Prof. Yazdanpanah is the chair of GloPID-R. He has been an active member of its Scientific Advisory Board for several years and has provided input and expertise on a number of issues. We have interviewed him about the role of social sciences in epidemic preparedness and response.
I’m in infectious diseases and have been working mostly on HIV. So this was the first area where I saw what the social sciences can do.
One of the main projects that we conducted focused on social sciences and community in the problem of AIDS. The idea was that testing is always done by medical — health professionals. We wanted to evaluate whether testing could be done by non-health professionals. And that had an impact. Basically, we showed the feasibility of testing of patients by non-health professionals. The idea behind that was for people who might otherwise not get tested, or who don’t go frequently for testing, they are more likely to get tested if that testing is done by people who look like them. So that was the first effort in working with social scientists on HIV. A second project examined how to talk about costs (around HIV testing and treatment) with patients. That was with Marie Préau.
There were many areas (that we investigated with social scientists) in HIV, and then we continued with other emerging infectious diseases – with Ebola. So we have now a clinical trial in four countries, and the point is to study how individuals accept clinical trials outside of an epidemic. So we work with social scientists – we work with Sylvain Faye. We have huge problems, many problems. First of all, how much we should offer in terms of incentives (for people to participate in the trial).
I always think it is very important to have people from social sciences. Not only to enroll patients, but to understand how they think about the clinical trials.
So I think that one important activity that the Sonar-Global network is doing is “Capacity building.” I think that is one of the big pieces – because everybody is doing mapping. I like very much the Work Packages 2 and 3, the networking and vulnerability assessments, as well as the fact that you are looking at vaccine hesitancy in Europe, AMR in South and Southeast Asia, and perhaps infectious disease outbreaks in Africa. I especially like the idea of doing practical case studies on these questions. But what I personally like most of all is capacity building.
One of the things I now understand is that although we say “social science”, it’s like talking about science. It’s immense. But I think that the work you are doing on capacity building and on engagement, these will be very interesting and important.