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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 PubMed-indexed, peer-reviewed sister journal of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), the top cited journal in health informatics, ranked #1 by Clarivate's Journal Impact Factor. 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:

  • Assessing the impact of cross-jurisdictional data sharing on the estimation of people living with HIV in DC. Source: Image created by the authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Cross-Jurisdictional Data Exchange Impact on the Estimation of the HIV Population Living in the District of Columbia: Evaluation Study


    Background: Accurate HIV surveillance data are essential to monitor trends to help end the HIV epidemic. Owing to strict policies around data security and confidentiality, HIV surveillance data have not been routinely shared across jurisdictions except a biannual case-by-case review process to identify and remove duplicate cases (Routine Interstate Duplicate Review, RIDR). HIV surveillance estimates for the District of Columbia (DC) are complicated by migration and care seeking throughout the metropolitan area, which includes Maryland and Virginia. To address gaps in HIV surveillance data, health departments of DC, Maryland, and Virginia have established HIV surveillance data sharing agreements. Although the Black Box (a privacy data integration tool external to the health departments) facilitates the secure exchange of data between DC, Maryland, and Virginia, its previous iterations were limited by the frequency and scope of information exchanged. The health departments of DC, Maryland, and Virginia engaged in data sharing to further improve HIV surveillance estimates. Objective: This study assessed the impact of cross-jurisdictional data sharing on the estimation of people living with HIV in DC and reduction of cases in the RIDR process. Methods: Data sharing agreements established in 2014 allowed for the exchange of HIV case information (eg, current residential address) and laboratory information (eg, test types, result dates, and results) from the enhanced HIV/AIDS Reporting System (eHARS). Regular data exchanges began in 2017. The participating jurisdictions transferred data (via secure file transfer protocol) for individuals having a residential address in a partnering jurisdiction at the time of HIV diagnosis or evidence of receiving HIV-related services at a facility located in a partnering jurisdiction. The DC Department of Health compared the data received to DC eHARS and imported updated data that matched existing cases. Evaluation of changes in current residential address and HIV prevalence was conducted by comparing data before and after HIV surveillance data exchanges. Results: After the HIV surveillance data exchange, an average of 396 fewer cases were estimated to be living in DC each year from 2012 to 2016. Among cases with a residential status change, 66.4% (1316/1982) had relocated to Maryland and 19.8% (392/1982) to Virginia; majority of these had relocated to counties bordering DC. Relocation in and out of DC differed by mode of transmission, race and ethnicity, age group, and gender. After data exchange, the volume of HIV cases needing RIDR decreased by 74% for DC-Maryland and 81% for DC-Virginia. Conclusions: HIV surveillance data exchange between the public health departments of DC, Maryland, and Virginia reduced the number of cases misclassified as DC residents and reduced the number of cases needing RIDR. Continued data exchanges will enhance the ability of DC Department of Health to monitor the local HIV epidemic.

  • Source: Pexels; Copyright: mentatdgt; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Using Geosocial Networking Apps to Understand the Spatial Distribution of Gay and Bisexual Men: Pilot Study


    Background: While services tailored for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) may provide support for this vulnerable population, planning access to these services can be difficult due to the unknown spatial distribution of gbMSM outside of gay-centered neighborhoods. This is particularly true since the emergence of geosocial networking apps, which have become a widely used venue for meeting sexual partners. Objective: The goal of our research was to estimate the spatial density of app users across Metro Vancouver and identify the independent and adjusted neighborhood-level factors that predict app user density. Methods: This pilot study used a popular geosocial networking app to estimate the spatial density of app users across rural and urban Metro Vancouver. Multiple Poisson regression models were then constructed to model the relationship between app user density and areal population-weighted neighbourhood-level factors from the 2016 Canadian Census and National Household Survey. Results: A total of 2021 app user profiles were counted within 1 mile of 263 sampling locations. In a multivariate model controlling for time of day, app user density was associated with several dissemination area–level characteristics, including population density (per 100; incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.03, 95% CI 1.02-1.04), average household size (IRR 0.26, 95% CI 0.11-0.62), average age of males (IRR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88-0.98), median income of males (IRR 0.96, 95% CI 0.92-0.99), proportion of males who were not married (IRR 1.08, 95% CI 1.02-1.13), proportion of males with a postsecondary education (IRR 1.06, 95% CI 1.03-1.10), proportion of males who are immigrants (IRR 1.04, 95% CI 1.004-1.07), and proportion of males living below the low-income cutoff level (IRR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89-0.98). Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates how the combination of geosocial networking apps and administrative datasets might help care providers, planners, and community leaders target online and offline interventions for gbMSM who use apps.

