Research related to spirituality and health has developed from relative obscurity to a thriving field of study over the last 20 years both within palliative care and within health care in general. This paper provides a descriptive review of the literature related to spirituality and health, with a special focus on spirituality within palliative and end-of-life care. CINAHL and MEDLINE were searched under the keywords "spirituality" and "palliative." The review revealed five overarching themes in the general spirituality and health literature: (1) conceptual difficulties related to the term spirituality and proposed solutions; (2) the relationship between spirituality and religion; (3) the effects of spirituality on health; (4) the subjects enrolled in spirituality-related research; and (5) the provision of spiritual care. While the spirituality literature within palliative care shared these overarching characteristics of the broader spirituality and health literature, six specific thematic areas transpired: (1) general discussions of spirituality in palliative care; (2) the spiritual needs of palliative care patients; (3) the nature of hope in palliative care; (4) tools and therapies related to spirituality; (5) effects of religion in palliative care; and (6) spirituality and palliative care professionals. The literature as it relates to these themes is summarized in this review. Spirituality is emerging largely as a concept void of religion, an instrument to be utilized in improving or maintaining health and quality of life, and focussed predominantly on the "self" largely in the form of the patient. While representing an important beginning, the authors suggest that a more integral approach needs to be developed that elicits the experiential nature of spirituality that is shared by patients, family members, and health care professionals alike.
OBJECTIVES: We evaluated the effectiveness of a program that includes routine opt-out prenatal HIV screening, combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), and a multidisciplinary team in preventing perinatal HIV transmission. METHODS: A retrospective analysis was performed on HIV-infected pregnant women in northern Alberta, Canada, who delivered between January 1, 1999, and February 28, 2006. RESULTS: Ninety-eight women had 113 deliveries. Forty-three percent were diagnosed with HIV infection through prenatal screening. Approximately 60% of HIV-infected pregnant women were Aboriginal, with 45% reporting alcohol use and 42% illicit drug use during pregnancy. The use of combination ART during pregnancy increased throughout the study period; 89% or more received combination ART from 2004 through 2006. Only 1 of the 111 infants (0.9%) was confirmed to be HIV infected, and that infant was born to a woman with no prenatal care. CONCLUSIONS: High rates of HIV testing using an opt-out approach, combined with efforts by a multidisciplinary team, resulted in a low rate of perinatal HIV transmission in our cohort. The added value of retesting high-risk women late in pregnancy or with rapid HIV tests at the time of delivery should be explored.
Comment in: American Journal of Public Health. 2010 Mar;100(3):388-389; author reply 389.