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Workshop gathers leaders from Latin America to discuss research investment in infectious diseases


Luisa Picanço (VPEIC/Fiocruz)


Fiocruz participated in and supported a meeting called "Microbial Reservoirs and Transmission Dynamics of Escalating Infectious Diseases Workshop" from Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation. The workshop took place in Rio de Janeiro on June 16th, as part of a series of workshops exploring research investment priorities in infectious diseases. The event, co-organized by The Global Health Network (TGHN), was focused on challenges faced by Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries and convened researchers from Fiocruz and the region.  

Part of the group visited the Fiocruz Moorish Castle (photo: Peter Ilicciev)

The Vice President of Education, Information and Communication at Fiocruz, Cristiani Machado, participated in opening the meeting. Fiocruz maintains projects with TGHN and Wellcome to develop regional actions to strengthen health research, especially in infectious diseases. “This event is related to Fiocruz's insertion in The Global Health Network, particularly in strengthening this cooperative network in research within Latin America, focused on the great health challenges in our region” explained Machado.  

Survey and Workshop to understand research investment priorities  

According to TGHN, the workshop was a component in a study to determine views from across the globe on microbial reservoirs and transmission dynamics of escalating infectious diseases. It followed a validated method. The analysis applied an adapted approach underpinned by the Delphi (crowd consensus) approach, divided into three steps. Step one, production and distribution of a survey. Step two, selecting some of the survey’s participants, and step three, launching a regional workshop like the one in Rio.  

Cristiani Machado and Marcia Chammer (center) participated in the meeting (photo: Luisa Picanço) 

The survey was distributed via Wellcome and TGHN networks and communication channels in four different languages (English, Spanish, French and Portuguese) for three weeks in March 2023. It received over 3700 specialists’ answers worldwide.

Some of the results were presented by the coordinator of Projects and Research at TGHN, Ryan Walker, responsible for the survey. Among the findings, was a global list of disease priorities in quantitative results: tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, Dengue, COVID-19, Cholera, AMR, Viral Hepatitis, Respiratory infections, and Ebola/Influenza. The approach, though, should follow a more comprehensive one, taking into consideration social, economic, and environmental aspects which cause those illnesses.  

LAC regionals findings in survey  

In Latin America and Caribe, more than 30 countries or territories were represented, with over a thousand answers. The Top 10 were Brazil, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and Guatemala. To support TGHN and Wellcome understanding of the regional landscape, Fiocruz was one of the networks that disseminated the survey to its researchers and other health professionals.  

The workshop represents an opportunity for both in-person and online participants to discuss, establish connections and scrutinize the survey results. Ryan Walker believes the meeting brought important contributions to the establishment of investment priorities. “I would say the survey was a very good exercise in prioritization, but regional meetings like this are our opportunity to hear from people involved and affected by these areas of research and these challenges every day,” commented Walker.  

Communication in the healthcare field  

According to the coordinator of the Institutional Platform for Biodiversity and Wild Health at Fiocruz, that also joined as a member of the scientific committee of the workshop, Márcia Chame, among the suggestions made during the event, communication was a key aspect. “Our problem is prevention, not letting a disease happen. How do we make people understand the health education control processes? With adequate communication to the different groups." For the researcher, specialists often tend to oversimplify information, thinking that people will not understand." And when we simplify, we can make absurd mistakes,” explained Chame.  

The researcher highlighted the relevance of the meeting. “No generic program can work in the face of the multiplicity of variables in Latin America and the Caribbean. So, an event like this has the strong point of bringing people together and being able to understand that, despite our cultural, population and ecosystem differences, we end up having similar issues,” stated the researcher.  

Bringing infectious diseases leaders together  

The head of Wellcome's Epidemics and Epidemiology team, Josie Golding, also believes these meetings can gather researchers who have never worked together to find the most diverse solutions. Golding explained that the workshop is a good opportunity to understand who are really working and leading in infectious diseases and what they think are priorities.  

“We wanted to go across the globe. That is why we worked with TGHN, because they had the experience to do it. Often when you do a survey, you never hear from people again. So now we have asked those people to come back and really talk through the results. In addition, we know we need a diversity of ideas and thoughts to help us find solutions. Working at the regional level is a great place to start finding these solutions, I believe. It will take us some time to really define where we are going with this,” explained Josie.

The discussion marks a step to reflect on the findings of the survey and what the participants validated as a priority. After the workshop, the organizers will analyse the data and opinions to take the findings back to the global health community finally.

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