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An Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis Framework: Critical Reflections on a Methodology for Advancing Equity

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Introduction

In the field of health, numerous frameworks have emerged that advance understandings of the differential impacts of health policies to produce inclusive and socially just health outcomes. In this paper, we present the development of an important contribution to these efforts – an Intersectionality-Based Policy Analysis (IBPA) Framework.

Methods

Developed over the course of two years in consultation with key stakeholders and drawing on best and promising practices of other equity-informed approaches, this participatory and iterative IBPA Framework provides guidance and direction for researchers, civil society, public health professionals and policy actors seeking to address the challenges of health inequities across diverse populations. Importantly, we present the application of the IBPA Framework in seven priority health-related policy case studies.

Results

The analysis of each case study is focused on explaining how IBPA: 1) provides an innovative structure for critical policy analysis; 2) captures the different dimensions of policy contexts including history, politics, everyday lived experiences, diverse knowledges and intersecting social locations; and 3) generates transformative insights, knowledge, policy solutions and actions that cannot be gleaned from other equity-focused policy frameworks.

Conclusion

The aim of this paper is to inspire a range of policy actors to recognize the potential of IBPA to foreground the complex contexts of health and social problems, and ultimately to transform how policy analysis is undertaken.

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Article
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Switching and Emergence of CTL Epitopes in HIV-1 Infection

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) class I restricted Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes (CTLs) exert substantial evolutionary pressure on HIV-1, as evidenced by the reproducible selection of HLA-restricted immune escape mutations in the viral genome. An escape mutation from tyrosine to phenylalanine at the 135th amino acid (Y135F) of the HIV-1 nef gene is frequently observed in patients with HLA-A*24:02, an HLA Class I allele expressed in ~70% of Japanese persons. The selection of CTL escape mutations could theoretically result in the de novo creation of novel epitopes, however, the extent to which such dynamic “CTL epitope switching” occurs in HIV-1 remains incompletely known.

Results

Two overlapping epitopes in HIV-1 nef, Nef126-10 and Nef134-10, elicit the most frequent CTL responses restricted by HLA-A*24:02. Thirty-five of 46 (76%) HLA-A*24:02-positive patients harbored the Y135F mutation in their plasma HIV-1 RNA. Nef codon 135 plays a crucial role in both epitopes, as it represents the C-terminal anchor for Nef126-10 and the N-terminal anchor for Nef134-10. While the majority of patients with 135F exhibited CTL responses to Nef126-10, none harboring the “wild-type” (global HIV-1 subtype B consensus) Y135 did so, suggesting that Nef126-10 is not efficiently presented in persons harboring Y135. Consistent with this, peptide binding and limiting dilution experiments confirmed F, but not Y, as a suitable C-terminal anchor for HLA-A*24:02. Moreover, experiments utilizing antigen specific CTL clones to recognize endogenously-expressed peptides with or without Y135F indicated that this mutation disrupted the antigen expression of Nef134-10. Critically, the selection of Y135F also launched the expression of Nef126-10, indicating that the latter epitope is created as a result of escape within the former.

Conclusions

Our data represent the first example of the de novo creation of a novel overlapping CTL epitope as a direct result of HLA-driven immune escape in a neighboring epitope. The robust targeting of Nef126-10 following transmission (or in vivo selection) of HIV-1 containing Y135F may explain in part the previously reported stable plasma viral loads over time in the Japanese population, despite the high prevalence of both HLA-A*24:02 and Nef-Y135F in circulating HIV-1 sequences.

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Article
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Pharmacies as Providers of Expanded Health Services for People Who Inject Drugs: A Review of Laws, Policies, and Barriers in Six Countries

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

People who inject drugs (PWID) are underserved by health providers but pharmacies may be their most accessible care settings.

Methods

Studies in the U.S., Russia, Vietnam, China, Canada and Mexico employed a three-level (macro-, meso-, and micro-) model to assess feasibility of expanded pharmacy services for PWID. Studies employed qualitative and quantitative interviews, review of legal and policy documents, and information on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of key stakeholders.

Results

Studies produced a mixed assessment of feasibility. Provision of information and referrals by pharmacies is permissible in all study sites and sale and safe disposal of needles/syringes by pharmacies is legal in almost all sites, although needle/syringe sales face challenges related to attitudes and practices of pharmacists, police, and other actors. Pharmacy provision of HIV testing, hepatitis vaccination, opioid substitution treatment, provision of naloxone for drug overdose, and abscess treatment, face more serious legal and policy barriers.

