prevalence of family exclusion (P=.02) and poor health care treatment (P=.009) as compared with participants in West Africa. However, participants in both West Africa (P<.001) and Southern Africa (P<.001) reported a higher prevalence of blackmail. The prevalence of all other types of stigma was not found to be statistically significantly different across settings. Conclusions: The prevalence of sexual behavior stigma among MSM in the United States appears to have a high absolute burden and similar pattern as the same forms of stigma reported by MSM in Sub-Saharan Africa, although results may be influenced by differences in sampling methodology across regions. The disproportionate burden of HIV is consistent among MSM across Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, suggesting the need in all contexts for stigma mitigation interventions to optimize existing evidence-based and human-rights affirming HIV prevention and treatment interventions.

  • 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.

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  • High Burden of Unrecognized Atrial Fibrillation in Rural India: results from an innovative community-based cross-sectional screening program

    Date Submitted: Aug 19, 2016

    Open Peer Review Period: Aug 24, 2016 - Aug 31, 2016

    Background: Atrial fibrillation, the world’s most common arrhythmia, is a leading risk factor for stroke, a disease striking nearly 1.6 million Indians annually. Early detection and management of At...

    Background: Atrial fibrillation, the world’s most common arrhythmia, is a leading risk factor for stroke, a disease striking nearly 1.6 million Indians annually. Early detection and management of Atrial Fibrillation is a promising opportunity to prevent stroke but widespread screening programs in limited resource settings using conventional methods (ECG) is difficult and costly. Objective: To screen people for atrial fibrillation in rural western India using an FDA-approved single-lead ECG device, Alivecor Methods: Residents from six different villages in Anand District, Gujarat, India comprised the base population. After obtaining informed consent, a team of trained research coordinators and community health workers enrolled a total of 354 participants, aged 50 years and older, and screened them at their residences using Alivecor for two minutes on five consecutive days over a period of six weeks beginning June, 2015. Results: Almost two-thirds of study participants were 55 years or older, nearly half were female, one-third did not receive any formal education, and more than one-half were from households earning less than $2 per day. Twelve participants screened positive for atrial fibrillation yielding a sample prevalence of 5.1% (95% CI: 2.7 – 8.7); the characteristics of these individuals are shown in Table 2. Only one participant had persistent atrial fibrillation throughout all of their screenings and nine of them screened positive only once. Conclusions: Our study suggests a prevalence of atrial fibrillation in this Indian region (5.1%) that is markedly higher than has been previously reported in India and similar to the prevalence estimates reported in studies of persons from North America and Europe. Historically low reported burden of atrial fibrillation among individuals from low and middle-income countries may be due to a lack of routine screening. Mobile technologies may help overcome resource limitations for atrial fibrillation screening in underserved and low-resource settings.