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Adverse pregnancy outcomes including prematurity and low birth weight (LBW) have been associated with life-long chronic disease risk for the infant. Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Many studies have reported the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Indigenous populations and a smaller number of studies have measured rates of stress and depression in these populations. This study sought to examine the potential association between stress during pregnancy and the rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Australian Indigenous women residing in rural and remote communities in New South Wales. This study found a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy than the general population. There was also a higher incidence of prematurity and LBW deliveries. Unfortunately, missing post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptomatology data impeded the examination of associations of interest. This was largely due to the highly sensitive nature of the issues under investigation, and the need to ensure adequate levels of trust between Indigenous women and research staff before disclosure and recording of sensitive research data. We were unable to demonstrate a significant association between the level of stress and the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes at this stage. We recommend this longitudinal study continue until complete data sets are available. Future research in this area should ensure prioritization of building trust in participants and overestimating sample size to ensure no undue pressure is placed upon an already stressed participant.
Does attentiveness matter in survey responses? Do more attentive survey participants give higher quality responses? Using data from a recent online survey that identified inattentive respondents using instructed-response items, we demonstrate that ignoring attentiveness provides a biased portrait of the distribution of critical political attitudes and behavior. We show that this bias occurs in the context of both typical closed-ended questions and in list experiments. Inattentive respondents are common and are more prevalent among the young and less educated. Those who do not pass the trap questions interact with the survey instrument in distinctive ways: they take less time to respond; are more likely to report nonattitudes; and display lower consistency in their reported choices. Inattentiveness does not occur completely at random and failing to properly account for it may lead to inaccurate estimates of the prevalence of key political attitudes and behaviors, of both sensitive and more prosaic nature.
Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita is a parasitic nematode of terrestrial gastropods that has been formulated into a biological control agent for farmers and gardeners to kill slugs and snails. In order to locate slugs it is attracted to mucus, faeces and volatile cues; however, there is no information about whether these nematodes are attracted to snail cues. It is also unknown how wild isolates of P. hermaphrodita or different Phasmarhabditis species behave when exposed to gastropod cues. Therefore, we investigated whether P. hermaphrodita (commercial and wild isolated strains), P. neopapillosa and P. californica were attracted to mucus from several common snail species (Cepaea nemoralis, Cepaea hortensis, Arianta arbustorum and Cornu aspersum). We also examined whether snails (C. aspersum) collected from different locations around the UK differed in their attractiveness to wild isolates of P. hermaphrodita. Furthermore, we also investigated what properties of snail mucus the nematodes were attracted to, including hyaluronic acid and metal salts (FeSO4, ZnSO4, CuSO4 and MgSO4). We found that the commercial strain of P. hermaphrodita responded poorly to snail mucus compared to wild isolated strains, and C. aspersum collected from different parts of the UK differed in their attractiveness to the nematodes. We found that Phasmarhabditis nematodes were weakly attracted to all metals tested but were strongly attracted to hyaluronic acid. In a final experiment we also showed that pharmacological manipulation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) increased chemoattraction to snail mucus, suggesting that the protein kinase EGL-4 may be responsible for Phasmarhabditis sp. chemoattraction.
To assess whether pre-operative assessment with a bone conduction hearing device on a softband is an accurate predictor of performance with one of two transcutaneous hearing implants.
Cohort study comparing pre-and post-operative speech audiometry using correlation analysis.
Pre-operative pure tone audiometry and aided half optimum speech recognition thresholds were compared with post-operative aided results for each ear that had undergone implantation. Data were collected prospectively.
Full data were available in 24 ears. In 19 out of 24 ears (79 per cent), the difference between pre- and post-operative speech scores was less than 10 dB, demonstrating a good clinical correlation. The Pearson correlation coefficient was calculated at 0.66 (95 per cent confidence interval = 0.357–0.842), indicating a strong statistical correlation.
