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HARMONIZE at the E-Vigilância conference in Brazil

MAR 18 2024

By Bruno Moreira de Carvalho

HARMONIZE project members attended the E-Vigilância 2023 conference, held in December 2023 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. E-Vigilância is a Brazilian conference primarily focused on sharing innovative initiatives for monitoring and controlling communicable diseases under the theme Innovations for a Comprehensive One Health. The project was widely disseminated in a booth, in talks from project members, and in a pre-conference round table about ethics in drone use for research.

Raquel Lana and Bruno Carvalho (Barcelona Supercomputing Center - BSC), together with Diego Xavier and Izabel Reis (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz - Fiocruz), showcased the project activities in a dedicated booth for HARMONIZE. In addition to disseminating the project using posters and a short video, a hands-on health data audit tool prototype was presented to the conference attendees. This prototype was a digital form which allowed users to provide information about the structure and data characteristics of health datasets from their country. We received relevant feedback from the participants, which are being applied as we review and keep developing this tool.

HARMONIZE members at the E-Vigilância conference

HARMONIZE members at the E-Vigilância conference.

Raquel Lana and Bruno Carvalho at the HARMONIZE booth

Raquel Lana and Bruno Carvalho at the HARMONIZE booth.

Project members gave multiple talks during the conference. Raquel Lana moderated a thematic session on Ethical Issues in the Use of Surveillance Technologies. The session featured presentations by HARMONIZE researchers Maria Gálvis Malagón (Universidad de Los Andes) and Izabel Reis (Fiocruz). Maria's presentation "Ethical considerations for collecting environmental data with drone technology and weather sensors: A case study in the La Caimanera village, Tolima (Colombia)" discussed the data justice framework adopted by the HARMONIZE public engagement in Tolima. This framework aims to acknowledge the historical relationship between local communities and the arrival of new technologies, and to include local perceptions in any knowledge production for decision-making. Izabel presented "Ethics in research and community engagement: Navigating the intersection of responsibility and knowledge”, arguing that participatory research goes far beyond than a community outreach strategy as if it were merely a setting or territory for investigation; it is a representation of the relationship between academic partners and the community, based on collective learning, mutual benefit, and long-term commitment.

“Local ways of understanding the territory go beyond the scientific framework but are equally important to interpret environmental phenomena” (Maria Galvis)

“Participatory research brings together the knowledge and skills of different actors [stakeholders] contributing to greater coherence between the values ​​of research and the community” (Izabel Reis)

Raquel additionally organised and moderated a special session on Information and Communication in the Yanomami Crisis. HARMONIZE researcher Diego Xavier (Fiocruz) presented a recent report which concluded that 62% of Yanomami indigenous communities currently live very close (less than 5 km) to areas with forest that was altered by non-indigenous people, which puts them at immediate risk. Discussions about the specificities and requirements of indigenous and/or traditional communities took central stage during this session. There was a strong emphasis on the necessity to enhance communication and dissemination regarding this topic in public health.

“Addressing indigenous health in Brazil is crucial and imperative for protecting the population and the Amazon rainforest” (Raquel Lana)

With these results, we hope to assist in facing the health crisis in Yanomami communities, not only in times of emergency, like now, but also in the coming years” (Diego Xavier)

As a side activity to the conference, HARMONIZE members organised and presented an online workshop about the ethical considerations on the use of drone technology in health research. This workshop was held one day ahead of the conference and featured talks by Maria Isabel Escada (INPE), Mauricio Santos Vega (Universidad de Los Andes), and Remy Hoek Spaans (BSC). Maria Isabel presented her experience of obtaining ethical and regulatory approvals for drone flights in Brazil. Maurício spoke about drone flights conducted in Colombia, sharing drone-recorded video footage and elaborating on the data processing. Remy presented the protocol and methodology of a scoping review paper on the ethical use of drones in environment and health research. Presentations were followed by a thought-provoking discussion mediated by Claudia Codeço (Fiocruz) on the ethical dilemmas drone researchers face and how to best engage with local communities living in the research area.

HARMONIZE members at the workshop on the ethical considerations on the use of drone technology in health research.