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.


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:

  • Smartphone in use. Source: Reuters; Copyright: Kai Pfaffenbach; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Tweet for Behavior Change: Using Social Media for the Dissemination of Public Health Messages


    Background: Social media public health campaigns have the advantage of tailored messaging at low cost and large reach, but little is known about what would determine their feasibility as tools for inducing attitude and behavior change. Objective: The aim of this study was to test the feasibility of designing, implementing, and evaluating a social media–enabled intervention for skin cancer prevention. Methods: A quasi-experimental feasibility study used social media (Twitter) to disseminate different message “frames” related to care in the sun and cancer prevention. Phase 1 utilized the Northern Ireland cancer charity’s Twitter platform (May 1 to July 14, 2015). Following a 2-week “washout” period, Phase 2 commenced (August 1 to September 30, 2015) using a bespoke Twitter platform. Phase 2 also included a Thunderclap, whereby users allowed their social media accounts to automatically post a bespoke message on their behalf. Message frames were categorized into 5 broad categories: humor, shock or disgust, informative, personal stories, and opportunistic. Seed users with a notable following were contacted to be “influencers” in retweeting campaign content. A pre- and postintervention Web-based survey recorded skin cancer prevention knowledge and attitudes in Northern Ireland (population 1.8 million). Results: There were a total of 417,678 tweet impressions, 11,213 engagements, and 1211 retweets related to our campaign. Shocking messages generated the greatest impressions (shock, n=2369; informative, n=2258; humorous, n=1458; story, n=1680), whereas humorous messages generated greater engagement (humorous, n=148; shock, n=147; story, n=117; informative, n=100) and greater engagement rates compared with story tweets. Informative messages, resulted in the greatest number of shares (informative, n=17; humorous, n=10; shock, n=9; story, n=7). The study findings included improved knowledge of skin cancer severity in a pre- and postintervention Web-based survey, with greater awareness that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer (preintervention: 28.4% [95/335] vs postintervention: 39.3% [168/428] answered “True”) and that melanoma is most serious (49.1% [165/336] vs 55.5% [238/429]). The results also show improved attitudes toward ultraviolet (UV) exposure and skin cancer with a reduction in agreement that respondents “like to tan” (60.5% [202/334] vs 55.6% [238/428]). Conclusions: Social media–disseminated public health messages reached more than 23% of the Northern Ireland population. A Web-based survey suggested that the campaign might have contributed to improved knowledge and attitudes toward skin cancer among the target population. Findings suggested that shocking and humorous messages generated greatest impressions and engagement, but information-based messages were likely to be shared most. The extent of behavioral change as a result of the campaign remains to be explored, however, the change of attitudes and knowledge is promising. Social media is an inexpensive, effective method for delivering public health messages. However, existing and traditional process evaluation methods may not be suitable for social media.

  • TOC image created from the following:
1) "Lessig reading news"
2) "Tea Party Pro Gun Rally"
3) "Rally17.GunControlMarch.WDC.26January2013". Source: 1) Joi Ito 2) Fibonacci Blue 3) Elvert Barnes,; Copyright: Saurabh Rahurkar; URL: 1) 2) 3); License: 1) Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); 2) Creative Commo
ns Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); 
3) Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). 
TOC image is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).

    Using Web-Based Search Data to Study the Public’s Reactions to Societal Events: The Case of the Sandy Hook Shooting


    Background: Internet search is the most common activity on the World Wide Web and generates a vast amount of user-reported data regarding their information-seeking preferences and behavior. Although this data has been successfully used to examine outbreaks, health care utilization, and outcomes related to quality of care, its value in informing public health policy remains unclear. Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of Internet search query data in health policy development. To do so, we studied the public’s reaction to a major societal event in the context of the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting incident. Methods: Query data from the Yahoo! search engine regarding firearm-related searches was analyzed to examine changes in user-selected search terms and subsequent websites visited for a period of 14 days before and after the shooting incident. Results: A total of 5,653,588 firearm-related search queries were analyzed. In the after period, queries increased for search terms related to “guns” (+50.06%), “shooting incident” (+333.71%), “ammunition” (+155.14%), and “gun-related laws” (+535.47%). The highest increase (+1054.37%) in Web traffic was seen by news websites following “shooting incident” queries whereas searches for “guns” (+61.02%) and “ammunition” (+173.15%) resulted in notable increases in visits to retail websites. Firearm-related queries generally returned to baseline levels after approximately 10 days. Conclusions: Search engine queries present a viable infodemiology metric on public reactions and subsequent behaviors to major societal events and could be used by policymakers to inform policy development.

  • Image Source: Swedenexpo, via FlickR,, licensed under cc-by.

