Second SPARKS meeting summary: May 2018

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The second meeting of the Social Protection Action Research Knowledge Sharing (SPARKS) network was held at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden on 30-31 May, 2018. The SPARKS network is a global network created to facilitate action-oriented research on the public health impact of social protection, with a main focus on low-and middle-income countries. SPARKS represents a partnership between the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Global Tuberculosis (TB) Programme, World Health Organization. The meeting was attended by approximately 60 participants from 22 countries and 27 organisations.

The objectives of the meeting were to:
1. Update on SPARKS projects’ outcomes, new social protection platforms, and other
previous SPARKS related activities;
2. Identify new research opportunities within the current projects;
3. Identify new collaborations and funding opportunities.

After a welcome from Associate Professor Marie Hasselberg (Head of the Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet), Professor Knut Lönnroth and Dr Delia Boccia welcomed participants to the meeting. The meeting included a diverse set of presentations aligned to the SPARKS meeting objectives with the aim of presenting the latest updates on social protection implementation, policies and research. The meeting began with an overview of global initiatives regarding universal health coverage and social protection from representatives from United Nations organisations and the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency. A number of country representatives then presented on TB patient cost surveys including the policy implications of the catastrophic costs of TB care, followed by presentations on the latest evidence regarding social protection, the Sustainable Development Goals and TB, based on studies conducted in Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Peru and a global modelling study.

On day two of the meeting ongoing and planned intervention studies on social protection and TB were presented with the aim of informing the group discussions that followed. Participants were then divided into four working groups i.e.: 1. systematic reviews, 2. generic protocols for social protection mapping and epidemiological research, 3. generic protocols for intervention studies and 4. access barriers to social protection and fundamental needs for conditions other than tuberculosis. The aim of the group work was to contribute to a revised and updated SPARKS workplan and to generate new ideas for research and collaborations relevant to social protection and health, with a focus on policy relevant research. A representative from each of the four working groups presented back to all meeting participants. Prior to the meeting closure, Dr Kristi Annerstedt from the SPARKS Secretariat presented on the SPARKS communication plan. The meeting was formally closed by Professor Knut Lönnroth and Dr Delia Boccia.

Conclusions from the 2nd SPARKS Meeting
• Despite the existing funding challenges it is impressive how much is currently being done in this field and the growing number of people contributing to the research agenda. The evidence base is becoming stronger and the research is starting to have policy impact. A good example are the numerous national TB patient cost surveys that have been conducted, where subsequent high-level policy dialogues have resulted in tangible policy changes.
• Several projects within SPARKS (including SOPHIA, CRESIPT, CHEST, IMPACT TB, Locally-Appropriate Socioeconomic Support Package For TB-Affected Households In Nepal and Social support for TB patients in Vietnam share a number of features in common in terms of methods and scope. There is an opportunity to share the programmatic and methodological lessons and see how implementation and research findings vary by context. It would be appropriate to create a system of information sharing via dedicated events (i.e. annual workshops) and more frequent and regular contacts on specific topics (i.e. via skype or conference calls).
• During the meeting there was an emphasis on barriers to access to social protection experienced by vulnerable populations, including TB-affected communities. Now that impact of social protection on TB care and prevention is more or less acknowledged, a key issue remains how to design social protection delivery strategies to improve access for populations with ill-health.
• Countries are keen to start their own research on social protection and TB; however, extent of resources available as well as priority research questions vary considerably across countries, which reflects the different profile of the TB epidemic and also the level of development and richness of the existing social protection platform. Planned country visits in combination with social protection mapping, would be beneficial in setting up country specific research agendas.

SPARKS Network Working Groups

During the 2nd day of the meeting the participants split into four different working group to discuss the following themes: 1. systematic reviews, 2. generic protocols for social protection mapping and epidemiological research, 3. generic protocols for intervention studies and 4. access barriers to social protection and fundamental needs for conditions other than tuberculosis. Based on discussions from the break-out groups during day 2 of the SPARKS meeting, it was proposed to create five Working Groups to facilitate joint activities of the SPARKS members research teams and identify common approaches and metrics. SPARKS members are encouraged to contact the secretariat if they would like to form an additional working group.


