Harnessing the social sciences to address global health threats

The Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development has a key role in a newly launched project focused on the social sciences.

With support from the European Commission, the SoNAR-Global project will build a sustainable network to facilitate an active role for the social sciences in preventing and responding to infectious disease outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Recent disease outbreaks – such as Zika in South America, and Ebola in West and Central Africa – have have highlighted the important role of social scientists. They have, for example, helped understand why people don’t behave as health professionals might expect during epidemics and offered advice on how to adapt health messages or care.

Increasingly recognized as a threat to health worldwide, AMR is one of AIGHD’s key research priorities. Addressing AMR, for example, understanding and counteracting over-use of antibiotics, also entails drawing on social science research.

SoNAR-Global kicked off in January with a meeting of its diverse project partners, which includes social scientists and global health specialists from AIGHD who have expertise in infectious disease outbreaks and AMR.

AIGHD co-leads two areas of work. Together with Mahidol University, Thailand, and other partners, our team will build a global network of social scientists, public health experts, policy makers and other organizations involved in preventing and responding to outbreaks and AMR. Working particularly with colleagues at CRCF in Senegal, AIGHD will also develop training curricula for social scientists and other professionals who are preparing for and/or responding to outbreaks and AMR.

According to Dr. Danny De Vries, who co-leads the Capacity building and Training program of the project, “in the past, we have had situations where good willing anthropologists were in the field in areas where there were outbreaks, yet their skills and knowledge were not utilized because of a lack of mutual understanding between the context of epidemiological response and the ways of qualitative social scientists.”

The project will map the network of social scientists in this field, build their capacity, and help develop vulnerability and community engagement tools integrate their skills.

“This integration will make preparedness, response and recovery to infectious treats more effective and hopefully also focus more interest by social scientist in the slow onset disaster that is AMR,” he added.

The three-year project was granted within the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Union after a competitive one-stage selection process.

For more information, visit Sonar-Global’s website

Photo captionSoNAR-Global Consortium Members at the Kick-Off meeting in January 2019