The call was issued in 2022 by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases, a transnational consortium of research funders set up to combat chronic non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Two proposals supported by FAPESP were among those approved (photo: rawpixel/Freepik)
Published on 06/05/2023
By José Tadeu Arantes | Agência FAPESP – The Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) is a transnational partnership of major research funding agencies specifically supporting what is currently known as “implementation research”, which seeks to understand how the knowledge generated by scientific investigation can be turned into concrete measures, in this case addressing the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries and among vulnerable populations in high-income countries.
The result of the GACD’s latest call for proposals included two applications supported by FAPESP, one of which was rated the best by the panel, while the other is to be co-funded by the Research Council of Norway (RCN). Each project will receive a maximum of BRL 1,500,000 and last 48-60 months.
In the call entitled “Common Risk Factors in Vulnerable Life Stages (Adolescence and Young Adulthood)”, FAPESP announced a focus on the 10-19 and 15-24 age groups.
The approved proposals were: “Healthy food environments and obesity in childhood and adolescence: understanding and overcoming the challenges for implementing the most effective public policies”, submitted by Patricia Constante Jaime, a professor of nutrition at the University of São Paulo’s School of Public Health (FSP-USP); and “Reducing alcohol consumption among adolescents by means of a community-based multicomponent intervention: an implementation research approach”, submitted by Zila van der Meer Sanchez Dutenhefner, Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Federal University of São Paulo’s Medical School (EPM-UNIFESP).
The first project notes the rapid growth of obesity associated with negative changes in dietary habits, such as the increasing availability of ultra-processed foods. “As a result, there is an increase in non-communicable chronic diseases associated with unhealthy dietary patterns, particularly in children and adolescents,” the researchers wrote in the proposal.
The project will involve a number of activities in six stages, from a literature review to a package of interventions aimed at promoting food environments that favor healthier choices and collect evidence for the formulation of policies to prevent non-communicable diseases.
The second project, which will be co-funded by RCN, sets out to combat alcohol consumption as a causal factor in many non-communicable chronic diseases, including several types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and substance use disorders. In particular, delaying the onset of drinking by adolescents is one of the most effective strategies to reduce future alcohol consumption and the harm it will cause.
The project aims to implement a community-based multicomponent intervention that integrates all existing programs in Brazil with strategies shown to be effective in other countries, taking into consideration appropriate participation by stakeholders in the entire process. As a pilot experiment, the proposal will be implemented in two small municipalities in São Paulo state, involving the local administration and legislature.
The GACD’s calls for proposals are always highly competitive. “In five previous calls with FAPESP participating, only one proposal was approved by the GACD’s international panel, and it was funded unilaterally by FAPESP,” said Ana Paula Yokosawa, Deputy Manager of Research Collaboration at FAPESP’s Scientific Directorate (GCP-DC).
Despite the high quality of the research proposals recommended by FAPESP in previous calls, the GACD decided that they did not meet the goal of promoting implementation research. FAPESP established a committee to reformulate the guidelines for participation in the call, including Reinaldo Salomão, a professor of infectious diseases at EPM-UNIFESP, and Marcia Scazufca, a scientific researcher at Hospital das Clínicas (HC), the hospital complex run by the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP).
“The point isn’t to create new knowledge as much as to ensure that existing knowledge, even if it needs to be enhanced, actually reaches the target population. In this kind of activity, it’s almost a rule that researchers in academia partner with public administrators, who are the people who translate knowledge into concrete action,” said Salomão, who is also a member of the GACD’s Program Subcommittee and of FAPESP’s Adjunct Panel on Life Sciences.
To guarantee the efficacy of the projects it approves, the GACD has an international panel of peer reviewers delegated by the participating research funders. “These reviewers read, discuss and choose the approved proposals. Approval doesn’t depend on one person’s assessment. The score given to a proposal may go up or down as a result of this discussion. The two projects from FAPESP approved under this call deal with issues that are central to the lives of adolescents,” Scazufca said.