Pre-operative softband testing shows good clinical correlation and strong statistical correlation with hearing implant performance. The findings suggest there is value in using the test to predict performance and guide patients’ expectations.
Childhood obesity rates are higher among Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous Australian children. It has been hypothesized that early-life influences beginning with the intrauterine environment predict the development of obesity in the offspring. The aim of this paper was to assess, in 227 mother–child dyads from the Gomeroi gaaynggal cohort, associations between prematurity, Gestation Related-Optimal Weight (GROW) centiles, maternal adiposity (percentage body fat, visceral fat area), maternal non-fasting plasma glucose levels (measured at mean gestational age of 23.1 weeks) and offspring BMI and adiposity (abdominal circumference, subscapular skinfold thickness) in early childhood (mean age 23.4 months). Maternal non-fasting plasma glucose concentrations were positively associated with infant birth weight (P=0.005) and GROW customized birth weight centiles (P=0.008). There was a significant association between maternal percentage body fat (P=0.02) and visceral fat area (P=0.00) with infant body weight in early childhood. Body mass index (BMI) in early childhood was significantly higher in offspring born preterm compared with those born at term (P=0.03). GROW customized birth weight centiles was significantly associated with body weight (P=0.01), BMI (P=0.007) and abdominal circumference (P=0.039) at early childhood. Our findings suggest that being born preterm, large for gestational age or exposed to an obesogenic intrauterine environment and higher maternal non-fasting plasma glucose concentrations are associated with increased obesity risk in early childhood. Future strategies should aim to reduce the prevalence of overweight/obesity in women of child-bearing age and emphasize the importance of optimal glycemia during pregnancy, particularly in Indigenous women.
The genetic mechanisms of how free-living nematodes evolved into parasites are unknown. Current genetic model nematodes (e.g. Caenorhabditis elegans) are not well suited to provide the answer, and mammalian parasites are expensive and logistically difficult to maintain. Here we propose the terrestrial gastropod parasite Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita as a new alternative to study the evolution of parasitism, and outline the methodology of how to keep P. hermaphrodita in the lab for genetic experiments. We show that P. hermaphrodita (and several other Phasmarhabditis species) are easy to isolate and identify from slugs and snails from around the UK. We outline how to make isogenic lines using ‘semi-natural’ conditions to reduce in-lab evolution, and how to optimize growth using nematode growth media (NGM) agar and naturally isolated bacteria. We show that P. hermaphrodita is amenable to forward genetics and that unc and sma mutants can be generated using formaldehyde mutagenesis. We also detail the procedures needed to carry out genetic crosses. Furthermore, we show natural variation within our Phasmarhabditis collection, with isolates displaying differences in survival when exposed to high temperatures and pH, which facilitates micro and macro evolutionary studies. In summary, we believe that this genetically amenable parasite that shares many attributes with C. elegans as well as being in Clade 5, which contains many animal, plant and arthropod parasites, could be an excellent model to understand the genetic basis of parasitism in the Nematoda.
Solvency II is currently one of the most sophisticated insurance regulatory regimes in the world. It is built around the principles of market consistency and embedding strong risk management and governance within insurance companies. For business with long-term guarantees, the original basis produced outcomes that were unacceptable to the member states. The original design was amended through Omnibus II. The working party has looked back at the outcome of the final regulation and comments on how well Solvency II has fared, principally from a UK perspective, relative to its initial goals of improved consumer protection, harmonisation, effective risk management and financial stability. We review Pillar 1’s market consistent valuation (including the risk margin and transitional measures) as well as the capital requirements (including internal models). We look at the impact this has on asset and liability management, pro-cyclicality and product design. We look at Pillars 2 and 3 in respect of the Own Risk and Solvency Assessment, liquidity and disclosure. Finally, we stand back and look at harmonisation and the implications of Brexit. In summary we conclude that Solvency II represents a huge improvement over Solvency I although it has not fully achieved the goals it aspired to. There are acknowledged shortfalls and imperfections where adjustments to Solvency II are likely. There remain other concerns around pro-cyclicality, and the appropriateness of market consistency is still open to criticism. It is hoped that the paper and the discussion that goes with it provide an insight into where Solvency II has taken European Insurance regulation and the directions in which it could evolve.