  • Source: Daily Sun; Copyright: Daily Sun; URL:; License: Fair use/fair dealings.

    Estimating the Population Size of Female Sex Workers in Three South African Cities: Results and Recommendations From the 2013-2014 South Africa Health...


    Background: Robust population size estimates of female sex workers and other key populations in South Africa face multiple methodological limitations, including inconsistencies in surveillance and programmatic indicators. This has, consequently, challenged the appropriate allocation of resources and benchmark-setting necessary to an effective HIV response. A 2013-2014 integrated biological and behavioral surveillance (IBBS) survey from South Africa showed alarmingly high HIV prevalence among female sex workers in South Africa’s three largest cities of Johannesburg (71.8%), Cape Town (39.7%), and eThekwini (53.5%). The survey also included several multiplier-based population size estimation methods. Objective: The objective of our study was to present the selected population size estimation methods used in an IBBS survey and the subsequent participatory process used to estimate the number of female sex workers in three South African cities. Methods: In 2013-2014, we used respondent-driven sampling to recruit independent samples of female sex workers for IBBS surveys in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and eThekwini. We embedded multiple multiplier-based population size estimation methods into the survey, from which investigators calculated weighted estimates and ranges of population size estimates for each city’s female sex worker population. Following data analysis, investigators consulted civil society stakeholders to present survey results and size estimates and facilitated stakeholder vetting of individual estimates to arrive at consensus point estimates with upper and lower plausibility bounds. Results: In total, 764, 650, and 766 female sex workers participated in the survey in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and eThekwini, respectively. For size estimation, investigators calculated preliminary point estimates as the median of the multiple estimation methods embedded in the IBBS survey and presented these to a civil society-convened stakeholder group. Stakeholders vetted all estimates in light of other data points, including programmatic experience, ensuring inclusion only of plausible point estimates in median calculation. After vetting, stakeholders adopted three consensus point estimates with plausible ranges: Johannesburg 7697 (5000-10,895); Cape Town 6500 (4579-9000); eThekwini 9323 (4000-10,000). Conclusions: Using several population size estimates methods embedded in an IBBS survey and a participatory stakeholder consensus process, the South Africa Health Monitoring Survey produced female sex worker size estimates representing approximately 0.48%, 0.49%, and 0.77% of the adult female population in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and eThekwini, respectively. In data-sparse environments, stakeholder engagement and consensus is critical to vetting of multiple empirically based size estimates procedures to ensure adoption and utilization of data-informed size estimates for coordinated national and subnational benchmarking. It also has the potential to increase coherence in national and key population-specific HIV responses and to decrease the likelihood of duplicative and wasteful resource allocation. We recommend building cooperative and productive academic-civil society partnerships around estimates and other strategic information dissemination and sharing to facilitate the incorporation of additional data as it becomes available, as these additional data points may minimize the impact of the known and unknown biases inherent in any single, investigator-calculated method.

  • Digitization of HIV rapid test results into a real-time map showing GPS coordinates. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Bringing Real-Time Geospatial Precision to HIV Surveillance Through Smartphones: Feasibility Study


