This commitment signals government recognition of the long neglected pneumococcal disease as a public health priority
Two years ago in Bangladesh, researchers from multiple institutions embarked on an ambitious pneumococcal surveillance network project to provide population-based data on pneumococcal disease for policy makers. Recently, the government committed additional funding to this project for the next two years – which ensures the continuation of this project after PneumoADIP funding ends in 2006. This commitment signals government recognition of the long neglected pneumococcal disease as a public health priority. Dr. Steve Luby, current project director, spoke with PneumoADIP about this exciting development.
Could you walk us through the process of seeking additional funding?
After one year of operation, we took a hard look at our budget and realized we had two choices: cut back on activities or seek additional funding. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to seek funding from the government.
Could you provide the background of this project?
From the beginning of the project, the first priority has been to work closely with the government. We have been working very closely with surveillance partners in public hospitals. ICDDRB, which coordinates the PneumoADIP project, also has longstanding good relations with the government of Bangladesh.
How did your team build good working relations with the government for this project?
Dr. Samir Saha, the lead microbiologist on the project, and Dr. Aliya Naheed, the project coordinator, interacted regularly with our government colleagues by visiting hospitals and spent a lot of time getting feedback. As we worked together, our colleagues became more enthusiastic about pneumococcal disease surveillance; for example, isolating the bacteria for the first time caused great excitement in many of the facilities. The other key persons were Dr. David Sack, Executive Director of ICDDRB: Center for Health and Population Research – who with Dr. Ishtiaq Zaman, Director of External Relations and Institutional Development at ICDDRB, developed the grant proposal for government funding.
Could you tell us more about this grant?
The additional funding from the Bangladesh government is actually a grant that the government of Japan earmarked for the Bangladesh government for addressing the health of the poor. Dr. David Sack and colleagues developed a proposal with many public health components, one of which was support for pneumococcal disease surveillance. The government agreed to award the money to ICDDRB and specifically approved the language to support pneumococcal surveillance.
What does this government funding mean?
This additional funding signifies three things: (1) the continuation of key hospital-based activities through 2007, (2) there is interest in pneumococcal disease, and (3) our collaborators in government value pneumococcal disease surveillance.
What are the lessons learned for our PneumoADIP project researchers?
The key lesson is to engage government counterparts early and figure out how to meaningfully collaborate and work constructively. This is different from science and it is not easy; it takes special skills to build relations and troubleshoot and negotiate different priorities and needs. When we began the study, collaborators were reluctant to perform blood cultures. Microbiologists had few resources, and clinicians did not have the experience where blood cultures helped them manage patients. By providing technical support and some key supplies, the microbiologists were able to isolate organisms, and the clinicians quickly appreciated the information. Thus, key persons who were reluctant to even look for pneumococcus, were now advocates of blood culture and the importance of pneumococcus as a pathogen.