The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa showed how rapidly an infectious disease can spread within and across borders. The overall ambition of this project is to identify key elements for a ‘smart foresighting system’ for early detection of infectious diseases in order to reduce the risk of new international pandemics. By ‘smart’,we mean an ICT (primarily mobile phones) and Severe Sickness/Verbal Autopsy (SS/VA) system, that draws on existing local perceptions and practices, and involves the local community. With its location in a politically fragile region and close to three Ebola-affected countries, Burkina Faso is a particularly relevant country for this theme of study. The project is interdisciplinary, combining anthropology, epidemiology and computer science with strong focus on research capacity building and research based stakeholder engagement. The study is organized in four Work-Packages. In WP1, we will study local perceptions and practices of disease and care-giving, and in WP2, we will identify locally relevant disease indicators and methods for identification of early warning signals at community level. In WP3, we plan to analyze patterns and means of communication using ICT.Inputs from WP 1-3 will be used to develop a smart foresighting system, which will be pilot tested in WP4. Theoretically, the ambition is to provide cutting-edge contributions to the field of global health security.
The main outputs of the project will be a total of four PhD degrees (three from Burkina Faso and one from Denmark), a minimum of 15 publications, five policy briefs, two regional and one national stakeholder workshops, an international conference as well as tools and recommendations for an improved community based system for early detection of infectious diseases.
The project "EMERGING EPIDEMICS: Improving Preparedness in Burkina Faso" has a strong capacity building component. Three Burkinabe PhD students have been recruited through an open announcement process and all PhD students have now drafted their PhD proposal and developed plans for their upcoming fieldwork.
Furthermore, the project has received Ethical approval, and research permissions for Helle Samuelsen and Pia Juul Bjertrup have been granted by the Burkinabe authorities. In this first phase of the project, we have discussed how to address the security challenges and how to adapt our research methods to the changed conditions and we have identified an additional research site in/near Ouagadougou in order to accomodate for the limited possibilities of conducting fieldwork in rural areas by the Danish researchers. Status of agreement of scientific methods and approaches. Both junior and senior researchers are involved in each of the four workpackages. At the planned workshop in August, 2019, we will discuss in further detail, how to include photovoice, mobile phones, short videos and local resarch assistants in our fieldwork. As mentioned above, we have after serious considerations, included a third fieldsite for the study as security precaution.