Our research project will develop a decision-support tool for Kyasanur Forest Disease management which will take the form of risk maps and guidance on where and when, and during which activities, specific forest user groups are most at risk of KFD. It is hoped that such a tool will enhance the targeting of risk communication, vaccination and protective measures for KFD and form a blueprint for similar tools to be developed for other zoonotic diseases affecting forest communities.
A co-production approach
Ideally, decision-support tools should be co-produced by the beneficiaries alongside researchers [Leach & Scoones, 2013] to increase their efficacy and implementation by and for those who need them most. Involvement and input from a diverse range of stakeholders and beneficiaries is therefore vitally important, especially since complex disease systems like KFD require cross-sectoral management. One of our first steps is to identify the key organisations, communities and individuals involved in governance of land use, human and animal health in forests at different geographical scales (village, district, state) to develop research capacity and a policy interface for understanding and mitigating zoonotic diseases in India.
To achieve these aims we are conducting multi-scale, cross-sectoral stakeholder workshops to engage with stakeholders in an iterative and inclusive way and ensure that all relevant stakeholders are involved in this research, from its framing to implementation. Experts from the agriculture, animal husbandry, education, forestry, policy and public health sectors across Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra who are knowledgeable about managing zoonotic diseases such as KFD will be invited to participate in stakeholder workshops to jointly conduct stakeholder mapping, problem framing and knowledge integration exercises and to experiment with the spatial decision support tool.
The report from our first stakeholder workshop, held in Bengaluru in August 2018, can be found here.
Predicting disease patterns under alternative scenarios for the tool
Existing spatial decision support tools for tick-borne infections tend to focus on ecological risk factors (e.g. tick or reservoir host distribution) rather than the changing human behaviour and priorities that govern exposure and effectiveness of interventions. This can lead to poor accuracy, uptake and relevance of such tools. Our tool will integrate spatial and seasonal variability in human exposure to KFD and environmental hazard, and map disease risk for focal landscapes under alternative scenarios. It will map where these risk factors coincide with constraints on health systems that affected management.
Global application of the inter-disciplinary approach
We will scope out generalisation of the inter-disciplinary tool to other emerging zoonotic diseases of forest ecosystems in India and worldwide (e.g. Chikungunya, Leishmaniases). If you are a research or practitioner interested in applying such inter-disciplinary approaches in your region or study system, we would love to hear from you.