eLetters

285 e-Letters

  • Concern about interactions and true effect of heroic stimuli

    We read an article recently published online in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health by Dr.Kondo and Dr.Ishikawa with great interest and appreciate the authors' efforts to seek effective interventions for socioeconomically vulnerable people to have a health check-up. They suggested "hedonic stimuli" promote socially vulnerable people to have health check-up services. The "heroic effect" in this research directed to one gender only (mostly). We consider they should have performed the analysis which compares the difference of the intervention effect between on male (sensitive to this heroic stimuli) and on female (insensitive to the stimuli) in order to consider interactions (e.g. simply wearing healthcare staff's costumes). We believe that the difference in effect size between genders is the true intervention effect arisen from the "hedonic stimuli". We suggest it should be investigated using the original data of Table 2.

  • Criticism of Kondo and Ishikawa article

    I felt deeply offended after reading ‘Affective stimuli in behavioural interventions soliciting for health check-up services and the service users’ socioeconomic statuses: a study at Japanese pachinko parlours’ by Kondo and Ishikawa (Kondo N, Ishikawa Y. J Epidemiol Community Health 2018; 0:1–6. doi:10.1136/jech-2017-209943). As a Japanese woman and a registered nurse, I found phrases such as ‘young women wearing mildly erotic nurse costumes’ or ‘solicitation by young women wearing sexy nurse costumes’ to be derogatory and disrespectful. If the authors needed to clarify the point of their hypothesis on the possible relationship between sexual stimuli and health behaviours, which is already disturbing enough as a research topic, it would be enough to mention ‘a person wearing mildly erotic clothes’ or ‘invitation by persons wearing sexy costumes.’ When the authors add (and the editors retain) such words as ‘young women’ or ‘nurses’ to describe the distinctive features of the intervention, they tacitly accept and capitalize on stereotypes and prejudices against young women and nurses, and assume that readers will share such insulting views as well. I was very disappointed that the paper was developed by the authors, reviewed by peer reviewers, and accepted in its current form by the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. I sincerely hope that the authors, reviewers, and editor-in-chief give some more thought to how social disparity could persist...

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  • Concerns re: Kondo and Ishikawa - Editors' note

    The paper by Kondo and Ishikawa uncritically investigates a public health program that contradicts the journal’s values. We are aware of the concerns raised and have already begun to address them, with more action to come. We are conducting an audit of our editorial processes to determine where errors were made and will be publishing e-letters that articulate the concerns about the paper. The Editors have attached the statement below to the paper as an ‘Editorial Note’. This represents an interim measure to assert our principles. In the coming days, we publish additional E-letters to provide more detail on the actions we will take to ensure that we are consistently upholding these principles going forward.

    The Editorial Note reads:

    “The study reported in this article examines a health intervention which uses gendered stereotypes of the nursing profession and suggestive uniforms that play on women’s sexuality to encourage people to engage in health checkups. The intervention was not under the control of the authors and the study was approved by an institutional research ethics board.”

    “The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health condemns the use of sexism, gender and professional stereotypes and other forms of discriminatory or exploitive behaviour for any purpose, including health promotion programs. In light of concerns raised about this paper, we are conducting an audit of our review process and will put in place measures to ensure that the m...

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  • Response to Barberio et al's claim that there is no link between fluoridation and hypothyroidism

    Barberio et al1 report a study which – in contrast to our own study2 - shows no relationship between fluoride intake and hypothyroidism. However, Barberio et al study is limited by the methods used for identifying hypothyroidism prevalence, fluoridation status and sample sizes.