    Background: Precise measurements of HIV incidences at community level can help mount a more effective public health response, but the most reliable methods currently require labor-intensive population surveys. Novel mobile phone technologies are being tested for adherence to medical appointments and antiretroviral therapy, but using them to track HIV test results with automatically generated geospatial coordinates has not been widely tested. Objective: We customized a portable reader for interpreting the results of HIV lateral flow tests and developed a mobile phone app to track HIV test results in urban and rural locations in Rwanda. The objective was to assess the feasibility of this technology to collect front line HIV test results in real time and with geospatial context to help measure HIV incidences and improve epidemiological surveillance. Methods: Twenty health care workers used the technology to track the test results of 2190 patients across 3 hospital sites (2 urban sites in Kigali and a rural site in the Western Province of Rwanda). Mobile phones for less than US $70 each were used. The mobile phone app to record HIV test results could take place without internet connectivity with uploading of results to the cloud taking place later with internet. Results: A total of 91.51% (2004/2190) of HIV test results could be tracked in real time on an online dashboard with geographical resolution down to street level. Out of the 20 health care workers, 14 (70%) would recommend the lateral flow reader, and 100% would recommend the mobile phone app. Conclusions: Smartphones have the potential to simplify the input of HIV test results with geospatial context and in real time to improve public health surveillance of HIV.

  • Source: The Authors/; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Facial-Aging Mobile Apps for Smoking Prevention in Secondary Schools in Brazil: Appearance-Focused Interventional Study


    Background: Most smokers start smoking during their early adolescence, often with the idea that smoking is glamorous. Interventions that harness the broad availability of mobile phones as well as adolescents' interest in their appearance may be a novel way to improve school-based prevention. A recent study conducted in Germany showed promising results. However, the transfer to other cultural contexts, effects on different genders, and implementability remains unknown. Objective: In this observational study, we aimed to test the perception and implementability of facial-aging apps to prevent smoking in secondary schools in Brazil in accordance with the theory of planned behavior and with respect to different genders. Methods: We used a free facial-aging mobile phone app (“Smokerface”) in three Brazilian secondary schools via a novel method called mirroring. The students’ altered three-dimensional selfies on mobile phones or tablets and images were “mirrored” via a projector in front of their whole grade. Using an anonymous questionnaire, we then measured on a 5-point Likert scale the perceptions of the intervention among 306 Brazilian secondary school students of both genders in the seventh grade (average age 12.97 years). A second questionnaire captured perceptions of medical students who conducted the intervention and its conduction per protocol. Results: The majority of students perceived the intervention as fun (304/306, 99.3%), claimed the intervention motivated them not to smoke (289/306, 94.4%), and stated that they learned new benefits of not smoking (300/306, 98.0%). Only a minority of students disagreed or fully disagreed that they learned new benefits of nonsmoking (4/306, 1.3%) or that they themselves were motivated not to smoke (5/306, 1.6%). All of the protocol was delivered by volunteer medical students. Conclusions: Our data indicate the potential for facial-aging interventions to reduce smoking prevalence in Brazilian secondary schools in accordance with the theory of planned behavior. Volunteer medical students enjoyed the intervention and are capable of complete implementation per protocol.

  • Clinical laboratory scientists discuss respiratory pathogen syndromic trend dvata. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND).

    Automated Real-Time Collection of Pathogen-Specific Diagnostic Data: Syndromic Infectious Disease Epidemiology


