60 e-Letters

  • Should a paper published by a 'local' researcher about a local country be more valuable?

    Thank you for this extraordinary piece! It provides a more nuanced picture of the concern regarding unequal authorship in global health publishing. In the spirit of your argument, I would like to share my experience and thoughts on this with an example. I have recently received a reviewers comments on an article I submitted for publication that stated that the author is encouraged to review the article, especially if Cameroonian because more research on the topic from Cameroonians is necessary. The article needed more work, I am new to publishing and I am not arguing with that. However, I felt a lot of frustration with the comment about the piece being worth more if written by a Cameroonian as opposed to me a ‘foreigner’/’northerner’. To add to your wonderful piece, I have two reflections on my example: First, I echo your argument that sometimes ‘foreign’ researchers are better placed to conduct ‘local’ research. I conducted research on a very controversial global health project whereby millions of dollars disappeared. If a Cameroonian would ask the questions I asked, they would risk their life. My research took place in an authoritarian state, Cameroonian researchers select very carefully what they say and what they can’t say because of a simple well-founded fear of persecution. They also worry about how critiquing a health programme could affect their future job opportunities with these actors. Second, some Cameroonians don’t want to do the write up because they have sev...

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  • Zika virus surveillance gaps

    A common issue with Zika virus surveillance, including during the epidemic in the Americas, is the time gap between local virus establishment and detecting the first case. In the Americas, we found this gap to be about 1.5 years (https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674%2818%2930171-5).

    Based on the sequence data published by the ICMR (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567134819300048), we estimate that Zika virus was established in Rajasthan in early 2017, meaning that there was local transmission for ~1.5 years before the outbreak was detected in 2018 (http://virological.org/t/preliminary-origins-of-the-2018-zika-outbreak-i...). This suggests that the virus may have spread further during that time period and local surveillance networks should remain vigilant to detect other "silent" outbreaks.

    Please email me at nathan.grubaugh@yale.edu if you have any questions about these comments.

  • Still not amused...

    As outlined in a blog on the making of the “Global Action Plan for healthy lives and well-being for all” published in June (http://g2h2.org/posts/still-not-amused/), the information on the GAP that are accessible on the WHO website (https://www.who.int/sdg/global-action-plan) have left us with many worries and unanswered questions. Today, and only two weeks ahead of its formal launch at an UNGA side event in New York, the final text of the GAP is still not available - and our questions and concerns remain unanswered. Instead of further coffee grounds reading, let us critically comment on the GAP once it is published, and let us critically watch its implementation, once the plan is in place.

  • Continuity in primary care: application and implications for trauma-informed care

    The recent study by Dan Schwartz and colleagues, Continuity in primary care: a critical but neglected component for achieving high-quality universal health coverage (2019) provides a valuable framework for optimizing primary care. The focus on continuity as one of the “Starfield ‘4C’ functions of effective primary care aligns strongly with those of trauma-informed care in an adult medical setting. The tension between continuity and access is acknowledged as reality, but not an obstacle, to expansion of access to care.

    The three core domains of relational, informational and managerial continuity described by Schwarz and team correlate strongly to the six trauma-informed care guiding principles: trust and trustworthiness, physical and psychological safety; collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, voice and choice, peer support, and cultural, historical and gender acknowledgment. These principles are grounded in the 4R’s of an organizational culture that includes: (1) realization of the ubiquity of trauma, (2) recognition of the ways in which trauma affects all individuals in the organization: patients and their families, clinicians and staff, (3) response through integration of knowledge about trauma into policies and procedures, and (4) avoidance of re-traumatizing patients and staff.

    Trauma-informed care is above all a resilience-focused approach, and primary care remains central to primary and secondary prevention in public health. Given the overall sh...

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  • 100% agreed

    Dear authors,
    thank you for your initiative to discuss this (possible) source of bias in global health studies! I could't agree more and can only underscore that good and reliable research results will in the end benefit the work of everybody, including donor agencies.
    thanks again and best regards,
    Jan Peter

  • Robust rapid diagnostics for CCHF in endemic seasons

    Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic Fever Virus (CCHF) is of increasing consequence in endemic regions as global climate changes increase the length of dry hot weather, facilitating the expansion of host tick populations which carry the virus. The virus is carried by the Ixodid (Hyalomma) tick found on a range of cattle and camel species. CCHFV is endemic to Africa, the Balkans, Middle-East and Asia. In the animal reservoir it results in sub-clinical infection but in humans, infection can lead to rashes, fevers and leads to hemorrhagic disease with a fatality ranging between 10 -40%. Mazzola LT et al., in their article discuss the importance of improved diagnostics for CCHFV and discuss the pros and cons of methods which have been reported in published literature and discussed the options for serological and RT-PCR based tests as LDT and commercial assays (1). The article however gave a limited statement about the reasons for the spread of CCHFV and this Letter aims to expand on that aspect.

