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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:

  • Facebook advertisement posted to Canadian parents’ News Feeds (montage). Source: The Authors /; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    User-Driven Comments on a Facebook Advertisement Recruiting Canadian Parents in a Study on Immunization: Content Analysis


    Background: More people are searching for immunization information online and potentially being exposed to misinformation and antivaccination sentiment in content and discussions on social media platforms. As vaccination coverage rates remain suboptimal in several developed countries, and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases become more prevalent, it is important that we build on previous research by analyzing themes in online vaccination discussions, including those that individuals may see without actively searching for information on immunization. Objective: The study aimed to explore the sentiments and themes behind an unsolicited debate on immunization in order to better inform public health interventions countering antivaccination sentiment. Methods: We analyzed and quantified 117 user-driven open-ended comments on immunization posted in the Comments section of a Facebook advertisement that targeted Canadian parents for recruitment into a larger study on immunization. Then, 2 raters coded all comments using content analysis. Results: Of 117 comments, 85 were posted by unique commentators, with most being female (65/85, 77%). The largest proportion of the immunization comments were positive (51/117, 43.6%), followed by negative (41/117, 35.0%), ambiguous (20/117, 17.1%), and hesitant (5/117, 4.3%). Inaccurate knowledge (27/130, 20.8%) and misperceptions of risk (23/130, 17.7%) were most prevalent in the 130 nonpositive comments. Other claims included distrust of pharmaceutical companies or government agencies (18/130, 13.8%), distrust of the health care system or providers (15/130, 11.5%), past negative experiences with vaccination or beliefs (10/130, 7.7%), and attitudes about health and prevention (10/130, 7.7%). Almost 40% (29/74, 39%) of the positive comments communicated the risks of not vaccinating, followed by judgments on the knowledge level of nonvaccinators (13/74, 18%). A total of 10 positive comments (10/74, 14%) specifically refuted the link between autism and vaccination. Conclusions: The presence of more than 100 unsolicited user-driven comments on a platform not intended for discussion, nor providing any information on immunization, illustrates the strong sentiments associated with immunization and the arbitrariness of the online platforms used for immunization debates. Health authorities should be more proactive in finding mechanisms to refute misinformation and misperceptions that are propagating uncontested online. Online debates and communications on immunization need to be identified by continuous monitoring in order for health authorities to understand the current themes and trends, and to engage in the discussion.

  • Source: Getty Images; Copyright: stevanovicigor; URL:; License: Licensed by the authors.

    eHealth Literacy in People Living with HIV: Systematic Review


    Background: In the era of eHealth, eHealth literacy is emerging as a key concept to promote self-management of chronic conditions such as HIV. However, there is a paucity of research focused on eHealth literacy for people living with HIV (PLWH) as a means of improving their adherence to HIV care and health outcome. Objective: The objective of this study was to critically appraise the types, scope, and nature of studies addressing eHealth literacy as a study variable in PLWH. Methods: This systematic review used comprehensive database searches, such as PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Cochrane, to identify quantitative studies targeting PLWH published in English before May 2017 with eHealth literacy as a study variable. Results: We identified 56 unique records, and 7 papers met the eligibility criteria. The types of study designs varied (descriptive, n=3; quasi-experimental, n=3; and experimental, n=1) and often involved community-based settings (n=5), with sample sizes ranging from 18 to 895. In regards to instruments used, 3 studies measured eHealth literacy with validated instruments such as the eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS); 2 studies used full or short versions of Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults, whereas the remaining 2 studies used study-developed questions. The majority of studies included in the review reported high eHealth literacy among the samples. The associations between eHealth literacy and health outcomes in PLWH were not consistent. In the areas of HIV transmission risk, retention in care, treatment adherence, and virological suppression, the role of eHealth literacy is still not fully understood. Furthermore, the implications for future research are discussed. Conclusions: Understanding the role of eHealth literacy is an essential step to encourage PLWH to be actively engaged in their health care. Avenues to pursue in the role of eHealth literacy and PLWH should consider the development and use of standardized eHealth literacy definitions and measures.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: Interactive Research and Development; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Using Predictive Analytics to Identify Children at High Risk of Defaulting From a Routine Immunization Program: Feasibility Study


