Science, health and education will be at the service of the Brazilian society, says Fiocruz’s new president

Publicação: 8 de March de 2017

During times of change, demographic and epidemiological transition, problems related to health should not be analyzed without considering social, political and environmental factors

Dra. Nísia Trindade

I intend to strengthen Fiocruz’s role in health scientific and technological development, considering it should be guided by a sovereign Country’s project, overcoming inequalities and increasing social rights

Some 75% of the Brazilian population relies on the public health system, and this dependence can reach 90% in cases of chronic diseases and cancer treatments. There are also activities such as surveillance and immunization, among others, which reach 100% of the population. To Doctor Nísia Trindade Lima, president of Fiocruz since January, this means to progressively enhance the system, increase its political support and improve it services, so the Unified Health System (SUS) can be acknowledged as what it is, a national heritage. According to her, to defend the universal right to health, it is needed to strengthen researches on health access and to contribute to specific and intersectoral policies, since the actions in the environment, education, housing and work are inseparable from the conquer of right to health. Besides promoting innovation able to return benefits to the society, what requires associating innovation and industrial policies, as well as building teams and developing educational activities that strengthen health promotion perspective and wide diffusion of scientific knowledge. “The cooperation between entities such as the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (Abrasco), Brazilian Center of Health Studies (Cebes), Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (BSTM), Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), Brazilian Sciences Academy (ABC) and National Medicine Academy (ANM), among others, is fundamental for this process”, observed the president, first woman to lead Fiocruz, while ensuring her management will be guided by constant dialogue with all government spheres, the scientific community and social movements.

Doctor Nísia stresses the Foundation’s management, under her term in office, aims to enhance the institutional role on health scientific and technological development, considering it should be guided by a sovereign Country’s project, overcoming inequalities and increasing social rights. “During an adverse situation regarding economic and political conditions, strengthening research networks, health surveillance, integrated work in all spheres of the SUS, will be fundamental”, she says while adding that structural changes in the medical field, promoted by creating and implementing new technologies, will bring direct impacts over the health system’s organization and service and procedure supply. “Health, science and education, the tripod on which this institution is settled, will be at the service of the Brazilian society, solidarity between peoples, peace, rights, equality and sovereignty”, she says. The president believes that in order to promote innovation there must be an association between scientific and technological policies to industrial policies, besides joining research actions to technology and production institutes (Bio-Manguinhos and Farmanguinhos). “Brazil has a solid scientific community with a prominent contribution in several knowledge fields. For the past 20 years the Country has progressed its scientific base and Fiocruz kept pace with this process, providing specific contributions in the field of health”, she stresses, while adding that one of the placed challenges is within the innovation field, since, as several studies have shown, there is a major gap between knowledge creation and social appropriation.

Impact of economic measures over Brazilian science

To the president of Fiocruz, the discussion of public funding and the government’s role on development was jeopardized from an accounting point of view and by the perspectives of the fiscal adjustments. The impact of these measures in the field will cause important losses for Brazilian science and, as a consequence, to the Country’s future. “We are talking about resources that involve essential dimensions for life quality and that cannot be seen as spending, but investments, essential in a national sustainable development project, as investments on science, technology and innovation, environment, regional development, smart cities and urban mobility. The health and education indicators, for example, are part of the Human Development Index (HDI), representing two out of the three components, and inseparable from the development’s concept itself. In the current scenario, the set of research activity and innovation can be heavily jeopardized. The most diverse studies have shown the risk of project discontinuity, the setbacks that can appear and the need to preserve programs directed to highly qualified human resources formation for research”, she regrets.

The yellow fever outbreak and the challenges

Facing problems in such complex areas as health requires the unity between different knowledge fields and multiple perspectives. During times of change, demographic and epidemiological transition, problems related to health cannot be analyzed without considering social, political and environmental factors. The yellow fever outbreak exposes the need of a systematic and permanent surveillance and reveals our great challenges, not only regarding Health. These are environmental challenges – changes in viruses and vectors’ evolution of their mobility patterns between urban and wild areas, of changes in people’s habits and merchandise circulation. These are challenges that must be seen in a Global Health scale. “The challenges reach from faster diagnosis, health with populations in risk areas, vaccine production, immunization strategies and formation of health professionals able to deal with this adverse picture”, she points.

Recently interviewed, the President of Fiocruz said currently it is nearly impossible to eradicate the Aedes aegypti, the dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow-fever transmitting mosquito. According to her, the phrase about eradicating the A. aegypti is an observation based on the analysis of the main vector control experts, as well as tropical medicine history. Climate, social and economic conditions favor the mosquito’s proliferation. “One of the most relevant sources to understand the problem is the book “Dengue: theory and practices”, complied by researchers Denise Valle, Denise Nacif Pimenta and Rivaldo Venâncio da Cunha, published by Fiocruz Editor. In the book’s preface, Doctor Pedro Tauil summarizes with precision the origins of this severe sanitary problem that 2.5 billion people are subjected to. According to Dr. Tauil, the increase in mosquito infestation was a consequence, both in Southeast Asia and the Americas, of rural-urban population flows since the 1950s and 1960s, without the necessary housing and basic sanitation conditions. The complexity of vector control is so great it crosses the boundaries of the health sector, requiring intersectoral actions able to reach, among others, education, social communication, basic sanitation, urban cleaning and housing policies.

This way, sanitation and other policies should be priorities, at the same time entomology, epidemiology and other scientific knowledges should contribute to new vector control methods and technologies, from a perspective, that preserves environmental conditions and that is sustainable. “We are speaking of a problem that was created by an unequal development process with a strong negative impact over peoples’ lives, especially the poorest. It is not about a war between Humans and the mosquito, but the result of an economic development standard, and thus actions that occur in the society and its relations with nature”, he finishes.…