Outside the biomedical box of integrated care research. Meet some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA staff
The RESPOND-AFRICA consortium is made up of a range of diverse professionals from Europe and Africa. They are working on several different projects all aimed at improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV in Africa. They are experts in unique activities that range from infectious disease care, non-communicable diseases care, project management, implementation, social science, or health economics. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be involved in a large global health program including multi-country randomised control trials? We have interviewed some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA members who are both on the ground and behind the scenes to give you an idea. Follow along in our series documenting some of our RESPOND-AFRICA consortium members!
Interviewee name: Camila Picchio
Role in RESPOND-AFRICA: Communications work package coordinator
Projects involved within RESPOND-AFRICA: INTE-AFRICA & META-TRIAL
Where they are based: Barcelona, Spain
Who are you?
I am a multidisciplinary public health researcher and PhD candidate. I am currently based at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) where I coordinate various research lines relating mainly to viral hepatitis, vaccine hesitancy, and integrated care. My role within the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium is different than my day-to-day research activities, which is why I enjoy it so much! Within RESPOND-AFRICA I support communications activities to help put a spotlight on the work this partnership carries out in sub-Saharan Africa.
How has your journey helped you lead to this point in your career?
Dedicated supervisors who believed in my potential have led me to this point in my, albeit short, career!
How did you initially get involved in research?
I studied anthropology and really made the switch to a more public health and research focused-career when I was in the middle of my undergraduate degree and was doing an internship in my home city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a public hospital’s infectious diseases unit. A South African patient had just received an HIV diagnosis but appeared to be quite unphased by her diagnosis. When speaking to her more, she told me that HIV was prevalent in her home town and she knew that if she took her medication (referring to ARTs), she would be OK. She went on to explain that her father had died of a heart attack in South Africa and this was something she knew nothing about because the health services there rarely spoke about this. She was angry and upset at the lack of infrastructure to properly diagnose and treat her father’s ailment in South Africa.
After this conversation I just kept asking “why?” Her story moved me deeply and I went back to university the following semester and added public health to my undergraduate studies. Since then, I’ve been particularly interested in researching health systems and their responses to infectious diseases.
What areas of HIV and NCD research and/or global health project management do you think are being neglected?
In most of sub-Saharan Africa, funding has primarily been focused on viral diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis and health systems are, therefore, primarily set up vertically to treat these conditions. However, as the epidemiology changes in these countries, health systems are often times not equipped to treat non-communicable diseases. I believe that funding is a key barrier that is prohibiting the better understanding of this changing epidemiology and how to come up with better solutions to treat ageing populations in a patient-centred and equitable way.
Funding is a key barrier that is prohibiting the better understanding of this changing epidemiology and how to come up with better solutions to treat ageing populations
What do you hope to do in your role and as a member of the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium?
I hope to be able to help bring attention to the great research that is being carried out by the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium because it is relevant across target populations like policy-makers, clinicians, researchers, and patients.
Besides research and randomised control trials, what do you enjoy doing?
I am primarily fuelled by caffein and in my spare time I like to read, travel, and look at puppy and kitty pictures.