University of Antwerp and Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana (Peru), jointly organised a short EBQ course (Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Qualitative Research) in Iquitos, Peru, August 2017.
Malaria and other infectious diseases severely affect the Peruvian Amazon population living low-living conditions. Currently, the Peruvian government has launched a Malaria Elimination program in the Peruvian Amazon (MEPPA) and therefore requested evidence-based data meeting international standards. Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana (UNAP), a public university located in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon (Iquitos city, Loreto region, Peru) has to play a key role in supporting the MEPPA and in the development of the region. Since 2016, within the framework of the VLIR South Initiative project ZEIN2016Z195, UAntwerp in collaboration with Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) (Lima, Peru) is building capacity at UNAP on molecular epidemiology research through:
- active training of UNAP researchers/students at UAntwerp and UPCH facilities,
- providing courses & workshops in Peru and
- performing joint malaria research.
Therefore, the 1st Peruvian edition of the EBQ course (‘Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Qualitative Research’) was carried out at UNAP facilities in Iquitos from 31 July till 18 August 2017. During 3 weeks, 20 selected participants (biomedical researchers and professors, 17 from Iquitos and 3 from other provinces) received lectures by UAntwerp and UPCH professors. Prof. Paul Van Royen (Dean Fac. Medicine, UA) and Prof. Lieve Peremans (UA) opened the course with a 3-day introduction on Qualitative Research Methods with lots of group dynamics e.g. focus group and interviews. Later, epidemiology lectures were given by Dr. Greet Dieltiens (ZNA, Antwerp) and the Biostatistics lectures and hands-on exercises using R were given by Dr. José Chauca (UPCH) and Dr.(c) Christopher Delgado-Ratto (UA). During the last week, focused talks were provided: Epidemiology of infectious diseases, Intro to Clinical trials and Systematic review & Meta-analysis (Prof. Jean-Pierre Van Geertruyden, UA), Molecular epidemiology (Prof. Dionicia Gamboa, UPCH) and on technical aspects on the development of infectious diseases control program (Prof. Alejandro Llanos-Cuentas, UPCH). The last day, representatives of the National Malaria Control Program (Dr. Hugo Rodriguez, Dr. Gabriela Meza) provided an overview of the current malaria program activities and exchanged with the participants about the MEPPA.
During the course the students were highly motivated and actively participating. The written pre & post course evaluations showed that, by the end of the course, the students understood most basic concepts and developed a critical epidemiological thinking . Some participants developed, by own initiative, research proposals on infectious diseases relevant for the Peruvian Amazon (e.g. predictors for pregnancy interruption in Zika-infected pregnant women, malaria transmission dynamics, etc.). Participants expressed a need to expand the collaboration network with UA researchers and highlighted that the EBQ was a unique opportunity for UNAP researchers/students to learn research methods as these opportunities are very scarce in this region.
The organizers (UPCH & UA) already organized successfully a short course focusing on molecular epidemiology methods a relatively new and fast evolving filed (www.uantwerp.be/eponge) and UA, UCPH and UNAP intend to prolong the collaboration and further strengthen the research capacities at UNAP and contribute to the MEPPA initiative.