    CCHFV in endemic regions has been associated with the Muslim religious festival of Eid-ul Azha when a large number of animal sacrifices occur, leading to increased contact between individuals who are not usually involved in animal husbandry or meat handling (2, 3). This change in the pattern of animal handling together with the influx of animals into urban areas for the festival increases contact with possibly infected animals, increasing risk of CCHF.

    Of note, the CCHF prevale...

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  • Utterly false and misleading

    What the article does is discard the ethnic movement of the madhesi people (terai people) who have been marginalised in through out history. The dominant thinking is India blocked the movement of goods in to Nepal, but ehich is not true, it was the people who led a strike and prevented the flow of goods. By blaming external forces it can look away from the real issues. Also during riots and strikes transport companies are reluctant to send their vehicles in those areas since insurances do not cover if any mishaps occur.

    A reputed journal publishing such baseless articles provides fuel to the fire and discards the historical domination of the Terai people.

  • Perspectives from On the Ground in the DPRK

    We read this piece about public health in DPRK with interest, as it will surely expedite understanding of public health about the DPRK among the public. We offer our perspectives about some conclusions based on a viewpoint developed from firsthand experience in the DPRK working for the United Nations, and another viewpoint developed from having worked with multiple NGOs who have spent decades in the country.

    We write this letter, not to point out limitations, but to advocate for a stronger appreciation of the data that already exists through an interdisciplinary and culturally sensitive lens. DPRK is an often misunderstood and unique political context, and the authors have created value by listing some publicly available articles in one source. Unlike conventional systematic reviews that analyzes the data within papers, this review builds an argument based on the number of publications in a select number of broad categories. While they argue this was made necessary by the heterogeneity of articles, the comparison between publications, DALYs, and research priorities would have been improved if each of these variables had been deconstructed by even some basic measures. For example, the publications could have been broken down by sample size, gender, or rural versus the urban area of Pyongyang. Surveys from the UN show that regions in the DPRK are very different. A National TB Prevalence Survey from 2015-2016 showed that TB prevalence in rural areas is 1.14 times that...

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  • Reciprocal learning across borders and disease programmes

    The report on the reciprocal learning approach used for the Self-Management and Reciprocal learning for the prevention and management of Type 2 Diabetes (SMART2D) project is a valuable example of how interventions, specifically those improving the strength and equity of health systems, can be improved through partnerships across borders (1). The project emphasises the need to adapt interventions to local contexts, and share this learning among researchers and health workers. This report also alludes to the challenges that can stem from cultural and power differences both between researcher and participants, and between collaborating researchers. This indicates the importance of shared leadership and decision-making, as well as shared learning, throughout the process of intervention design.

    The groundwork of the SMART2D project included a literature review of the role of community health workers (CHWs), and this has provided an insightful compass for future research (2). The vast majority of studies evaluating the role of the CHWs have been conducted in the US. CWHs in the US perform diverse tasks going beyond patient education and medication adherence, including connecting patients to community resources such as exercise groups, and advocating for them in a complex medical system. Despite patients' frequent contact with primary care, this system often fails to provide them with adequate understanding of their condition (3). Diabetes management in high-income co...

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  • Example of a modeller’s temptation to seek alternative trial results

    Recently, Colbourn et al questioned the use of modelling to seek alternative trial results1. They cited a radio intervention study from Burkina Faso that based on mathematical modelling suggested that the radio intervention was associated with a 7.1% reduction in under-5 mortality, whereas the actual trial results suggested no effect (Rate ratio: 1.00 (95% CI: 0.82-1.22))1. Colbourn and colleagues raised the important point that modelled estimates should not take precedence over empirical mortality data.
    We would like to support the point raised by Colbourn and colleagues with an example from the field of vaccinology.
    The phase 3 trial of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine found a vaccine efficacy of 18-36% against clinical malaria2. The study was not powered to assess mortality endpoints, but the results suggested that RTS,S/AS01 was associated with 24% (95% CI: -3 – 58%) higher all-cause mortality3. This was obviously not what was expected; a vaccine that reduces clinical malaria would be expected to reduce all-cause mortality. However, based on our experience, it could indicate that the vaccine, like other non-live vaccines, could have negative non-specific effects4. If that was the case, we predicted that the negative effect would be strongest in females as seen for the other non-live vaccines3. Subsequent analyses indeed revealed that RTS,S/AS01 was associated with higher mortality in girls (Relative Risk of death for RTS,S/AS01 compared with control (RR): 1.9...

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