    Self-Reported Psychosomatic Complaints In Swedish Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults Living in Rural and Urban Areas: An Internet-Based Survey


    Background: Frequencies in reported psychosomatic illnesses have increased in Sweden among children, adolescents, and young adults. Little is known about demographic differences in self-reported psychosomatic complaints, such as between urban and rural areas, and whether surveys launched on the Internet could be a useful method in sampling such data. Objectives: This study examines the connection between psychosomatic illnesses and demographics in Swedish children and youth. The feasibility of using the Internet to gather large amounts of data regarding psychosomatic complaints in this group is another major objective of this study. Methods: A cross-sectional study using 7 validated questions about psychosomatic health, were launched in a controlled way onto a recognized Swedish Internet community site, which targeted users 10 to 24 years of age. The subjects were able to answer the items while they were logged in to their personal domain. The results were analyzed cross-geographically within Sweden. Results: In total, we received 100,000 to 130,000 individual answers per question. Subjects of both sexes generally reported significantly higher levels of self-reported psychosomatic complaints in major city areas as compared with minor city/rural areas, even though the differences between the areas were small. For example, 12.00% (4472/37,265) of females in minor regions reported always feeling tense, compared with 13.80% (3156/22,873) of females in major regions (P<.001). In males, the answer pattern was similar, 16.40% (4887/29,801) in major regions versus 15.60% (2712/17,386) in minor regions, (P=.006). Females reported significantly higher frequencies of psychosomatic complaints than males (P<.001). Conclusions: In subjects aged 10 to 24 years, higher levels of psychosomatic complaints appear to correlate with living in major city areas in comparison with minor city/rural areas. Surveys launched on the Internet could be a useful method in sampling data regarding psychosomatic health for this age group.

  • Image Source: Enric Archivell via FlickR CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

    Detailed Knowledge About HIV Epidemiology and Transmission Dynamics and Their Associations With Preventive and Risk Behaviors Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other...


    Background: Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in the United States remain disproportionately affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Yet their testing frequency is suboptimal and condomless anal sex (CAS) is increasing. Behavioral theories posit that information about HIV is a pivotal construct in individual risk reduction. However, measurements of knowledge have traditionally focused on ever hearing about HIV and being aware of the most common routes of spread. Objective: Using a national Web-based sample of sexually active GBMSM, we sought to (1) quantify levels of detailed knowledge about HIV epidemiology and transmission dynamics, (2) describe variations in detailed knowledge levels across demographic strata, and (3) evaluate potential associations of increasing levels of detailed knowledge with HIV testing in the past year and engaging in CAS with a male partner in the past 3 months. Methods: GBMSM were recruited through a social networking website (Facebook) from August to September 2015 and asked 17 knowledge-based questions pertaining to the following 2 domains using a Web-based survey: HIV epidemiology (9 questions including statistics on incidence, prevalence, and distribution) and HIV transmission dynamics (8 questions including modes of spread and per-act transmission probabilities). Ordinal domain-specific indices of detailed knowledge were created for each respondent by summing their number of correct responses. Separate cumulative logit models were used to identify factors independently associated with each index, and multivariable logistic regression models were used to characterize associations with HIV testing history and recently engaging in CAS. Results: Of the 1064 participants in our study, only half (49.62%, 528/1064) had been tested for HIV in the past year, and almost half (47.84%, 509/1064) had engaged in CAS with a male partner in the past 3 months. Majority scored 3 of 9 epidemiology questions correct (26.88%, 286/1064) and 5 of 8 transmission dynamics questions correct (25.00%, 266/1064). Participants younger than 35 years, of non-Hispanic non-white or Hispanic race and ethnicity, with lower educational levels, and who reported a sexual orientation other than homosexual or gay were significantly less knowledgeable about HIV transmission dynamics. Increasing levels of knowledge about this domain were independently associated with testing in the past year (adjusted odds ratio for each additional correct response: 1.10, 95% CI 1.01-1.20) but not with recent CAS. Increasing knowledge about HIV epidemiology was not associated with either outcome. Conclusions: Increasing detailed knowledge about HIV epidemiology might not be as important as educating sexually active GBMSM regarding transmission dynamics. Researchers and practitioners designing prevention messages targeting GBMSM should bear in mind that not all knowledge is equal and that some aspects might have a greater positive impact than others. Future research to identify influential content and contemporary modes of delivery is needed.

  • Image Source: Freepik, licensed by the authors.

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


    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: Copyright: iStock by Getty Images.

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


    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; Image sourced and licensed by CDC.

    HIV Trends in the United States: Diagnoses and Estimated Incidence


    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


    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.

  • Mobile phone access in remote regions of Northern Kenya. Image copyright Richard Todd Lester 2015 (author of this JMIR article), licensed under cc-by 2.0.

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


    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: 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...


    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


    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: Author: Stevepb. Copyright: CC0 Public Domain.

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


    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.

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    Date Submitted: Mar 19, 2017

    Open Peer Review Period: Mar 20, 2017 - Apr 3, 2017

    Dear Editor, We read with great interest, the recent article by Ling et al. who hypothesized that following the launch of a campaign for a medical condition, information seeking behavior pertaining...