    Background: Despite the availability of free routine immunizations in low- and middle-income countries, many children are not completely vaccinated, vaccinated late for age, or drop out from the course of the immunization schedule. Without the technology to model and visualize risk of large datasets, vaccinators and policy makers are unable to identify target groups and individuals at high risk of dropping out; thus default rates remain high, preventing universal immunization coverage. Predictive analytics algorithm leverages artificial intelligence and uses statistical modeling, machine learning, and multidimensional data mining to accurately identify children who are most likely to delay or miss their follow-up immunization visits. Objective: This study aimed to conduct feasibility testing and validation of a predictive analytics algorithm to identify the children who are likely to default on subsequent immunization visits for any vaccine included in the routine immunization schedule. Methods: The algorithm was developed using 47,554 longitudinal immunization records, which were classified into the training and validation cohorts. Four machine learning models (random forest; recursive partitioning; support vector machines, SVMs; and C-forest) were used to generate the algorithm that predicts the likelihood of each child defaulting from the follow-up immunization visit. The following variables were used in the models as predictors of defaulting: gender of the child, language spoken at the child’s house, place of residence of the child (town or city), enrollment vaccine, timeliness of vaccination, enrolling staff (vaccinator or others), date of birth (accurate or estimated), and age group of the child. The models were encapsulated in the predictive engine, which identified the most appropriate method to use in a given case. Each of the models was assessed in terms of accuracy, precision (positive predictive value), sensitivity, specificity and negative predictive value, and area under the curve (AUC). Results: Out of 11,889 cases in the validation dataset, the random forest model correctly predicted 8994 cases, yielding 94.9% sensitivity and 54.9% specificity. The C-forest model, SVMs, and recursive partitioning models improved prediction by achieving 352, 376, and 389 correctly predicted cases, respectively, above the predictions made by the random forest model. All models had a C-statistic of 0.750 or above, whereas the highest statistic (AUC 0.791, 95% CI 0.784-0.798) was observed in the recursive partitioning algorithm. Conclusions: This feasibility study demonstrates that predictive analytics can accurately identify children who are at a higher risk for defaulting on follow-up immunization visits. Correct identification of potential defaulters opens a window for evidence-based targeted interventions in resource limited settings to achieve optimal immunization coverage and timeliness.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons; Copyright: NIAID; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Overlap of Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Patients in the United States: Analysis of Prevalence, Features, and Subtypes


    Background: Although asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are clinically distinct diseases, they represent biologically diverse and overlapping clinical entities and it has been observed that they often co-occur. Some research and theorizing suggest there is a common comorbid condition termed asthma-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease overlap (ACO). However, the existence of ACO is controversial. Objective: The objective of this study is to describe patient characteristics and estimate prevalence, health care utilization, and costs of ACO using claims-based diagnoses confirmed with medical record information. Methods: Eligible patients were commercial US health plan enrollees; ≥40 years; had asthma, COPD, or ACO; ≥3 prescription fills for asthma/COPD medications; and ≥2 spirometry tests. Records for a random sample of 5000 patients with ACO were reviewed to validate claims-based diagnoses. Results: The estimated ACO prevalence was 6% (estimated 10,250/183,521) among 183,521 full study patients. In the claims-based cohorts, the comorbidity burden for ACO was greater versus asthma but similar to COPD cohorts. Medication utilization was higher in ACO versus asthma and COPD. Mean total health care costs were significantly higher for ACO versus asthma but similar to COPD. In confirmed diagnoses cohorts, mean total health care costs (medical plus pharmacy) were lower for ACO versus COPD but similar to asthma (US $20,035; P=.56). Among confirmed cases, where there was medical record evidence, smoking history was higher in ACO (300/343, 87.5%) versus asthma cohorts (100/181, 55.2%) but similar to COPD (68/84, 81%). Conclusions: ACO had more comorbidities, medication utilization, and costs than patients with asthma or COPD but differences were not seen after confirmation with medical records.

  • 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.

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  • Improved real-time influenza surveillance using Internet search data in eight Latin American countries

    Date Submitted: Sep 14, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Sep 19, 2018 - Oct 3, 2018

    A real-time methodology for monitoring flu activity in middle income countries that is simultaneously accurate and generalizable has not yet been presented. We demonstrate here that a self-correcting...

    A real-time methodology for monitoring flu activity in middle income countries that is simultaneously accurate and generalizable has not yet been presented. We demonstrate here that a self-correcting machine learning method leveraging Internet-based search activity produces reliable and timely flu estimates in multiple Latin American countries.

