News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
3 November 2017

TDR is present at many events this month where we’re showcasing the latest research on dengue, schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis, as well as the new WHO global approach to controlling vectors. We also have a new online version of the implementation research toolkit, and additional resources to help increase the use of research for policy and practice changes.

Dr John Reeder, TDR Director
Dr John Reeder, TDR Director
Credit: WHO/TDR/Iza Suder-Dayao

American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene

The new WHO Global Vector Control Response, plus research on dengue, schistosomiasis and onchocerciasis, and a new online version of the implementation research toolkit
 

TDR has several talks and posters at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, being held 6-9 November in Baltimore, Maryland. I will be co-chairing a session on the WHO Global Vector Control Response. This is a new, cross-disciplinary approach that has been developed with the Global Malaria Programme, The Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases and TDR, and we’re excited to be sharing it and hearing from people on how we can all be working together to implement it. Vectors, like mosquitoes, do not respect borders or silos, so we need this broad, integrated approach to deal with the ever-increasing speed of new infectious outbreaks, like Ebola and the Zika virus.

We’ll also have a booth where you can come along and try out the new online implementation research toolkit. This second edition goes deeper into the content and incorporates new learning and feedback from the more than 200 researchers, academics, disease control programme managers, policy-makers, health administrators, communication specialists and journalists who have used the original version since 2014.

Global Social Business Summit

TDR’s Social Innovation for Health Initiative is being profiled at the Global Social Business Summit in Paris 4-9 November. A paper outlining the principles and providing examples will be presented by Beatrice Halpaap, who has been leading this initiative at TDR. The conference theme, “New wave of hope, how to create a human society,” focuses on inclusiveness, impact measurement and sustainability. Social innovation is TDR’s newest area to be supported, and it’s been exciting to try to tease out through research what works and what does not. When it works well, communities benefit greatly because the products and services are generated through sustainable funding mechanisms.

Dengue research

We have 3 news items on dengue this month. Dengue has rapidly spread in all regions of WHO in recent years. There are no vaccines or treatments, so prevention and control of the mosquito vectors are critical.

Newer approaches are being investigated to use genetic control methods that strongly reduce the numbers of mosquito vector densities. One of these is the sterile insect technique, which uses gamma or x-ray radiation to sterilize artificially reared male mosquitoes, which are then released to mate with field females. Through successive generations, the numbers of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the virus are thus reduced. This technique has been recommended for field trials by the independent Vector Control Advisory Group set up by the World Health Organization (WHO), and Florence Fouque, TDR’s head of vectors, environment and society research, gave an update on this at an African regional workshop held recently in Mauritius.

Lessons learnt on TDR-supported studies scaling up interventions to reduce mosquito densities have also been published. The studies examine the different types of scaling up possible, and provide examples from each of the 4 countries involved: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay. The study in Uruguay has also published findings that recycling significantly reduces the densities of mosquitoes and cuts in half the routine control costs.

Research uptake

The field of research uptake is a vitally important area of our work. We know that conducting research is only part of the equation to improve health. Research must be embedded in the countries from the very start, and communicated appropriately so that it can be understood and used for policy and practice changes.

At TDR, we have regular technical updates for staff and visitors. A recent one shared the experiences on the use of video to communicate research results. Policy-makers in The Gambia who viewed a video that included the perspectives of participants in a research trial found that it strengthened their understanding and motivated them to make changes. We found that the use of video for this purpose has received very little attention in the research world, so these findings provide encouragement for further studies.

Our communications manager, Jamie Guth, conducted this research, and she also writes this month’s staff editorial on research uptake. She has been reflecting on discussions and workshops from the Global Evidence Summit held recently, and provides her thoughts on research in a post-truth world.

TDR Global profile

In our monthly profiles of people who have received grants from TDR, we hear amazing stories of going beyond cultural expectations. This is the case with Dr Atupele Kapito-Tembo, who grew up being told that women were not as intelligent as men. But she managed to reject that idea and go on to become an epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert. Since then, her work with communities in Malawi has focused on malaria, HIV and schistosomiasis. Recently, she used a TDR grant to develop a national network of women to help their career planning. Dr Kapito-Tembo is committed to supporting a new generation of women scientists to overcome today’s gender challenges.

TDR Grants

We have 2 grants with deadlines this month, so I encourage you to check them out and forward them to anyone you think might be interested. As always, make sure you are on our e-news list to get the latest announcements.

Challenge Contests for Health: a Call for Entries
Deadline for submission: 10 November 2017
The purpose of this call is to gather information related to health challenge contests – defined as open calls to solicit community input in order to improve public health. Descriptions of case studies, experiences organizing contests, and evaluation examples are being solicited. These cases will be reviewed by a panel based on clarity of model, effectiveness, promotion of equity, and potential for learning. Exceptional cases will be included in a global toolkit on challenge contests for health.

Joint WHO-AFRO/TDR/EDCTP Small Grants Scheme for implementation research on infectious diseases of poverty
Deadline for submission: 30 November 2017
Only applicants from the WHO African Region eligible


For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail: guthj@who.int

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