I have come to Bhubaneshwar, which is one of the project research sites under the India Research Initiative to provide training to the research team at the local site on the research priority setting exercise which we had taken global in August through a workshop held by the Public Health Foundation of India in collaboration with the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium and the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, University of Pretoria, South Africa. I had written about the event in a previous update.
The research priority setting in the context of the state of Odisha, in eastern India is quite distinct from the context we discussed in the global stage. On one hand this exercise, through multiple training workshops, such as this one, enhances the research capacity in the public health cadres at all the research sites; and on the other, it helps to create local, context-specific, customized priorities that can then be investigated by the interested agencies.
One particular aspect of interest in Odisha is the presence of forest fringes in the peri-urban areas. These forest-fringes create a unique interface for interaction between human-domestic animal-wildlife, creating a unique ecosystem for disease or pathogen emergence. The focus of the training workshop here is to provide the researchers at my host institution, the KIIT School of Public Health, Bhubaneshwar, with the skills needed to independently conduct the exercise.
The program was initially scheduled to be for two days, but has spilled over for a couple of hours into the third day as well. Tomorrow I shall conclude the training workshop and establish timelines for the future outcomes of the prioritization process per se.
In addition, in the three days I have been here in Odisha, I have also conducted a stakeholder analysis in which I am trying to locate micro-level and meso-level stakeholders who can give me a value map for their personal perceptions regarding the role they can play in a policy-environment. This stakeholder analysis will let us understand the power dynamic at different levels: the macro level (national level stakeholders), the meso level (state level stakeholders) and the micro level (policy-target level stakeholders). This, in turn, will form the basis of understanding the gaps in capacity and levels of policy absorption that can happen at the different levels.
The stakeholder mapping and analysis processes have typically been used in industrial and economic settings. To the best of my knowledge, no other agency has conducted a stakeholder mapping and analysis for zoonoses and emerging infectious diseases, especially in the Indian context. From the initial brush I have had with the data, it appears that the outcomes are going to be of great interest, both from the policy-maker and target-stakeholder perspectives.