Social scientists have often been poorly integrated into public health efforts to address disease outbreaks and the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance. Funded by the European Commission, Sonar-Global is building a sustainable international social sciences network to engage the active participation of the social sciences in preparedness and response to infectious threats, including Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Its activities will foster complementarities and synergies among social scientists and other stakeholders for the governance of infectious threats and AMR.
The project is piloted by 11 collaborating institutions from Europe, Asia, and Africa. These collaborating institutions are working together to organize and foster interactions among social scientists working on infectious threats and AMR preparedness and response in Europe and around the world.
Christopher Pell, AIGHD: Our objective is to build a global online community. With the assistance of our Sonar-Global partners, we are mapping social scientists – plus other researchers and organizations – working in the field of infectious disease outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance. The community will find a home in our online platform, which will include information on people and organizations active in this field (their expertise, research interests, publications etc.). We are also building regional hubs, providing opportunities for members of the Sonar-Global community to meet on and offline with a view to collaborating closely on particular issues. Ultimately, we want to make sure that the Sonar-Global network will be sustainable over the longer term.
Ruth Kutalek, MUW: UCL and MUW are jointly working on adapting and piloting tools to assess local-level social vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessment tools allow for a flexible, rapid evaluation to determine which groups are most vulnerable to illness, social exclusion or violence during periods of epidemic outbreak; they can provide foundations for better response to infectious threats and AMR. We are first mapping and comparing existing instruments by conducting a comprehensive literature review. Based on this review, and after consultation with experts and Sonar-Global partners, we will adapt a low-cost vulnerability assessment instrument and test it in Uganda, in a province neighboring the North Kivu Ebola epidemic and in a Kampala neighborhood where North Kivu inhabitants have migrated. We will identify best practices for most effective resource allocations and identify local community networks that can best build social capacity. NIVEL will evaluate the tool, and we’ll engage stakeholders in Uganda to explore opportunities for its further use. We’ll also adapt a vulnerability assessment tool for AMR in Bangladesh. Finally, in a collaborative approach with our Sonar-Global partners, we will formulate a framework for infectious threats to be used in the regional hub networks.
Syed Masud Ahmed, BRAC University: Our work on Engagement Models builds on the vulnerability assessment tools adapted and piloted. BRAC and its partners (NIVEL, MUW, PHC, UCL, MU) are focused here on developing models for multiscale, dialogue-based engagement structures for AMR and epidemic preparedness/response interventions. We have already mapped existing engagement approaches and structures in Bangladesh, Uganda, and Ukraine. We assess Community Engagement (CE) projects in each country to propose context-specific modifications that enhance the effectiveness of those CE models. In Bangladesh, the adapted CE model will focus on AMR and infection threats; Ukraine’s CE model will address influenza/measles vaccination and Uganda’s model will target Ebola and AMR preparedness. We will address pilot and scale-up plans through an interactive, consultative process – meeting with multiple stakeholders. As a result of these meetings, we will develop country-specific policy recommendations to government and non-government stakeholders on ways to coordinate among multiple actors and interests, vulnerable social groups, and diverse perspectives on tackling these global health threats.
Alice Desclaux and Khoudia Sow, CRCF: At CRCF, a West African research and training center on infectious diseases based in Dakar (Senegal), we need multidisciplinary intelligence in order to prevent and control infectious threats more effectively. With AIGHD and other colleagues, we are mapping available trainings to make them accessible through an online platform. We are also engaged in building capacity around social understanding of AMR and outbreak control, at two levels. For social scientists, we are developing curricula to increase their skills and knowledge about medical and epidemiological issues; the training will also encourage social scientists to conduct focused research and culturally and socially-sensitive answers to infectious threats. For medical and public health professionals involved in outbreak control, we are developing curricula to inform them about social issues and present them with socially-informed interventions that they may adapt and employ to increase the acceptability and efficiency of outbreak prevention and control. We also preparing podcasts to bring updated information for teams involved in outbreak control and patient care in the field.
Tamara Giles-Vernick, project coordinator from Institut Pasteur: We coordinate and manage the entire project, but these coordination activities are guided in part by a Governance Lessons Learned study, conducted by our partners at the Institute for Development Studies at University of Sussex. That study, focusing on viral hemorrhagic fevers in Uganda, AMR in Bangladesh, and vaccine hesitancy in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, will examine the political and institutional processes and power relations shaping how groups understand, organize, make decisions and act during these infectious threats. The lessons learned will guide how we structure and implement the Sonar-Global program and how we create our global network.
Sonar-Global is an exciting and unique initiative supported by a consortium of experienced and deeply committed social scientists and their institutions. As a network of networks, we welcome the opportunity to work alongside and to support individuals, institutions, NGOs and networks working on infectious threats and AMR.
Join the Sonar-Global network.
Check our latest comment on Lancet Infectious Diseases.