Discussion

Challenges to expanded services for drug users in pharmacies exist at all three levels, especially the macro-level characterized by legal barriers and persistent stigmatization of PWID. Where deficiencies in laws, policies, and community attitudes block implementation, stakeholders should advocate for needed legal and policy changes and work to address community stigma and resistance. Laws and policies are only as good as their implementation, so attention is also needed to meso- and micro- levels. Policies, attitudes, and practices of police departments and pharmacy chains as well as knowledge, attitudes, and practices of individual PWID, individual pharmacies, and police officers should support rather than undermine positive laws and expanded services. Despite the challenges, pharmacies remain potentially important venues for delivering health services to PWID.

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Article
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Clinical Usefulness of Lipid Ratios to Identify Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome: A Cross-Sectional Study

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Waist circumference, a metabolic syndrome (MetSy) criterion, is not routinely measured in clinical practice making early identification of individuals with MetSy challenging. It has been argued that ratios of commonly measured parameters such as lipids and lipoproteins may be an acceptable alternative for identifying individuals with MetSy. The objective of our study was to explore clinical utility of lipid ratios to identify men and women with MetSy; and to explore the association between lipid ratios and the number of MetSy components.

Methods

Men and women (N = 797) of Aboriginal, Chinese, European, and South Asian origin (35–60 years), recruited across ranges of body mass index (BMI), with no diagnosed cardiovascular disease (CVD) or on medications to treat CVD risk factors were assessed for anthropometrics, family history of CVD, MetSy components (waist circumference, blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides (TG), high-density-lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C)), low-density-lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C), nonHDL-C, and health-related behaviours.

Results

Mean levels of lipid ratios significantly increased with increasing number of MetSy components in men and women (p < 0.05). After adjustment for age, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, family history of CVD and BMI, (and menopausal status in women), all lipid ratios were associated with the number of MetSy components in men and women (Poisson regression, p < 0.001). Compared to the rest of the lipid ratios (ROC curve analysis), TG/HDL-C was best able to discriminate between individuals with and without MetSy (AUC = 0.869 (95% CI: 0.830, 0.908) men; AUC = 0.872 (95% CI: 0.832, 0.912) women). The discriminatory power of TC/HDL-C and nonHDL-C/HDL-C to identify individuals with MetSY was the same (for both ratios, AUC = 0.793 (95% CI: 0.744, 0.842) men; 0.818 (95% CI: 0.772, 0.864) women). Additionally, LDL-C/HDL-C was a good marker for women (AUC = 0.759 (95% CI: 0.706, 0.812)), but not for men (AUC = 0.689 (95% CI: 0.631, 0.748)). Based on a multiethnic sample, we identified TG/HDL-C cut-off values of 1.62 in men and 1.18 in women that were best able to discriminate between men and women with and without MetSY.

Conclusions

Our results indicate that TG/HDL-C is a superior marker to identify men and women with MetSy compared to TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C, and nonHDL-C/HDL-C.

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Article
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The Association between "Hypertriglyceridemic Waist" And Sub-Clinical Atherosclerosis in a Multiethnic Population: A Cross-Sectional Study

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

"Hypertriglyceridemic waist" (HTGW) phenotype, an inexpensive early screening tool for detection of individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease was found to be associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in various patient populations such as those with diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, and those infected with human immunodeficiency virus. However, less is known regarding an association between HTGW and subclinical atherosclerosis in the apparently healthy, multiethnic population. Therefore, the aim of the study was to explore the association between HTGW and sub-clinical atherosclerosis in an apparently healthy, multiethnic population; and to investigate whether the effect of HTGW on sub-clinical atherosclerosis persists over and above the traditional atherosclerosis risk factors.

Methods

We studied 809 individuals of Aboriginal, Chinese, European and South Asian origin who were assessed for indices of sub-clinical atherosclerosis (intima-media thickness (IMT), total area and presence of carotid plaques), socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics, anthropometrics, lipids, glucose, blood pressure, and family history of cardiovascular disease.

Results

We found that, compared to individuals without HTGW and after adjusting for age, ethnicity, smoking, and physical activity; men and women with HTGW had a significantly higher: IMT (men: B (95%CI = 0.084 (0.037, 1.133), p < 0.001; women: B (95%CI) = 0.041 (0.006, 0.077), p = 0.020); and total area (men: B (95%CI = 0.202 (0.058, 0.366), p = 0.005; women: B (95%CI) = 0.115 (0.006, 0.235), p = 0.037). The association between HTGW waist and presence of plaques was significant for men (OR (95%CI) = 1.904 (1.040, 3.486), p = 0.037 vs. men without HTGW), but not for women (p = 0.284). Once analyses were adjusted for additional, traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis, the effect of HTGW on sub-clinical atherosclerosis was no longer significant.

Conclusions

In conclusion, HTGW may serve as an early marker of subclinical atherosclerosis in men and women, irrespective of ethnicity. However, once individuals are assessed for all traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis, the additional assessment for HTGW is not warranted.