    Background: Health care and public health professionals rely on accurate, real-time monitoring of infectious diseases for outbreak preparedness and response. Early detection of outbreaks is improved by systems that are comprehensive and specific with respect to the pathogen but are rapid in reporting the data. It has proven difficult to implement these requirements on a large scale while maintaining patient privacy. Objective: The aim of this study was to demonstrate the automated export, aggregation, and analysis of infectious disease diagnostic test results from clinical laboratories across the United States in a manner that protects patient confidentiality. We hypothesized that such a system could aid in monitoring the seasonal occurrence of respiratory pathogens and may have advantages with regard to scope and ease of reporting compared with existing surveillance systems. Methods: We describe a system, BioFire Syndromic Trends, for rapid disease reporting that is syndrome-based but pathogen-specific. Deidentified patient test results from the BioFire FilmArray multiplex molecular diagnostic system are sent directly to a cloud database. Summaries of these data are displayed in near real time on the Syndromic Trends public website. We studied this dataset for the prevalence, seasonality, and coinfections of the 20 respiratory pathogens detected in over 362,000 patient samples acquired as a standard-of-care testing over the last 4 years from 20 clinical laboratories in the United States. Results: The majority of pathogens show influenza-like seasonality, rhinovirus has fall and spring peaks, and adenovirus and the bacterial pathogens show constant detection over the year. The dataset can also be considered in an ecological framework; the viruses and bacteria detected by this test are parasites of a host (the human patient). Interestingly, the rate of pathogen codetections, on average 7.94% (28,741/362,101), matches predictions based on the relative abundance of organisms present. Conclusions: Syndromic Trends preserves patient privacy by removing or obfuscating patient identifiers while still collecting much useful information about the bacterial and viral pathogens that they harbor. Test results are uploaded to the database within a few hours of completion compared with delays of up to 10 days for other diagnostic-based reporting systems. This work shows that the barriers to establishing epidemiology systems are no longer scientific and technical but rather administrative, involving questions of patient privacy and data ownership. We have demonstrated here that these barriers can be overcome. This first look at the resulting data stream suggests that Syndromic Trends will be able to provide high-resolution analysis of circulating respiratory pathogens and may aid in the detection of new outbreaks.

  • Source: Flickr; Copyright: David Goehring; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Development of an Agent-Based Model to Investigate the Impact of HIV Self-Testing Programs on Men Who Have Sex With Men in Atlanta and Seattle


    Background: In the United States HIV epidemic, men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the most profoundly affected group. Prevention science is increasingly being organized around HIV testing as a launch point into an HIV prevention continuum for MSM who are not living with HIV and into an HIV care continuum for MSM who are living with HIV. An increasing HIV testing frequency among MSM might decrease future HIV infections by linking men who are living with HIV to antiretroviral care, resulting in viral suppression. Distributing HIV self-test (HIVST) kits is a strategy aimed at increasing HIV testing. Our previous modeling work suggests that the impact of HIV self-tests on transmission dynamics will depend not only on the frequency of tests and testers’ behaviors but also on the epidemiological and testing characteristics of the population. Objective: The objective of our study was to develop an agent-based model to inform public health strategies for promoting safe and effective HIV self-tests to decrease the HIV incidence among MSM in Atlanta, GA, and Seattle, WA, cities representing profoundly different epidemiological settings. Methods: We adapted and extended a network- and agent-based stochastic simulation model of HIV transmission dynamics that was developed and parameterized to investigate racial disparities in HIV prevalence among MSM in Atlanta. The extension comprised several activities: adding a new set of model parameters for Seattle MSM; adding new parameters for tester types (ie, regular, risk-based, opportunistic-only, or never testers); adding parameters for simplified pre-exposure prophylaxis uptake following negative results for HIV tests; and developing a conceptual framework for the ways in which the provision of HIV self-tests might change testing behaviors. We derived city-specific parameters from previous cohort and cross-sectional studies on MSM in Atlanta and Seattle. Each simulated population comprised 10,000 MSM and targeted HIV prevalences are equivalent to 28% and 11% in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively. Results: Previous studies provided sufficient data to estimate the model parameters representing nuanced HIV testing patterns and HIV self-test distribution. We calibrated the models to simulate the epidemics representing Atlanta and Seattle, including matching the expected stable HIV prevalence. The revised model facilitated the estimation of changes in 10-year HIV incidence based on counterfactual scenarios of HIV self-test distribution strategies and their impact on testing behaviors. Conclusions: We demonstrated that the extension of an existing agent-based HIV transmission model was sufficient to simulate the HIV epidemics among MSM in Atlanta and Seattle, to accommodate a more nuanced depiction of HIV testing behaviors than previous models, and to serve as a platform to investigate how HIV self-tests might impact testing and HIV transmission patterns among MSM in Atlanta and Seattle. In our future studies, we will use the model to test how different HIV self-test distribution strategies might affect HIV incidence among MSM.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons; Copyright: Peter van der Sluijs; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA).