    Barberio et al utilised three methods to determine hypothyroidism prevalence: self-report and two biomarkers: thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and free T4 blood results. This is problematic as self-report is unlikely to provide accurate prevalence data when compared to clinical diagnosis data, as used in our study4; and there are a number of studies demonstrating that self-reported estimates of thyroid functioning are unreliable. Further, the self-report question does not appear to differentiate between under and over active thyroid functioning. The biomarker data only included individuals with un-medicated hypothyroidism; consequently, the sample is unrepresentative of the population. The analysis of this data provides correlations between the biomarkers TSH, T4 readings and fluoride exposure in a sub-sample of respondents, assuming that all respondents received uniform levels of fluoride. From our data, we observed wide variability within fluoridated areas. This may explain why in table 2b, none of the variables, including age and sex, were predictive of TSH levels. This contradicts Barberio et al’s own data on what is predictive of hypothyroidism and the Canadian Health Measures Survey...

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  • Could alcohol control policies be a smokescreen?

    Madureira-Lima and Galea developped an Alcohol Control Policy Index (ACPI) and claimed higher scores with their index were associated with lower consumption.(1) This deserved comment.

    First, why looking for a complex and time consuming surrogate when the relevant endpoint, consumption, is so easy to assess? Moreover, if reliable data about consumption were not accessible, this would be the best indicator for lack of alcohol control policy.

    Second, how France can rank in the top, 6th among 48 developed countries, for alcohol control? Indeed: a) France is among the barrels, the male population drank an average of 43g/day (female 13g) and, male regular drinkers drank 64g (women 45g).(2) b) serial laws in 2009 and 2016 were used to almost nullify the 1991 Évin law protecting people from alcohol advertising.(3,4) c) for the devastating flawed Responsibility Lansley only copied/pasted a 2006 decree (#159) issued by Bussereau, a French minister for agriculture;(5) d) France even lobbied against the Act about minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland, claiming it “would be disastrous on the balance of European trade”(6) e) the new president hired the CEO of the wine professional organization as his special advisor for agriculture (7) because alcohol is France's second biggest export sector after the aerospace industry.

    Last, in my opinion no country has implemented alcohol control yet as alcohol control must be comprehensive with robust measures. Minimum alc...

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  • Stress and Cancer: India being the vulnerable Asian country

    Stress resilience and cancer risk: a nationwide cohort study (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Volume 71 Issue 10) was a real eye opener to throw light on a new arena of cancer studies. This could be a serious issue in a developing country like India, where the number of patients diagnosed with cancer is shooting up quite alarmingly[1]. The data of National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research ( September 2017) highlights that, people living with cancer in India is estimated to be around 2.5 million, more than 7 lakh people are newly diagnosed with cancer every year and 5,56,400 people died in 2016 alone, due to this deadly disease[2]. The burden of Thyroid cancer in India has signalled the health authority as the people suffering from thyroid cancer is more than 10 million in the population of 1.324 billion[3].
    Official statistics reveal that there are only about 2000 oncologists in India to treat 10 million cancer patients and the ratio of oncologists to cancer patients is about 1:5,000, whereas, the US has a ratio of about 1:100. There are only 27 Regional Cancer Centres (RCC) in India, which are funded by Central and State Governments and 300 general hospitals. These institutions with inadequate staff, amalgamated with other constraints like financial burden and supply chain challenges make the treatment of cancer even worse[4].
    The escalating cost of cancer treatment in corporate hospitals have made the treatment a night mare for common...

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  • A chicken and egg conundrum

    This paper is a welcome addition to attempts to explain the effects of the increased deaths in 2015 and beyond. Based on a 25-year career in NHS analysis and demand forecasting may I point out that these recurring periods of higher deaths and medical admissions are always accompanied by higher delayed discharges. Observations such as the association between delayed discharges and deaths/medical admissions have, unfortunately, never been published, however, the curious association between increased deaths and medical admissions has been published. Rather than cite over 100 studies the reader is advised to go to a list of publications at http://www.hcaf.biz/2010/Publications_Full.pdf where multiple aspects of cause and effect and possible causes have been explored.

    Time lags are evident, with unexplained increased deaths always lagging unexplained increased emergency admissions, and lags between males and females evident in very small area geographies. Admissions for particular diagnoses rise while others fall during these curious events. Casemix severity may well be affected.