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Article
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A Novel Integration of Online and Flipped Classroom Instructional Models in Public Health Higher Education

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

In 2013, a cohort of public health students participated in a ‘flipped’ Environmental and Occupational Health course. Content for the course was delivered through NextGenU.org and active learning activities were carried out during in-class time. This paper reports on the design, implementation, and evaluation of this novel approach.

Methods

Using mixed-methods, we examined learning experiences and perceptions of the flipped classroom model and assessed changes in students' self-perceived knowledge after participation in the course. We used pre- and post-course surveys to measure changes in self-perceived knowledge. The post-course survey also included items regarding learning experiences and perceptions of the flipped classroom model. We also compared standard course review and examination scores for the 2013 NextGenU/Flipped Classroom students to previous years when the course was taught with a lecture-based model. We conducted a focus group session to gain more in-depth understanding of student learning experiences and perceptions.

Results

Students reported an increase in knowledge and survey and focus group data revealed positive learning experiences and perceptions of the flipped classroom model. Mean examination scores for the 2013 NextGenU/Flipped classroom students were 88.8% compared to 86.4% for traditional students (2011). On a scale of 1–5 (1 = lowest rank, 5 = highest rank), the mean overall rating for the 2013 NextGenU/Flipped classroom students was 4.7/5 compared to prior years’ overall ratings of 3.7 (2012), 4.3 (2011), 4.1 (2010), and 3.9 (2009). Two key themes emerged from the focus group data: 1) factors influencing positive learning experience (e.g., interactions with students and instructor); and 2) changes in attitudes towards environmental and occupation health (e.g., deepened interest in the field).

Conclusion

Our results show that integration of the flipped classroom model with online NextGenU courses can be an effective innovation in public health higher education: students achieved similar examination scores, but NextGenU/Flipped classroom students rated their course experience more highly and reported positive learning experiences and an increase in self-perceived knowledge. These results are promising and suggest that this approach warrants further consideration and research.

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Article
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Evaluating the Impact of Environmental Interventions across 2 Countries: The International Bikeshare Impacts On Cycling and Collisions Study (IBICCS) Study Protocol

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Few international studies examine public bicycle share programs (PBSP) health impacts. We describe the protocol for the International Bikeshare Impacts on Cycling and Collisions Study (IBICCS).

Methods

A quasi-experimental non-equivalent groups design was used. Intervention cities (Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York and Vancouver) were matched to control cities (Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia) on total population, population density, cycling rates, and average yearly temperature. The study used three repeated, cross-sectional surveys in intervention and control cities in Fall 2012 (baseline), 2013 (year 1), and 2014 (year 2). A non-probabilistic online panel survey with a sampling frame of individuals residing in and around areas where PBSP are/would be implemented was used. A total of 12,000 respondents will be sampled. In each of the 8 cities 1000 respondents will be sampled with an additional 4000 respondents sampled based on the total population of the city. Survey questions include measures of self-rated health, and self-reported height and weight, knowledge and experience using PBSP, physical activity, bicycle helmet use and history of collisions and injuries while cycling, socio-demographic questions, and home/workplace locations. Respondents could complete questionnaires in English, French, and Spanish. Two weights will be applied to the data: inverse probability of selection and post-stratification on age and sex.

A triple difference analysis will be used. This approach includes in the models, time, exposure, and treatment group, and interaction terms between these variables to estimate changes across time, between exposure groups and between cities.

Discussion

There are scientific and practical challenges in evaluating PBSP. Methodological challenges included: appropriate sample recruitment, exchangeability of treatment and control groups, controlling unmeasured confounding, and specifying exposure. Practical challenges arise in the evaluation of environmental interventions such as a PBSP: one of the companies involved filed for bankruptcy, a Hurricane devastated New York City, and one PBSP was not implemented. Overall, this protocol provides methodological and practical guidance for researchers wanting to study PBSP impacts on health.

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Article
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A Multicentre, Pragmatic, Parallel Group, Randomised Controlled Trial to Compare the Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness of Three Physiotherapy-Led Exercise Interventions for Knee Osteoarthritis in Older Adults: The BEEP Trial Protocol (ISRCTN: 93634563)

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Exercise is consistently recommended for older adults with knee pain related to osteoarthritis. However, the effects from exercise are typically small and short-term, likely linked to insufficient individualisation of the exercise programme and limited attention to supporting exercise adherence over time. The BEEP randomised trial aims to improve patients’ short and long-term outcomes from exercise. It will test the overall effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of two physiotherapy-led exercise interventions (Individually Tailored Exercise and Targeted Exercise Adherence) to improve the individual tailoring of, and adherence to exercise, compared with usual physiotherapy care.