Indigenous Australians continue to experience disparities in chronic diseases, many of which have nutrition-related trajectories. Optimal nutrition throughout the lifespan is protective for a number of adverse health outcomes, however little is known about current dietary intakes and related anthropometric outcomes of Indigenous women and their infants. Research is required to identify nutrition issues to target for health promotion activities. The Gomeroi gaaynggal programme is an ongoing, prospective cohort of pregnant Indigenous Australian women and their children. A cross-sectional examination of postnatal dietary intakes and anthropometric outcomes of mothers and children are reported. To date, 73 mother–child dyads have participated postpartum. Breastfeeding initiation was 85.9% and median (interquartile range) duration of any breastfeeding was 1.4 (0.5–4.0) months. Infants were introduced to solid foods at 5.0 months (4.0–6.0) and cow’s milk at 12.0 (10.0–13.0) months. At 12 months postpartum, 66.7% of women were overweight or obese, 63.7% at 2 years. Compared with recommendations, reported median maternal nutrient intakes from 24-h recall were low in fibre, folate, iodine, calcium, potassium and vitamin D and high in proportions of energy from total and saturated fat. Limitations of this study include a small sample size and incomplete data for the cohort at each time point. Preliminary data from this ongoing cohort of Indigenous Australian women and children suggest that women may need support to optimize nutrient intakes and to attain a healthy body weight for themselves and their children.
Indigenous Australians have high rates of chronic diseases, the causes of which are complex and include social and environmental determinants. Early experiences in utero may also predispose to later-life disease development. The Gomeroi gaaynggal study was established to explore intrauterine origins of renal disease, diabetes and growth in order to inform the development of health programmes for Indigenous Australian women and children. Pregnant women are recruited from antenatal clinics in Tamworth, Newcastle and Walgett, New South Wales, Australia, by Indigenous research assistants. Measures are collected at three time points in pregnancy and from women and their children at up to eight time points in the child’s first 5 years. Measures of fetal renal development and function include ultrasound and biochemical biomarkers. Dietary intake, infant feeding and anthropometric measurements are collected. Standardized procedures and validated tools are used where available. Since 2010 the study has recruited over 230 women, and retained 66 postpartum. Recruitment is ongoing, and Gomeroi gaaynggal is currently the largest Indigenous pregnancy-through-early-childhood cohort internationally. Baseline median gestational age was 39.1 weeks (31.5–43.2, n=110), median birth weight was 3180 g (910–5430 g, n=110). Over one third (39.3%) of infants were admitted to special care or neonatal nursery. Nearly half of mothers (47.5%) reported tobacco smoking during pregnancy. Results of the study will contribute to knowledge about origins of chronic disease in Indigenous Australians and nutrition and growth of women and their offspring during pregnancy and postpartum. Study strengths include employment and capacity-building of Indigenous staff and the complementary ArtsHealth programme.
The synthesis and texturization processes of fluorinated surfaces by means of atmospheric plasma are investigated and presented through an integrated study of both the plasma phase and the resulting material surface. Three methods enhancing the surface hydrophobicity up to the production of super-hydrophobic surfaces are evaluated: (i) the modification of a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) surface, (ii) the plasma deposition of fluorinated coatings and (iii) the incorporation of nanoparticles into those fluorinated films. In all the approaches, the nature of the plasma gas appears to be a crucial parameter for the desired property. Although a higher etching of the PTFE surface can be obtained with a pure helium plasma, the texturization can only be created if O2 is added to the plasma, which simultaneously decreases the total etching. The deposition of CxFy films by a dielectric barrier discharge leads to hydrophobic coatings with water contact angles (WCAs) of 115°, but only the filamentary argon discharge induces higher WCAs. Finally, nanoparticles were deposited under the fluorinated layer to increase the surface roughness and therefore produce super-hydrophobic hybrid coatings characterized by the nonadherence of the water droplet at the surface.
