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Benmarhnia, T, Delpla I, Schwarz L, Rodriguez MJ, Levallois P.  2018.  Heterogeneity in the relationship between disinfection by-products in drinking water and cancer: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 15   10.3390/ijerph15050979   AbstractWebsite

The epidemiological evidence demonstrating the effect of disinfection by-products (DBPs) from drinking water on colon and rectal cancers is well documented. However, no systematic assessment has been conducted to assess the potential effect measure modification (EMM) in the relationship between DBPs and cancer. The objective of this paper is to conduct a systematic literature review to determine the extent to which EMM has been assessed in the relationship between DBPs in drinking water in past epidemiological studies. Selected articles (n = 19) were reviewed, and effect estimates and covariates that could have been used in an EMM assessment were gathered. Approximately half of the studies assess EMM (n = 10), but the majority of studies only estimate it relative to sex subgroups (n = 6 for bladder cancer and n = 2 both for rectal and colon cancers). Although EMM is rarely assessed, several variables that could have a potential modification effect are routinely collected in these studies, such as socioeconomic status or age. The role of environmental exposures through drinking water can play an important role and contribute to cancer disparities. We encourage a systematic use of subgroup analysis to understand which populations or territories are more vulnerable to the health impacts of DBPs.

Benmarhnia, T, Alexander S, Price K, Smargiassi A, King N, Kaufman JS.  2018.  The heterogeneity of vulnerability in public health: a heat wave action plan as a case study. Critical Public Health. 28:619-625.   10.1080/09581596.2017.1322176   AbstractWebsite

The concept of vulnerability is frequently used in public health policies to develop tailored interventions or dedicate proportionately more resources to certain sub-populations. However, once segments of the population are identified as vulnerable, they are rarely consulted regarding whether this label is acceptable before instituting interventions. Instead, it is implicitly assumed that the targeted individuals identify themselves as vulnerable and experience an unambiguous and consistent need for public health assistance. In this paper, using public health interventions during heat waves as a case study, we question such assumptions. A qualitative study was conducted in Montreal, Canada involving two focus groups among populations specifically targeted by the heat action plan as vulnerable: one composed of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, and one composed of individuals who have alcohol or drug addictions. Findings revealed significant heterogeneity in the definition and experience of vulnerability as it is used in the context of a heat action plan in Montreal. We found differences between the two focus groups in several areas including sources of information they had access to within the heat action plan measures and their perspectives regarding the appropriateness of specific measures in the heat action plan. We then observed differences within each of the focus groups in several areas including their social networks relationships. The concept of vulnerability is often used in public health policies. Yet, while this concept may be convenient for shaping policies to reduce inequalities in health, the heterogeneity of populations defined as vulnerable should not be underestimated.

Benmarhnia, T, Dionna PA, Tchouaket E, Fansi A, Brousselle A.  In Press.  How effective does a Healthy Lifestyle Habits Promotion Strategy need to be to make it cost-neutral. IJPH.
Chyderiotis, S, Beck F, Andler R, Hitchman SC, Benmarhnia T.  2019.  How to reduce biases coming from a before and after design: the impact of the 2007-08 French smoking ban policy. European Journal of Public Health. 29:372-377.   10.1093/eurpub/cky160   AbstractWebsite

Background: Smoke-free laws aim at protecting against second-hand smoke and at contributing to change smoking behaviors. Impact evaluation studies can help understand to what extent they reach their goals. Simple before and after designs are often used but cannot isolate the effect of the policy of interest. Methods: The short-term impact of the French smoking ban (2007-08) on smoking behavior outcomes was evaluated among smokers with data from the ITC project. We first conducted a before and after design on the French sample. Second, we added the UK (excluding Scotland) as a control group and finally used external pre-policy data from national surveys to control for bias arising from pre-policy trends. Results: After one year post-implementation, the smoking ban led to a decrease in seeing people smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces [estimated risk ratios (RR) of 8.81 IC95% (5.34-14.71), 2.02 (1.79-2.31) and 1.24 (1.16-1.33), respectively], as well as an increase in support for the smoke-free policy, but only in bars and restaurants [RR of 1.35 (1.15-1.61) and 1.25 (1.16-1.35)], respectively. No impact was found on smoking behaviors and on having a strict no smoking policy at home. The simple before and after design systematically overestimated the smoking ban's impact [e.g. RR of 29.9 (20.06-44.56) for observed smoking in bar, compared to 13.21 (7.78-22.42) with the control group, and 8.81 (5.34-14.71) with the correction from external data]. Conclusion: When data are lacking to conduct quasi-experimental designs for impact evaluation, the use of external data could help understand and correct pre-policy trends.