The application of epidemiology in national veterinary services: Challenges and threats in Brazil.
Gonçalves, Vitor Salvador Picão
; de Moraes, Geraldo Marcos
| ID: mdl-28011086
The application of epidemiology in national veterinary services must take place at the interface between science and politics. Animal health policy development and implementation require attention to macro-epidemiology, the study of economic, social and policy inputs that affect the distribution and impact of animal or human disease at the national level. The world has changed fast over the last three decades including the delivery of veterinary services, their remit and the challenges addressed by public and animal health policies. Rethinking the role of public services and how to make public programs more efficient has been at the heart of the political discussion. The WTO through its SPS Agreement has changed the way in which national veterinary services operate and how trade decisions are made. Most low and middle income countries are still struggling to keep up with the new international scene. Some of these countries, such as Brazil, have very important livestock industries and are key to the global food systems. Over the last two decades, Brazil became a leading player in exports of livestock products, including poultry, and this created a strong pressure on the national veterinary services to respond to trade demands, leading to focus animal health policies on the export-driven sector. During the same period, Brazil has gone a long way in the direction of integrating epidemiology with veterinary services. Epidemiology groups grew at main universities and have been working with government to provide support to animal health policy. The scope and quality of the applied epidemiological work improved and focused on complex data analysis and development of technologies and tools to solve specific disease problems. Many public veterinary officers were trained in modern epidemiological methods. However, there are important institutional bottlenecks that limit the impact of epidemiology in evidence-based decision making. More complex challenges require high levels of expertise in veterinary epidemiology, as well as institutional models that provide an appropriate environment for building and sustaining capacity in national veterinary services. Integrating epidemiology with animal health policy is a great opportunity if epidemiologists can understand the real issues, including the socio-economic dimensions of disease management, and focus on innovation and production of knowledge. It may be a trap if epidemiologists are restricted to answering specific decision-making questions and policy makers perceive their role exclusively as data analysts or providers of technological solutions. Fostering solutions for complex issues is key to successful integration with policy making.