Research Article: Stakeholder Narratives on Trypanosomiasis, Their Effect on Policy and the Scope for One Health

Date Published: December 11, 2015

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Catherine Grant, Neil Anderson, Noreen Machila, Joseph Mathu Ndung’u.

Abstract: BackgroundThis paper explores the framings of trypanosomiasis, a widespread and potentially fatal zoonotic disease transmitted by tsetse flies (Glossina species) affecting both humans and livestock. This is a country case study focusing on the political economy of knowledge in Zambia. It is a pertinent time to examine this issue as human population growth and other factors have led to migration into tsetse-inhabited areas with little historical influence from livestock. Disease transmission in new human-wildlife interfaces such as these is a greater risk, and opinions on the best way to manage this are deeply divided.MethodsA qualitative case study method was used to examine the narratives on trypanosomiasis in the Zambian policy context through a series of key informant interviews. Interviewees included key actors from international organisations, research organisations and local activists from a variety of perspectives acknowledging the need to explore the relationships between the human, animal and environmental sectors.Principal FindingsDiverse framings are held by key actors looking from, variously, the perspectives of wildlife and environmental protection, agricultural development, poverty alleviation, and veterinary and public health. From these viewpoints, four narratives about trypanosomiasis policy were identified, focused around four different beliefs: that trypanosomiasis is protecting the environment, is causing poverty, is not a major problem, and finally, that it is a Zambian rather than international issue to contend with. Within these narratives there are also conflicting views on the best control methods to use and different reasoning behind the pathways of response. These are based on apparently incompatible priorities of people, land, animals, the economy and the environment. The extent to which a One Health approach has been embraced and the potential usefulness of this as a way of reconciling the aims of these framings and narratives is considered throughout the paper.Conclusions/SignificanceWhile there has historically been a lack of One Health working in this context, the complex, interacting factors that impact the disease show the need for cross-sector, interdisciplinary decision making to stop rival narratives leading to competing actions. Additional recommendations include implementing: surveillance to assess under-reporting of disease and consequential under-estimation of disease risk; evidence-based decision making; increased and structurally managed funding across countries; and focus on interactions between disease drivers, disease incidence at the community level, and poverty and equity impacts.

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