Javier Abi-Saab (Fiocruz News Agency)
Establishing a dialog between scientific development and social development was one of the proposals presented by Fiocruz’s president, Nísia Trindade Lima, in the event What Needs to be Done?: Biomedical and Public Health Research in Brazil and the US Post-COVID, promoted by Yale University. The president emphasized the social nature of the pandemic and the need to consider the organization of social protection as a fundamental axis for post-COVID-19 recovery.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is showing a high scientific response, but it reveals a deep inequality among countries, and within countries, in the access to the benefits arising from science and technology”, indicated Nísia, highlighting inequality as a focal point to be reversed. “Social determinants show all their strength at this moment, as much in the genesis of the pandemic as in its effects”, she stated.
Aimed at proposing for a research agenda, she claimed as fundamental to measure the impacts of the pandemic related to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in the generation of new inequalities and extreme poverty. She also emphasized the five core pillars for post-COVID-19 recovery: health systems, social protection, economic response, macroeconomic policies (among which is the scientific development policy), and social cohesion. “In a reconstruction process, these pillars are vital, as well as a multidisciplinary approach that shall also be needed”, said Nísia, highlighting that a response to the crisis should be aligned with sustainable development and take into account both environmental and demographic challenges.
In addition to Fiocruz’s president, the event had the participation of the coordinator of Fiocruz Global Health Center (Cris/Fiocruz), Paulo Buss; the director of the Biomedical Sciences Institute at the University of São Paulo (USP), Luis Carlos Ferreira; and the director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Yale, Saad Omer.
The coordinator of Cris/Fiocruz had its intervention focused on the essential functions and services for public health that should be monitored and sought to be improved across the entire health system. Such functions include the assessment and monitoring of the population’s health, effective communication, creation of policies, and the establishment and maintenance of a workforce and health infrastructure, among others. For the researcher, the inequities towards access and focus on a curative approach are the scenario that should be reversed.
Buss emphasized the importance of “identifying the weaknesses and strengths of health systems, considering their essential functions”. For such, a joint study is needed between the academy and health managers, in order to define research needs. Lastly, Buss mentioned that the challenges also imply the development of innovations for surveillance systems, including genomic surveillance.
The director of the Biomedical Sciences Institute at USP, Luis Carlos Ferreira, highlighted the need for a joint work between the universities and other players in the society, as well as among themselves. Ferreira emphasized that the pandemic is showing the importance for research centers to work closely with companies, such as those producing vaccines. This makes it easier for knowledge to be translated in a fluid, efficient manner from the academy to the market, and vice-versa.
Closing the group of lecturers, Saad Omer highlighted that the biggest failures of the pandemic were not related to the scientific area, but rather to governance in health. “We’ve had many scientific tools, including newly-developed ones. But the need for a well-guided governance in terms of public health, that could make decisions grounded on science, became clear”. Omer also reminded that the institutions that managed to think on networks were more successful, while those that attempted to work by themselves failed. In this sense, team science acquired a new relevance. Lastly, the professor mentioned the service mission of universities and research institutions. For him, it is the duty of such institutions “to keep the memories of lessons learned alive and focus by means of intellectual efforts”.