    Dear Editor, We read with great interest, the recent article by Ling et al. who hypothesized that following the launch of a campaign for a medical condition, information seeking behavior pertaining to the condition would increase as well1. They used data from Google Trends (Google Inc., CA) on 4 different diseases (including Colon Cancer) to conclude that the use of infoveillance shows promise as an alternative and inexpensive solution for disease surveillance and health care campaign evaluation. Cancer awareness has massively benefitted from rapid growth of internet and mass media and the evolution of social marketing strategies around the promotion of healthcare2,3. This has resulted in the development of cancer oriented societies, websites, public campaigns and specifically earmarked Cancer Awareness Months (CAMs) directed at changing public attitudes towards prevention, screening, treatment and informed decision making. However, despite the significant impact of cancer awareness on screening of preventable cancers4, the impact of CAMs on cancer-related internet search activity has not been well studied. Breast (BC), Lung (LC) and Colorectal Cancers (CRC) are the leading causes of cancer incidence and mortality among women 5 and have their respective CAMs during October, November and March respectively 6. Using Google Trends, a public web facility of Google Inc. based on Google Search, we compared the relative frequency of search of terms ‘Breast Cancer’,‘Lung Cancer’ and ‘Colon Cancer’ between 1st January 2004 and 31st January 2017 (n=158 months). The program assigns a reference value of 100 for the point of maximum popularity from among the search terms, and provides relative monthly scores for all terms, which we termed interest scores (IS). IS were then compared among cancers for the overall period (n=158 months) and specifically during their CAMs (n=13 months). Within each cancer, IS were then compared during the CAMs (n=13 months) as compared to the remaining months (n=145 months). Parametric and non-parametric analyses were carried out (wherever applicable) using ANOVA and Kruskal-Wallis tests respectively. A p-value of <0.05 was considered significant. We found that BC had higher IS (mean± S.D) than LC and CRC for the entire study period (38.83±14.46 vs14.71 ±4.56 and 11.98±2.13 respectively, p<0.0001*), including a peak IS of 100 in October, 2004. BC also had significantly higher IS during its CAM (October) than the CAMs for LC (November) and CRC (March); 69.92±11.75 vs 15.38±4.54 and 13.53±2.43 respectively, p<0.0001*. While BC (69.92±11.02 vs 36.04±11.02; p<0.0001*) and CRC (13.53±11.84 vs 11.85 ± 2.06; p=0.0036*) had higher IS during their CAMs as compared to other months, LC did not (15.38 ±4.53 vs 14.65±4.57; p=0.3019) (Table 1). We concluded that ongoing campaigns for BC awareness are very effective at driving internet search activity, not only at baseline (2.5-3 times) but even more so also during its CAM (4-5 times) as compared to the other two leading malignancies among women (CRC and LC). Despite having a higher mortality than CRC, the campaign for LC was unable to significantly impact internet search activity during its CAM. Reasons behind the success of the BC awareness campaign in driving internet search activity should be further explored and applied to those for other malignancies such as LC and CRC, which also continue to have high mortality.

  • Monitoring prevention impact of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in concentrated epidemics with programme and survey data

    Date Submitted: Mar 19, 2017

    Open Peer Review Period: Mar 20, 2017 - Apr 3, 2017

    Background: The prevention of HIV transmission from mother-to-child (PMTCT) program was introduced in Vietnam in 2005. Despite the scaling-up of PMTCT programs, the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmi...

    Background: The prevention of HIV transmission from mother-to-child (PMTCT) program was introduced in Vietnam in 2005. Despite the scaling-up of PMTCT programs, the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Vietnam was estimated as high as 20% in 2013. Objective: This study used survey and program data to assess the outcomes of PMTCT and identified factors associated with mother-to-child transmission, and infant survival in a high HIV burden province in Vietnam. Methods: This community-based retrospective cohort study observed pregnant women diagnosed with HIV infection in Thai Nguyen province from October 2008 to December 2012. Data were collected through interviews using a structured questionnaire and through reviews of log books and medical charts in antenatal care and HIV clinics. Logistic regression and survival analysis were used to analyse data using STATA. Results: A total of 172 HIV positive pregnant women were identified between 2008 and 2012. Most of these women acquired HIV from their husband (64.7%). Significant improvement in the PMTCT program was documented including reducing late diagnosis of HIV for pregnant women from 62.5% in 2008 to 30% in 2012. Access to antiretrovirals (ARVs) has improved by an increase rate from 18.2% (2008) to 70.0% (2011) for mothers and from 36.4% (2008) to 93.3% (2012) for infants. Infant early diagnosis within two month of birth reached 66.7% in 2012 compared to 16.7% in 2009. Transmission rate reduced from 27.3% in 2008 to 6.7% in 2012. Late diagnosis was associated with increased risk for HIV transmission (OR 14.7; 95%CI: 1.8 – 121.4; P=0.01) while ARVs for mother and infant in combination with infant formula feeding was associated with reduced risk for HIV transmission (OR 0.01 (95%CI: 0.001 – 0.1; P<0.001). Overall survival rate for HIV exposed infants at 12 months was 97.7%. Conclusions: A combination of programme and survey data measured the impact of prevention of HIV transmission from mother-to-child interventions. Significant improvement in access to the interventions was documented in Thai Nguyen province. However, factors that increased the risk of HIV transmission such as late diagnosis remain to be addressed.