[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner equal_height=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Working Group[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Chair[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]UN Focal Person[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Aim of working group[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner equal_height=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Systematic Reviews[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Delia Boccia ( & Tom Wingfield ([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Enos Masini ([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]1. Identify a list of priority research questions that can be tackled through systematic reviews and
meta-analysis by independent teams of researchers working under the same research framework
2. Develop a common plan for the data extraction and data gathering strategy so to ensure consistency of methods across the various teams
3. Design a portal for data repository that can be shared across teams working on different subjects[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner equal_height=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Social Protection Program Mapping[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Debora Pedrazzoli ( & Priya Shete ([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Amy Collins( & Nobu Nishikiori([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]1. Identify and disseminate existing social protection mapping results from TB and non-TB partners in high-burden countries, including through development of a common platform for updating and sharing mapping results.
2. Develop a common framework for categorizing country capacity based on existing social protection
programs and health/economic/demographic characteristics and translating to potential categories of social protection interventions.
3. Establishing a set of  indicators or metrics that countries should report on that reflect salient operational aspects of implementing social protection for TB.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner equal_height=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Patient Cost Surveys[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Kerri Viney ( & Nguyen Binh Hoa[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Andrew Siroka ( & Ines Garcia Baena([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]1. Promotion and design implementation of patient cost surveys
2. Advance methodological discussions amongst experts[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner equal_height=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Access barriers to social protection and fundamental needs for conditions other than TB[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Kristi Sidney Annerstedt ([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][vc_column_text]Tia Maria Palermo([/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]1. Initiate the expansion of the SPARKS network beyond TB related research.
2. Assess the access barriers to social protection and fundamental needs for other conditions (starting with non-communicable diseases)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Purpose of the working groups: The aim of these groups is enable SPARKS Network members with similar interests to participate in collaborative efforts and leverage the network to further the SPARKS agenda in that particular area of interest.

Chairs: The initial chairs were nominated by the SPARKS Secretariat. An individual will remain a chair for 18 months, where then another individual will be nominated and voted on by the working group.

Responsibilities include:

  1. Ensuring the projects meet the objectives of the working group
  2. Monitor progress of the various groups (by contacting the head of each sub-project at defined intervals of time)
  3. Facilitate communication and knowledge exchange of the various teams through regular contact time (i.e. quarterly working group calls)
  4. Disseminate summaries of lessons learnt and achievements across the group members to maintain a sense of belonging to the group

They will also be responsible for planning and facilitating virtual meetings to discuss methodological issues, joint funding opportunities, or update progress.

 Focal points: SPARKS members from partner UN agencies (e.g. WHO and UNICEF) will be invited for each of the working groups. The focal points will collaborate with the chair to establish the objective of the group as well as be an active participant.

Working group members: All SPARKS network members are eligible to participate in one or several working groups of their own choosing and participation is strictly on a voluntary basis. They should contact the chair of the working group if they are interested in participating.

Getting started:

If you are interested in participating in existing projects, please contact the chair of the specific working group you are interested in.

If you are interested in creating a new sub-project in a particular working group, please:

  1. Identify an area or subject you would like to contribute with and summarise this into a short abstract (1/2 page).
  2. Reach out directly to the chair and submit the abstract. In your email please include: i. your interest and level of desired participation; ii. what type of support you would need from the working group to undertake your proposal (i.e. financial, intellectual, operational); and iii) whether or not you have a timeline or a specific plan to perform the proposed activity

Recommended process for the working groups: People interested in joining the working groups will be contacted by the respective chairs to share the objectives of the working group and be informed on how the working group will be run. While each group will function differently to meet their own needs, we recommend meeting virtually at least once a quarter to discuss the progress of the work and then as needed. The Secretariat is in the process of developing a platform that will help facilitate these virtual working groups.


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