Methods/design

Based on the learning from a pilot study (ISRCTN 23294263), the BEEP trial is a multi-centre, pragmatic, parallel group, individually randomised controlled trial, with embedded longitudinal qualitative interviews. 500 adults in primary care, aged 45 years and over with knee pain will be randomised to 1 of 3 treatment groups delivered by fully trained physiotherapists in up to 6 NHS services. These are: Usual Physiotherapy Care (control group consisting of up to 4 treatment sessions of advice and exercise), Individually Tailored Exercise (an individualised, supervised and progressed lower-limb exercise programme) or Targeted Exercise Adherence (supporting patients to adhere to exercise and to engage in general physical activity over the longer-term). The primary outcomes are pain and function as measured by the Western Ontario and McMaster Osteoarthritis index. A comprehensive range of secondary outcomes are also included. Outcomes are measured at 3, 6 (primary outcome time-point), 9, 18 and 36 months. Data on adverse events will also be collected. Semi-structured, qualitative interviews with a subsample of 30 participants (10 from each treatment group) will be undertaken at two time-points (end of treatment and 12 to 18 months later) and analysed thematically.

Discussion

This trial will contribute to the evidence base for management of older adults with knee pain attributable to osteoarthritis in primary care. The findings will have important implications for healthcare commissioners, general practitioners and physiotherapy service providers and it will inform future education of healthcare practitioners. It may also serve to delay or prevent some individuals from becoming surgical candidates.

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Article
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Trends and Changes in Prescription Opioid Analgesic Dispensing In Canada 2005-2012: An Update with a Focus on Recent Interventions

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

Prescription opioid analgesic (POA) utilization has steeply increased globally, yet is far higher in established market economies than elsewhere. Canada features the world’s second-highest POA consumption rates. Following increases in POA-related harm, several POA control interventions have been implemented since 2010.

Methods

We examined trends and patterns in POA dispensing in Canada by province for 2005–2012, including a focus on the potential effects of interventions. Data on annual dispensing of individual POA formulations – categorized into ‘weak opioids’ and ‘strong opioids’ – from a representative sub-sample of 5,700 retail pharmacies across Canada (from IMS Brogan’s Compuscript) were converted into Defined Daily Doses (DDD), and examined intra- and inter-provincially as well as for Canada (total).

Results

Total POA dispensing – driven by strong opioids – increased across Canada until 2011; four provinces indicated decreases in strong opioid dispensing; seven provinces indicated decreases specifically in oxycodone dispensing, 2011–2012. The dispensing ratio weak/strong opioids decreased substantively. Major inter-provincial differences in POA dispensing levels and qualitative patterns of POA formulations dispensed persisted. Previous increasing trends in POA dispensing were reversed in select provinces 2011–2012, coinciding with POA-related interventions.

Conclusions

Further examinations regarding the sustained nature, drivers and consequences of the recent trend changes in POA dispensing – including possible ‘substitution effects’ for oxycodone reductions – are needed.

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Article
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Examining the Relationship between Health-Related Need and the Receipt of Care by Participants Experiencing Homelessness and Mental Illness

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014
Abstract: 

Background

People experiencing homelessness and mental illness face multiple barriers to care. The goal of this study was to examine the association between health service use and indicators of need among individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness in Vancouver, Canada. We hypothesized that those with more severe mental illness would access greater levels of primary and specialist health services than those with less severe mental illness.

Methods

Participants met criteria for homelessness and current mental disorder using standardized criteria (n = 497). Interviews assessed current health status and involvement with a variety of health services including specialist, general practice, and emergency services. The 80th percentile was used to differentiate ‘low health service use’ and ‘high health service use’. Using multivariate logistic regression analysis, we analyzed associations between predisposing, enabling and need-related factors with levels of primary and specialist health service use.

Results

Twenty-one percent of participants had high primary care use, and 12% had high use of specialist services. Factors significantly (p ≤ 0.05) associated with high primary care use were: multiple physical illnesses [AOR 2.74 (1.12, 6.70]; poor general health [AOR 1.68 (1.01, 2.81)]; having a regular family physician [AOR 2.27 (1.27, 4.07)]; and negative social relationships [AOR 1.74 (1.01, 2.99)]. Conversely, having a more severe mental disorder (e.g. psychotic disorder) was significantly associated with lower odds of high service use [AOR 0.59 (0.35, 0.97)]. For specialist care, recent history of psychiatric hospitalization [AOR 2.53 (1.35, 4.75)] and major depressive episode [AOR 1.98 (1.11, 3.56)] were associated with high use, while having a blood borne infectious disease (i.e., HIV, HCV, HBV) was associated with lower odds of high service use.

Conclusions

Contrary to our hypotheses, we found that individuals with greater assessed need, including more severe mental disorders, and blood-borne infectious diseases had significantly lower odds of being high health service users than those with lower assessed needs. Our findings reveal an important gap between levels of need and service involvement for individuals who are both homeless and mentally ill and have implications for health service reform in relation to the unmet and complex needs of a marginalized sub-population. (Trial registration: ISRCTN57595077 and ISRCTN66721740).

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