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Research evaluates public health response to Covid-19 in five countries


Fiocruz Pernambuco


An international project, of which Fiocruz Pernambuco is part, is evaluating public health response to Covid-19 in Brazil, Canada, China, France, and Mali. Researchers will compare data obtained in the five countries, to identify the strong and weak points of the measures adopted, including the challenges faced by health professionals and health systems. The goal is to gather the lessons learned, based on strict interdisciplinary researches, and make them available for use in decision-making in the health sector.

To achieve this goal, an extensive revision of documents and detailed interviews were made with managers and professionals of the public health system, both nationally and subnationally. In the state of Pernambuco, the focus of the investigation is concentrated at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital, but managers of the municipal Health Secretaries of Jaboatão dos Guararapes and Caruaru and the State Health Secretary of Pernambuco (SES/PE) will also be heard. The team involved in the project consists of researchers of Fiocruz Pernambuco and of the University of Pernambuco (UPE), as well as students related to both institutions: two doctorate students (professional and academic), three master’s degree students of Public Health, and two residents of the Multiprofessional Residency Program of Collective Health, in addition to a post-doctorate student.

Organized in four axes, the research will initially observe how the health system of each country has organized itself when faced with the pandemic. Researcher of Fiocruz Pernambuco and coordinator of the study in Brazil, Sydia Oliveira explains that starting with observation and with the comparative analysis of data it will be possible to develop and share strategies to better adapt the design of interventions in health to different contexts and vulnerabilities. She considers that there are many challenges for the implementation of rapid control measures for public health. “However, interventions must be adapted to the specific contexts of communities and their members”, highlights Oliveira. 

The investigation also intends to learn how hospitals and professionals have faced the crisis. Since very early on, when they were put in the center of the response to  Covid-19, public hospitals all over the world faced strong financial, material, and human restrictions. “It is essential to understand how these levels of health systems were impacted and how to find resources to deal with the health crisis”, explains the coordinator. “Our surveys will make it possible to provide analysis of the adaptation strategies of health professionals and on the resilience of hospitals in each health system. Above all, we would like to share useful operational lessons for healthcare workers themselves”. 

Another question of the survey is what science presents regarding the resilience of the system, hospitals, and professionals. The goal is to provide pathways for reflection, based on the current state of scientific knowledge, to allow for a better comprehension of certain issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering this unprecedented crisis and the amount of information available and published daily on Covid-19, the scientists that make up this research group emphasize the need to mobilize to make this new scientific knowledge produced available to the largest possible number of people. 

Finally, the fourth axis of the study analyzes the lessons that can be learned from this experience and how to transfer them to other situations. There is a countless number of ongoing projects now trying to identify the best ways to deal with this new “invisible enemy”. In addition to this profusion of essential projects, opinions of specialists are mixed up with fake news and disinformation, generating an incredible amount of information, sometimes contradictory. “Our results will help determine a transparent, rigorous method to obtain quality lessons from the project in all five countries. The transference activities will allow countries to benefit from the others’ experiences, but also to prepare for a possible new pandemic”, adds Oliveira. From this perspective, in March or April next year a workshop will be held to share the results of the research and to formulate public policies, starting with the analysis carried out by the different research groups involved in the project.

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