    While it is clear that austerity has only exacerbated the impact of the current event on delayed discharges, as noted by the authors, I would be reluctant to say which trends are cause and effect, and which trends arise from association rather than causation.

    The clear message is that far more research is required by both...

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  • Do cardiometabolic, behavioural and socioeconomic factors explain the ‘healthy migrant effect’ in the UK? Linked mortality follow-up of South Asians compared with white Europeans in the Newcastle Heart Project

    We thank Timaeus and Scott for drawing readers' attention to our interpretation(1) of their data which differs from their own(2) (rapid response 28/7/2017). We are glad to explain our thinking especially as the issues go beyond their data and to the concepts and the UK quantitative evidence. We agree that in their paper after adjustment for three socio-economic and an area of residence variables the mortality rate ratios are lower in South Asian groups than in the White group.(2) The explanation for our different interpretation is that we placed emphasis on their model adjusting mortality for age, sex and period while they emphasised the results of models further adjusting for socio-economic status and residence.(2)

    Generally the ‘healthy migrant effect’ is considered as unexpected and hence a paradox because immigrant populations sometimes have better health, most usually mortality, despite their socio-economic and other disadvantages.(3, 4) It is not generally understood as an effect that arises after adjustments for socio-economic and other related factors. In Timaeus and Scott’s model 1 the rate ratios for Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations born abroad and participating in the Longitudinal Study in England and Wales are shown in their table 5 and were 0.91, 0.95 and 1.01 with the 95% confidence intervals all including the reference value of 1. In model 1, the point estimates of the rate ratios for the same ethnic groups born in the UK were simil...

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  • Effects of inflicted or accidental pediatric head trauma on later criminality.

    To the Editor:
    Jackson et al (1) demonstrate that head injuries sustained from 0 to 7 years predict higher rates of arrest and conduct problems in young adults. We would like to highlight however, that their findings suggest that head injury of a certain type is specifically linked to juvenile offence.
    A careful examination of their work reveals a trend towards very early occurrence of head trauma that results in serious brain damage. The severity and age distribution of their dataset do not match those reported on overall (i.e. accidental and not accidental) pediatric head trauma. The British national enquiry (2) on overall pediatric head injury reports that 19% of injured children were younger than a year and that 21% of them had a Glasgow score below 15. Conversely, Jackson et al (1) show that 31% of head traumas occurred in the first year of life and that 38% of them resulted in loss of consciousness. An abundance of literature shows that, compared to children with accidental head trauma, abused children are more often < 1 year of age and hospitalized longer (3). Serious pediatric head injury in very young children is caused by inflicted trauma in a substantial number of cases. Brain hemorrhages are also markedly more common in abusive head injuries; this complication has been reported in 8-10% of children in the accident group (4), meanwhile Jackson et al (1) report the same in 18% of their subjects. Taken together, these data point at a large number...

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  • Absolute Risk Difference is what matters

    This paper makes a number of claims about health in the North relative to the South of England using comparisons of relatively low death rates. When the denominator in such calculations is a very low rate of death, the size of the difference can appear large. However, if we compare the absolute risk of dying, it is relatively close in the North and South and if we were to divide the rate of survival in the South by the rate of survival in the North each year, we would have a very small comparative statistic.

    Abstracts and conclusions can easily be taken out of context and authors of papers like this one should be careful to present appropriate information. For example, the conclusion "...1.2 million northern excess deaths under age 75 over five decades.." implies very high potential death rates, a million! But this figure is presented with no population and reflects experience over 50 years. If we divide by 50, we get 24,000 deaths a year. A further weakness is that no measure of population is provided to put this total number of deaths in context. Using a plausible estimate of 20 million, for example, implies excess deaths at a rate of about 1.2 per 1,000 people. I wonder how many residents of the North are planning to migrate South today to reduce their risk of an early death by just over 1 in 1,000. Yes we should be concerned about all differences in health across regions and social groups but by inflating them with misleading divisions of one small num...

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