    #Healthy Selfies: Exploration of Health Topics on Instagram


    Background: Social media provides a complementary source of information for public health surveillance. The dominate data source for this type of monitoring is the microblogging platform Twitter, which is convenient due to the free availability of public data. Less is known about the utility of other social media platforms, despite their popularity. Objective: This work aims to characterize the health topics that are prominently discussed in the image-sharing platform Instagram, as a step toward understanding how this data might be used for public health research. Methods: The study uses a topic modeling approach to discover topics in a dataset of 96,426 Instagram posts containing hashtags related to health. We use a polylingual topic model, initially developed for datasets in different natural languages, to model different modalities of data: hashtags, caption words, and image tags automatically extracted using a computer vision tool. Results: We identified 47 health-related topics in the data (kappa=.77), covering ten broad categories: acute illness, alternative medicine, chronic illness and pain, diet, exercise, health care & medicine, mental health, musculoskeletal health and dermatology, sleep, and substance use. The most prevalent topics were related to diet (8,293/96,426; 8.6% of posts) and exercise (7,328/96,426; 7.6% of posts). Conclusions: A large and diverse set of health topics are discussed in Instagram. The extracted image tags were generally too coarse and noisy to be used for identifying posts but were in some cases accurate for identifying images relevant to studying diet and substance use. Instagram shows potential as a source of public health information, though limitations in data collection and metadata availability may limit its use in comparison to platforms like Twitter.

  • The SIEMA Workflow Diagram with "Brass Head Bug" by Kenny Hays. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: Arash Shaban-Nejad; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    A Surveillance Infrastructure for Malaria Analytics: Provisioning Data Access and Preservation of Interoperability


    Background: According to the World Health Organization, malaria surveillance is weakest in countries and regions with the highest malaria burden. A core obstacle is that the data required to perform malaria surveillance are fragmented in multiple data silos distributed across geographic regions. Furthermore, consistent integrated malaria data sources are few, and a low degree of interoperability exists between them. As a result, it is difficult to identify disease trends and to plan for effective interventions. Objective: We propose the Semantics, Interoperability, and Evolution for Malaria Analytics (SIEMA) platform for use in malaria surveillance based on semantic data federation. Using this approach, it is possible to access distributed data, extend and preserve interoperability between multiple dynamic distributed malaria sources, and facilitate detection of system changes that can interrupt mission-critical global surveillance activities. Methods: We used Semantic Automated Discovery and Integration (SADI) Semantic Web Services to enable data access and improve interoperability, and the graphical user interface-enabled semantic query engine HYDRA to implement the target queries typical of malaria programs. We implemented a custom algorithm to detect changes to community-developed terminologies, data sources, and services that are core to SIEMA. This algorithm reports to a dashboard. Valet SADI is used to mitigate the impact of changes by rebuilding affected services. Results: We developed a prototype surveillance and change management platform from a combination of third-party tools, community-developed terminologies, and custom algorithms. We illustrated a methodology and core infrastructure to facilitate interoperable access to distributed data sources using SADI Semantic Web services. This degree of access makes it possible to implement complex queries needed by our user community with minimal technical skill. We implemented a dashboard that reports on terminology changes that can render the services inactive, jeopardizing system interoperability. Using this information, end users can control and reactively rebuild services to preserve interoperability and minimize service downtime. Conclusions: We introduce a framework suitable for use in malaria surveillance that supports the creation of flexible surveillance queries across distributed data resources. The platform provides interoperable access to target data sources, is domain agnostic, and with updates to core terminological resources is readily transferable to other surveillance activities. A dashboard enables users to review changes to the infrastructure and invoke system updates. The platform significantly extends the range of functionalities offered by malaria information systems, beyond the state-of-the-art.