Available evidence on the bioactive, nutritional and putative detrimental properties of gut microbial metabolites has been evaluated to support a more integrated view of how prebiotics might affect host health throughout life. The present literature inventory targeted evidence for the physiological and nutritional effects of metabolites, for example, SCFA, the potential toxicity of other metabolites and attempted to determine normal concentration ranges. Furthermore, the biological relevance of more holistic approaches like faecal water toxicity assays and metabolomics and the limitations of faecal measurements were addressed. Existing literature indicates that protein fermentation metabolites (phenol, p-cresol, indole, ammonia), typically considered as potentially harmful, occur at concentration ranges in the colon such that no toxic effects are expected either locally or following systemic absorption. The endproducts of saccharolytic fermentation, SCFA, may have effects on colonic health, host physiology, immunity, lipid and protein metabolism and appetite control. However, measuring SCFA concentrations in faeces is insufficient to assess the dynamic processes of their nutrikinetics. Existing literature on the usefulness of faecal water toxicity measures as indicators of cancer risk seems limited. In conclusion, at present there is insufficient evidence to use changes in faecal bacterial metabolite concentrations as markers of prebiotic effectiveness. Integration of results from metabolomics and metagenomics holds promise for understanding the health implications of prebiotic microbiome modulation but adequate tools for data integration and interpretation are currently lacking. Similarly, studies measuring metabolite fluxes in different body compartments to provide a more accurate picture of their nutrikinetics are needed.
Most crop models make use of a nutrient-balance approach for modelling crop response to soil fertility. To counter the vast input data requirements that are typical of these models, the crop water productivity model AquaCrop adopts a semi-quantitative approach. Instead of providing nutrient levels, users of the model provide the soil fertility level as a model input. This level is expressed in terms of the expected impact on crop biomass production, which can be observed in the field or obtained from statistics of agricultural production. The present study is the first to describe extensively, and to calibrate and evaluate, the semi-quantitative approach of the AquaCrop model, which simulates the effect of soil fertility stress on crop production as a combination of slower canopy expansion, reduced maximum canopy cover, early decline in canopy cover and lower biomass water productivity. AquaCrop's fertility response algorithms are evaluated here against field experiments with tef (Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter) in Ethiopia, with maize (Zea mays L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in Nepal, and with quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in Bolivia. It is demonstrated that AquaCrop is able to simulate the soil water content in the root zone, and the crop's canopy development, dry above-ground biomass development, final biomass and grain yield, under different soil fertility levels, for all four crops. Under combined soil water stress and soil fertility stress, the model predicts final grain yield with a relative root-mean-square error of only 11–13% for maize, wheat and quinoa, and 34% for tef. The present study shows that the semi-quantitative soil fertility approach of the AquaCrop model performs well and that the model can be applied, after case-specific calibration, to the simulation of crop production under different levels of soil fertility stress for various environmental conditions, without requiring detailed field observations on soil nutrient content.
We examine the quality of two probability-based polls, one interviewer administered (telephone) and one self-administered (Internet and mail mixed mode survey). The polls use the same sampling frame (registered voters) and the same questions. First, we examine the representativeness of both surveys using information known about the population, and although we find important differences between the two in terms of sampling and nonresponse bias, we also find that both surveys represent the underlying population despite low response rates. We also test for mode effects between surveys due to social desirability and how it influences nondifferentiation or satisficing. Using a variety of methods (t-tests, multivariate regression, and genetic propensity matching), we find evidence that the presence of an interviewer alters response patterns on ego-driven questions. The implications of our work are important, due to the increasing popularity of mixed mode surveys. Researchers need to be methodologically sensitive to these differences when analyzing surveys that allow for different response modes.
