Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic

As other reviewers of this book have mentioned, there is probably few who are better suited to write this book than Paul Richards, with such a depth of knowledge and experience of the areas where the epidemic occurred. In "Ebola: How a People's Science Helped End an Epidemic" (2016) the author argues that faced "with the realities of the disease the common folk learnt to think like epidemiologists. As interestingly, epidemiologists began to think like the common folk. Merged understanding was crucial to epidemic control" (p. 4). Throughout, the author makes a case that 'citizen science' enabled individuals and communities to respond effectively, in difficult and resource-constrained situation, to help end the Ebola epidemic.

At least in my reading, the case for a people's science helping to end the Ebola epidemic was not convincingly made. Unless, one considers all forms of responses (i.e. requesting protective materials, finding alternatives when materials were in short supply, practicing quarantine) as 'citizen science'. There may be more to Richard's story of citizen science (alluded in the Kailahun District example of declining infections before any major international response, but the book focuses upon the actions of a medically-trained individual leader, less on citizen science). I suppose the definition of citizen science is my main divergence with the author's argument – as my own experience and understanding of 'citizen science' is somewhat different. Examples (from the 'global South') of participatory budgetary monitoring to ensure accountability and community-based counter mapping to advocate for land rights come to mind. Enforcing quarantine is a form of thinking like an epidemiologist, but this also assumes a low level of pre-existing knowledge – one might alternatively view this as an expected response to an epidemic based on historical experience with different diseases.

What I thought this book did well, on the other hand, was make a case for the importance of detailed, ethnographic research. He writes:

"Social mobilization was needed to create an environment in which biosafety control measure would be accepted and enhanced. Was there expertise to address these kind of social challenges? The social sciences are less strongly supported relative to other areas of scientific knowledge formation globally, but especially in Africa, where sometimes politicians equate social investigation with political opposition. Much necessary social knowledge is locked up in the heads and practices of people in communities, and remains largely undocumented. Perhaps nowhere was this more true (as pointed out above) than in the case of burial. How, then, given the dearth of documented, evidence-based information, was a social response to Ebola to be organized?" (p. 122)

For those interested in better understanding the Ebola epidemic, this is an excellent read. For those keen to learn about bottom-up citizen science, this might not be the best place to look.

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Post-doc: Rural Health

Summary of Research: The Rural Dementia Action Research (RaDAR) team is seeking applications for a postdoctoral research fellowship in the area of rural health service delivery for individuals with dementia and their caregivers, with a focus on primary health care. The interdisciplinary RaDAR team is based at the U of Sask, with members in four provinces and the UK. The proposed research is linked to the CIHR Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging.

Qualifications: At minimum, candidates will hold a recent PhD (less than 3 years) in a health discipline, psychology, community health and epidemiology, public policy, public health, or related discipline. The successful candidate must also have experience with grantsmanship and manuscript preparation, and a demonstrated ability to work with other researchers, support personnel, and students in a collaborative research environment. Candidates must possess strong organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills. Strong written and oral English communication skills are required.

Ideally the candidate will have background/experience in dementia research. It would be an asset for the candidate to have experience in rural health delivery issues, program evaluation, quality improvement, integrated knowledge translation and exchange, participatory research methods, implementation methods, and primary health care. The intent of this position is to build capacity in rural health service delivery for individuals with dementia and to support development of a career path in this area.

Conditions: The position is available immediately. Initial appointment is for one year at first, with possible renewal for another 1-2 years upon mutual satisfaction and funding availability. The suggested salary is $45,000 CDN with $5,000 research and travel allowance. Candidates are required to present their research at relevant local and international conferences and other venues as appropriate. Because the recipient is a trainee and not an employee of the University of Saskatchewan, the recipient is not entitled to employment benefits. Deductions for Canadian income tax will be made from the monthly stipend, but the stipend is not subject to source deductions for Employment Insurance or Canada Pension Plan.

Close date: Applications will be reviewed as they are received, until the position is filled. Only those selected to be interviewed will be notified.

More details.

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6 Post-docs at Royal Roads (Canada)

Topics:

  • Working with Dr. Brian Belcher, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Sustainability Research Effectiveness, the post-doc will focus on research to assess the effectiveness and the impact of transdisciplinary research (TDR) for improved livelihoods, community resilience, and environmental sustainability.
  • Working with Dr. Ann Dale, Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability, the post-doc will explore the intersections between sustainable community development and climate change adaptation and mitigation innovations both on-the-ground and policy development in Canada.
  • Working with Dr. Jaigris Hodson, Assistant Professor and Program Head in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the post-doc will focus on new mobile social communication platforms such as Instagram, Kik, WeChat, and SnapChat, and how to keep young people using these technologies safe from online predators.
  • Working with Dr. Elizabeth Hartney, Registered Psychologist, Professor and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research (CHLR), the post-doc will contribute to leadership research and knowledge mobilization toward increasing patient and family centred care in the BC healthcare system.
  • Working with Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Innovative Learning and Technology, the post-doc will focus on emerging technologies and innovations in online education, in particular open education, open/digital scholarship, and social media/networks.
  • Working with Dr. Robin Cox, Professor and Disaster and Emergency Management Program Head, the post-doc will have the opportunity to work on multiple research projects focused on disaster recovery and resilience and the psychosocial implications of disasters for individual well-being and public health.
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New Publication in Development in Practice

Taddesse, D., Jamieson, D. and Cochrane, L. (2015) Strengthening Public Health Supply Chains in Ethiopia: PEPFAR Supported Expansion of Access and Availability. Development in Practice 25(7): 1043-1056.

Abstract:

  • When the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-supported Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) programme began working in Ethiopia in 2006, the estimated population of people living with HIV exceeded one million, while only 24,000 were on treatment and only 50 treatment sites were in operation. SCMS and other key partners entered into this context to support the Ethiopian government in significantly strengthening the public health supply chain system, with the aim of increasing the availability and accessibility of pharmaceutical products. The country now has 1,047 treatment sites and is nearing complete treatment coverage. This article discusses how priorities were set among many competing challenges from 2006 until 2014, and how the four-step strategy of build, operate, transfer, and optimise has resulted in a successful partnership.
The full article is gated. Abstract and further publication details available via the link above. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an email.
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Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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