Njala University (NU) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in United Kingdom have signed a contract to collaborate in connection with the project funded by Wellcome Trust entitled "Pandemic preparedness: local and global concepts and practices in tackling disease threats in Africa”.
The Pandemic Preparedness Project is a Wellcome Trust funded project running for 4 years. Since the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014-15, the notion of disease ‘preparedness’ has gained prominence in global health policy. We will research to examine the concept of ‘preparedness’ by exploring diverse meanings and uses of the term from an anthropological perspective, with specific focus on any gap between preparedness as understood in global health, and ‘preparedness from below’ (how communities anticipate and deal with disease threats on a daily basis). Three key themes are addressed - risk and uncertainty, knowledge and information, and agency and responsibility. The meanings of ‘preparedness’ globally, and how the idea is mobilised in policy, research and implementation, will be examined. We also ask what concepts and practices of preparedness might be locally salient in two countries, Sierra Leone and Uganda, and how ideas ‘travel’ both upwards and downwards between local, national, regional and global levels. Examining different perspectives on pandemic preparedness via multi-sited ethnography, oral history, focus groups, interviews and participatory methods, we will identify pathways for connecting them, towards more effective preparedness and response approaches informed by a critical medical anthropology.
The project will be conducted over four years, with research on all themes and in local/ community and global/regional/national sites, running concurrently over 18 months. Research on interconnections across levels will follow (months 30 – 35), leading into analysis and output preparation.
Project inception will take place in the first 6 months, including obtaining clearances, recruitment of assistants, and the first Advisory Group and full project team meeting (Sussex) – focusing on research plans and methods.
Subsequently, project meetings will rotate between collaborating institutions and focus: Year 2 Sierra Leone (emerging findings, comparison across Uganda-Sierra Leone sites); year 3 Uganda (integration across scales, planning research on interconnections); year 4 UK (final analysis and outputs writeshop). Research exchanges will be held before the Sierra Leone and Uganda meetings, whereby the Uganda team visits Sierra Leone for the pre-meeting week in year 2, and vice versa in year 3.
These meetings and cross-site visits will provide important moments for researchers working on different parts of the project to come together, share insights and undertake collective planning and analysis. Policy and public engagement will be initiated from the start of the project through community meetings and national dialogues with policy actors and institutions in the first 6 months, and elicitation of questions and interests from global and regional agencies (WHO, UNICEF, GLOPID-R, CDC etc.) during initial research interviews, while continuous engagement has been built into the project through its research methodology. This will culminate in a final phase (months 37 – 48) including community feedback meetings and local, national and international public engagement activities; a final multi-level policy dialogue in each country, and an international conference in London on ‘Preparing for 21st Century Health Threats: Multi-level Perspectives’.