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Monday, 18 September 2017 09:13

Evidence and epidemics

by Vannessa Kruger

Day 3 of the 2017 Global Evidence Summit focussed on how international collaboration and innovative technology can be used to solve emergent global crises and what is needed to prepare for future epidemics. The early morning plenary session explored different tools, methodologies and platforms for rapid production and appraisal of evidence in the face of an epidemic.

While much of the discussions focussed on clinical issues and methodologies, and specifically Ebola, a number of important issues emerged that apply to manging the HIV/AIDS response. Amongst these are:

  •         Sharing of data and making data available as and when needed i.e. treating evidence as a public good. (Is it, for example, ethical to hold back evidence to meet academic journal publication exclusivity requirements?)
  •        Recognition of the need for global collaboration and coordinating in addressing any crisis. But more importantly, how to sustain the interest of donors and other international role-players once the emergency has been addressed and the epidemic, as in the case of HIV/AIDS, becomes chronic?
  •        Need to address the socio-economic impact of epidemics. The contribution that non-governmental organisation and practitioners working on the frontline can make to the evidence base must be recognised.
  •         Country policy/ decision makers’ abilities (and willingness) to adjust systems and processes to allow for evidence-based decisions to be implemented. This would include, for example, changes to legislation, resource allocation, how health systems are organised etc.  

The call for evidence by policy makers was picked up in the later sessions of Day 3. One of the most interesting papers of the day was presented by Rhona Mijumbi-Deve of Makerere University in Uganda. In response to the call from decision makers to provide evidence on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the influenza vaccination, this team of researchers and practitioners developed a tool kit to rapidly meet their needs. The tool kit, developed within the UsEvidence project, deserves further consideration.

Most significantly however, there appears to be a growing trend in Africa of decisions makers demanding evidence. Meeting this evidence demand is critical.

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