Over the last decade the survey environment has been rapidly changing, creating new opportunities and new challenges for survey methodologists. These include: relatively low response among all contact modes and designs; the rapid replacement of landline telephones for mobile and smart phones; the integration of new and different types of data for sampling and new sampling methods; the use of different survey interview modes; how to study behaviors and opinions about sensitive topics; and the development of survey designs for experts and opinion leaders. All have implications for data quality and for our ability to consistently and reliably answer substantive and theoretical questions about politics and society.
The first question that arose in the immediate aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, when we started to study the performance of election processes in the United States, was a simple one: what data were readily available that could be used to assess the problems seen in the election, especially in Florida? That question led those of us who were involved in the early stages of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project (VTP) to focus on the measure called the residual vote – a measure that we now see as a vital and readily available gauge of the accuracy and reliability of voting technologies.
However, as we discussed in the first two chapters of this book, there are other readily available sources of election performance data that election officials routinely collect but typically do not employ in a broader and more comprehensive performance-based management and evaluation process. These data form the basis for developing a set of indicators that can be used to assess the performance of elections in a given jurisdiction and the backbone for a performance-based management system that can be used to engage in ongoing quality improvements of the electoral process.
There are a common set of questions journalists, election administrators, and candidates sometimes ask about the administration of elections in the United States and internationally. A reporter from a local newspaper will ask whether recent elections in the area were run well. During an interview with a national media outlet, one of us will be asked, in our roles as academics who study election administration, to opine about whether some state has recently done a good job administering a presidential, primary, or other federal, state, or local election. More broadly, we have been asked by journalists from other countries to evaluate how well elections across the United States have been run since the 2000 presidential election.
Although these questions may seem simple, they are inherently difficult and complicated because (1) election administration involves a complex set of procedures, (2) there are many possible aspects of an election to consider to determine if it was “run well,” and (3) currently there is no accepted framework to assess the general quality of an election. More troubling, the question is focused solely on making a snap judgment about a given election – without taking the context of the election or the jurisdiction into account – and is not concerned with improving election management.
It has been more than a decade since the events in the 2000 presidential election, especially in Florida, focused attention on voting technologies and election administration in the United States. During that time, researchers have made great strides working to understand what works, and what does not, in how elections are run in the United States and across the world. It is easy to forget that in the aftermath of the 2000 election, the book on election administration that was most current was a text written by Joseph Harris in 1934. Political scientists had clearly studied issues such as the effects of voter registration on turnout and residual votes (ballot roll-off in down ballot races), but the idea of studying elections for the purpose of improving the mechanics of our democracy and improving administration and implementation was not something on which many people were focused.
Over the past decade, researchers have generated many reports, articles, and books on election administration and voting technology. However, although much of this research has been quite valuable, it has not been accompanied by the development of a set of tools that can easily be applied to evaluate the performance of or effectiveness of election administration, either in a particular area (e.g., voter registration) or across the entirety of an election. This book has discussed a variety of evaluative tools, applied them to different electoral contexts, and discussed different examples of how these tools can be used to effectively gauge whether elections are well run in a particular place.
In today's business world, measurement of the quality of the consumer's experience is essential. Businesses, especially those in areas like retail, spend untold sums of money researching what their consumers want, how they enjoy their shopping experiences, and what new products and services they may want. Think about all the times you have made an online purchase of a product or service and, at the end, you get a request to complete a short survey. In today's busy marketplace, where individuals have many potential outlets for their purchases, corporations are always studying what they can do to make each transaction better.
Although such consumer-oriented research is ubiquitous in the private sector, such tools have not been largely adopted by government entities. This is particularly true for election administrators, who rarely try to obtain systematic feedback from those who are the primary consumers of their services: voters. The other key stakeholders of the services of election officials include candidates running for office, political parties, and voter advocacy groups. Because these groups are generally well-organized, formal entities, they often have structured methods of providing feedback to election officials about the quality of the election-related services they received and the performance of their administrative practices.