RCZI Invited to Conduct Workshop on Research Prioritisation in South Africa

The biggest challenge for those working in the area of zoonoses prevention and control is the absence of a coherent strategy that can precede the task of setting research priorities that are relevant to their setting. The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)/Roadmap to Combat Zoonoses in India (RCZI) Initiative successfully undertook this exercise in 2011, sharing it with partners, governments and other stakeholders besides publishing its findings in PLoS ONE. (1)

Recognising the work done by RCZI, the team was invited to conceptualise a training module and to use it to conduct a two-day workshop for country investigators from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia and Belgium. The training essentially focused on orienting the participants on setting research priorities in zoonoses prevention and control, especially in the context of their own nations.

The training covered the complex issue of adapting a uniform method of systematically setting research priorities for prevention and control of zoonoses. The complexity of this task lies in the fact that there is no single correct route to approaching zoonoses research priorities, since they are very context specific. The challenge therefore by the training team was to deploy training in a method which would not only be sensitive to the local context, but also user friendly from the point of view of uniform implementation in the different geographical settings. It was hoped that these countries would after the research prioritisation exercise be in a position to generate comparable data that could contribute to forming a global, multi-country perspective in determining knowledge needs and gaps. The findings could then be addressed to design effective policy interventions to combat the rising tide of zoonotic diseases across the globe.

The level of discussions at the training was varied and the eight country teams that participated, provided rich perspectives, case studies and examples from their countries. The training clearly brought out the need for a multi-country initiative, where a systematic approach to understanding existing knowledge gaps in zoonoses control and research could be planned and conducted in the coming months. Such an effort would expand the cross-border understanding of the range of complex transdisciplinary issues that plague zoonoses control, more so in resource constrained settings.

The workshop concluded with a resolution to execute the prioritisation exercise. Once the results of the priority setting exercise would start coming in from each of the participating countries, these would be disseminated through reports and peer reviewed publications through 2016. The results and experiences would also form a part of discussions to be taken up at the One Health Conference in Melbourne in 2016.

The larger collaborative relationship forged at the training amongst the organisations that each of the countries/investigators represented has generated a rich tapestry of intelligence that will go a long way in informing policy decisions in zoonoses prevention and control across the globe, especially in resource-constrained settings.

L-R: Wayan Tunas Artama, Greg Simpson, Vivek Kattel, Mekonnen Yitagele, Lai Jiang,
Evelien Paessens, Richard Akuffo, Pranab Chatterjee and Manish Kakkar

The workshop was supported by the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium and was held in the idyllic setting of the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, which is located in the heart of the Kruger National Park. It was attended by Wayan Tunas Artama (Ecohealth/One Health Resource Center, Indonesia), Greg Simpson (Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, University of Pretoria, South Africa), Vivek Kattel (BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Nepal), Mekonnen Yitagele (Haramaya University, Ethiopia), Lai Jiang (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium), Evelien Paessens (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium), Richard Akuffo (University of Ghana, Ghana), Fabiola Quesada (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Pranab Chatterjee and Manish Kakkar (Public Health Foundation of India, India).

References:

1. Sekar N, Shah NK, Abbas SS, Kakkar M. Research options for controlling zoonotic disease in India, 2010-2015. PLoS One [Internet]. Public Library of Science; 2011 Jan 25 [cited 2015 Jul 22];6(2):e17120. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0017120