  • Source: Pixnio; Copyright: Pixnio; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Identifying Methods for Monitoring Foodborne Illness: Review of Existing Public Health Surveillance Techniques


    Background: Traditional methods of monitoring foodborne illness are associated with problems of untimeliness and underreporting. In recent years, alternative data sources such as social media data have been used to monitor the incidence of disease in the population (infodemiology and infoveillance). These data sources prove timelier than traditional general practitioner data, they can help to fill the gaps in the reporting process, and they often include additional metadata that is useful for supplementary research. Objective: The aim of the study was to identify and formally analyze research papers using consumer-generated data, such as social media data or restaurant reviews, to quantify a disease or public health ailment. Studies of this nature are scarce within the food safety domain, therefore identification and understanding of transferrable methods in other health-related fields are of particular interest. Methods: Structured scoping methods were used to identify and analyze primary research papers using consumer-generated data for disease or public health surveillance. The title, abstract, and keyword fields of 5 databases were searched using predetermined search terms. A total of 5239 papers matched the search criteria, of which 145 were taken to full-text review—62 papers were deemed relevant and were subjected to data characterization and thematic analysis. Results: The majority of studies (40/62, 65%) focused on the surveillance of influenza-like illness. Only 10 studies (16%) used consumer-generated data to monitor outbreaks of foodborne illness. Twitter data (58/62, 94%) and Yelp reviews (3/62, 5%) were the most commonly used data sources. Studies reporting high correlations against baseline statistics used advanced statistical and computational approaches to calculate the incidence of disease. These include classification and regression approaches, clustering approaches, and lexicon-based approaches. Although they are computationally intensive due to the requirement of training data, studies using classification approaches reported the best performance. Conclusions: By analyzing studies in digital epidemiology, computer science, and public health, this paper has identified and analyzed methods of disease monitoring that can be transferred to foodborne disease surveillance. These methods fall into 4 main categories: basic approach, classification and regression, clustering approaches, and lexicon-based approaches. Although studies using a basic approach to calculate disease incidence generally report good performance against baseline measures, they are sensitive to chatter generated by media reports. More computationally advanced approaches are required to filter spurious messages and protect predictive systems against false alarms. Research using consumer-generated data for monitoring influenza-like illness is expansive; however, research regarding the use of restaurant reviews and social media data in the context of food safety is limited. Considering the advantages reported in this review, methods using consumer-generated data for foodborne disease surveillance warrant further investment.

  • Source: Pixabay; Copyright: StockSnap; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Junk Food Marketing on Instagram: Content Analysis


    Background: Omnipresent marketing of processed foods is a key driver of dietary choices and brand loyalty. Market data indicate a shift in food marketing expenditures to digital media, including social media. These platforms have greater potential to influence young people, given their unique peer-to-peer transmission and youths’ susceptibility to social pressures. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of images and videos posted by the most popular, energy-dense, nutrient-poor food and beverage brands on Instagram and the marketing strategies used in these images, including any healthy choice claims. Methods: A content analysis of 15 accounts was conducted, using 12 months of Instagram posts from March 15, 2015, to March 15, 2016. A pre-established hierarchical coding guide was used to identify the primary marketing strategy of each post. Results: Each brand used 6 to 11 different marketing strategies in their Instagram accounts; however, they often adhered to an overall theme such as athleticism or relatable consumers. There was a high level of branding, although not necessarily product information on all accounts, and there were very few health claims. Conclusions: Brands are using social media platforms such as Instagram to market their products to a growing number of consumers, using a high frequency of targeted and curated posts that manipulate consumer emotions rather than present information about their products. Policy action is needed that better reflects the current media environment. Public health bodies also need to engage with emerging media platforms and develop compelling social counter-marketing campaigns.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA).

    Accurately Inferring Compliance to Five Major Food Guidelines Through Simplified Surveys: Applying Data Mining to the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey


    Background: National surveys in public health nutrition commonly record the weight of every food consumed by an individual. However, if the goal is to identify whether individuals are in compliance with the 5 main national nutritional guidelines (sodium, saturated fats, sugars, fruit and vegetables, and fats), much less information may be needed. A previous study showed that tracking only 2.89% of all foods (113/3911) was sufficient to accurately identify compliance. Further reducing the data needs could lower participation burden, thus decreasing the costs for monitoring national compliance with key guidelines. Objective: This study aimed to assess whether national public health nutrition surveys can be further simplified by only recording whether a food was consumed, rather than having to weigh it. Methods: Our dataset came from a generalized sample of inhabitants in the United Kingdom, more specifically from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008-2012. After simplifying food consumptions to a binary value (1 if an individual consumed a food and 0 otherwise), we built and optimized decision trees to find whether the foods could accurately predict compliance with the major 5 nutritional guidelines. Results: When using decision trees of a similar size to previous studies (ie, involving as many foods), we were able to correctly infer compliance for the 5 guidelines with an average accuracy of 80.1%. This is an average increase of 2.5 percentage points over a previous study, showing that further simplifying the surveys can actually yield more robust estimates. When we allowed the new decision trees to use slightly more foods than in previous studies, we were able to optimize the performance with an average increase of 3.1 percentage points. Conclusions: Although one may expect a further simplification of surveys to decrease accuracy, our study found that public health dietary surveys can be simplified (from accurately weighing items to simply checking whether they were consumed) while improving accuracy. One possibility is that the simplification reduced noise and made it easier for patterns to emerge. Using simplified surveys will allow to monitor public health nutrition in a more cost-effective manner and possibly decrease the number of errors as participation burden is reduced.

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  • Estimating the Size of Female Sex Workers in Namibia using a Respondent Driven Sampling adjustment to the Reverse Tracking Method (RadR): a novel approach

    Date Submitted: Aug 3, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Aug 6, 2018 - Aug 20, 2018

    Background: Key populations, including female sex workers (FSW), are at disproportionately high risk for HIV infection. Estimates of the size of these populations serve as denominator data to inform H...

    Background: Key populations, including female sex workers (FSW), are at disproportionately high risk for HIV infection. Estimates of the size of these populations serve as denominator data to inform HIV prevention and treatment programming and are necessary for the equitable allocation of limited public health resources. Objective: To present the Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) adjusted Reverse Tracking Method (RTM) (RadR), a novel population size estimation (PSE) approach that combines venue mapping data with RDS data to estimate the population size, adjusted for double counting and non-attendance biases. Methods: We used data from a 2014 respondent-driven sampling surveys of FSW in Windhoek and Katima Mulilo, Namibia to demonstrate the RadR method. Information from venue mapping and enumeration from the survey formative assessment phase were combined with survey-based “venue-inquiry” questions to estimate population size, adjusting for double counting and FSW who do not attend venues. RadR estimates were compared to the official population size estimates, published by the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS), and the unadjusted Reverse Tracking Method. Results: Using the RadR method, we estimated 1,739 (95% Simulation Intervals: 1,278-2,616) FSW in Windhoek and 583 (95% Simulation Intervals: 387-758) FSW in Katima Mulilo. These estimates were slightly more conservative than the MoHSS estimates (Windhoek: 3,000 [1,800 – 3,400]; Katima Mulilo: 800 [380 – 2,000]), though not statistically different. We also found 75 extra venues in Windhoek and 59 extra venues in Katima Mulilo identified by RDS participants’ responses that were not detected during the initial mapping exercise. Conclusions: The RadR estimates were comparable to official estimates from the MoHSS. The RadR method is easily integrated into RDS studies, producing plausible population size estimates, and also validates and updates the venue-based sampling frame.

  • Social Networking Site for Suicide Database in Bangladesh

    Date Submitted: Jun 12, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Jun 20, 2018 - Aug 15, 2018

    The use of social networking sites has exponentially increased in the recent years and the increment was most noticeable among the youth. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death among th...

    The use of social networking sites has exponentially increased in the recent years and the increment was most noticeable among the youth. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death among this group and they are the most active group in the different social networking sites. They share their thoughts, photos, opinions and news including the news of suicide. Whenever, they came to know the death of a friend or follower they share the news express their grief. In addition they also show their condolence to the death of the relative or friends of Facebook friends Moreover, all the television channels and newspapers share their information and news in Facebook, Tweeter and other social media from where we can collect information. Bangladesh is a Muslim developing country in South East Asia that lacks any national suicide database due a number of sociocultural, religious and political factors. As a result, the existing the data on suicide in the country shows about 20 fold variation in different reports. However, the country can develop national suicide database by extracting the information shared in the Facebook and verifying each incidents from different Facebook users. This idea can solve a long lasting problem in many developing low and middle income countries.