  • A Double-Blind, Single Center, Randomized 3-way Crossover Trial of Fitted, Thin and Standard Condoms for Vaginal and Anal Sex: C-PLEASURE Study Protocol and Baseline Data

    Date Submitted: Sep 13, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Sep 14, 2018 - Sep 29, 2018

    Background: Male condoms are underutilized despite their ability to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The perception of decreased sexual pleasure and poor condom f...

    Background: Male condoms are underutilized despite their ability to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The perception of decreased sexual pleasure and poor condom fit are major contributors to condom nonuse. Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare event-level performance and pleasure among fitted, thin and standard condoms among MSM and men who sex with women (MSW) and to assess condom type preference. We present the study design and enrollment data from the trial. Methods: This study recruited sexually active men aged 18-54 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. We enrolled 252 MSM and 252 MSW in a double-blind, three-way randomized crossover trial with conditions of fitted, thin, and standard condoms. A permuted block randomization scheme was used to assign each participant to the sequence in which they received each type of study condom. After a baseline screening and enrollment visit, randomized participants were followed for at least 6 and up to 12 weeks depending on their use of study condoms in each two-week period between scheduled, in-person study visits. Participants were instructed to complete mobile-optimized coital logs as soon as possible after using condoms for anal or vaginal sex acts. The logs collected event-level pleasure and performance measures for the study condoms as well as other relevant data. A questionnaire was administered at the final study visit to assess overall study condom preference. Results: The study enrolled 252 MSM and 252 MSW, a total of 504 participants. MSM and MSW study arms were similar for a number of key traits including race/ethnicity, marital status, self-rated condom experience, and recent experience of condom failure. Men in the MSM arm were older, however, and fewer MSM were students. The majority of participants in both arms rated themselves as “very experienced” with using condoms, and the majority had used condoms recently. Over one-third of participants in each arm reported experiencing condom failure in the last six months. Conclusions: This is the first condom trial to compare the performance of standard, thin and fitted condoms, and to use pleasure and preference as primary outcomes. Given the disparate impact of HIV on MSM, equal enrollment of MSM and MSW was a key feature of this study. Trial results may inform an FDA label indication for anal sex, as well as provide new information regarding the relative performance of different types of condoms. Clinical Trial: NCT02753842 (Registered 28th of April 2016)

  • Tailoring Facebook Advertisements to Reach Gay and Bisexual Men: Short Report

    Date Submitted: Sep 8, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Sep 14, 2018 - Sep 28, 2018

    Background: Facebook advertisements are an important way for public health agencies and researchers to reach gay and bisexual men (gbMSM). However, few published studies have examined how to maximize...

    Background: Facebook advertisements are an important way for public health agencies and researchers to reach gay and bisexual men (gbMSM). However, few published studies have examined how to maximize engagement by tailoring and targeting Facebook advertisements to this population. Objective: To determine whether different types of ad messaging and imagery were associated with greater user engagement among male Facebook users, aged 18+, in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Methods: We compared the success of 24 Facebook ad campaigns – varied by image type (Neutral vs. Sexy), message (Financial Incentive, Altruism, Personal Health), target location (Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal), language (English, French), and target demographics (age: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+). Bivariate and multivariable Poisson regression models tested the effect of each variable on the ad’s click rate (i.e., number of clicks on ad / number of users shown ad) controlling for average number of impressions per person. Interaction terms between age and image type and between age and message type were also considered in our final multivariable models to explore the role of age in shaping engagement behavior. Results: A total of 351,624 impressions among 257,136 users were made, resulting in 4,267 clicks. At the bivariate level, a sexy image (vs. a neutral image) and a financial incentive message (vs. an altruistic message) were predictive of higher click rates. However, in multivariable modeling, the success of the sexualized image appeared to be driven primarily by its popularity among older men – as suggested by the positive association for older men in the interaction effect (P < 0.001). Similarly, for messaging, the success of the financial incentive message appeared to be negatively associated with age in the interaction effect (P < 0.001) – suggestive of its popularity among younger users. Nevertheless, the main effect for the financial incentive image remained strong and positive even when controlling for the interaction term (P < 0.001). Conclusions: These results demonstrate that both user targets and post-related characteristics impact user engagement. Furthermore, it was found that post and user characteristics have the potential to interact – highlighting the importance of considering not only the content of advertisements, but to whom they are tailored. Future studies are needed to understand what motivates specific sub-groups of gbMSM to engage with tailored content on Facebook.