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1.  Establishing a community of practice of researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and communities to sustainably manage environmental health risks in Ecuador 
Background
The Sustainably Managing Environmental Health Risk in Ecuador project was launched in 2004 as a partnership linking a large Canadian university with leading Cuban and Mexican institutes to strengthen the capacities of four Ecuadorian universities for leading community-based learning and research in areas as diverse as pesticide poisoning, dengue control, water and sanitation, and disaster preparedness.
Methods
In implementing curriculum and complementary innovations through application of an ecosystem approach to health, our interdisciplinary international team focused on the question: “Can strengthening of institutional capacities to support a community of practice of researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and communities produce positive health outcomes and improved capacities to sustainably translate knowledge?” To assess progress in achieving desired outcomes, we review results associated with the logic framework analysis used to guide the project, focusing on how a community of practice network has strengthened implementation, including follow-up tracking of program trainees and presentation of two specific case studies.
Results
By 2009, train-the-trainer project initiation involved 27 participatory action research Master’s theses in 15 communities where 1200 community learners participated in the implementation of associated interventions. This led to establishment of innovative Ecuadorian-led master’s and doctoral programs, and a Population Health Observatory on Collective Health, Environment and Society for the Andean region based at the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar. Building on this network, numerous initiatives were begun, such as an internationally funded research project to strengthen dengue control in the coastal community of Machala, and establishment of a local community eco-health centre focusing on determinants of health near Cuenca.
Discussion
Strengthening capabilities for producing and applying knowledge through direct engagement with affected populations and decision-makers provides a fertile basis for consolidating capacities to act on a larger scale. This can facilitate the capturing of benefits from the “top down” (in consolidating institutional commitments) and the “bottom up” (to achieve local results).
Conclusions
Alliances of academic and non-academic partners from the South and North provide a promising orientation for learning together about ways of addressing negative trends of development. Assessing the impacts and sustainability of such processes, however, requires longer term monitoring of results and related challenges.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S2-S5
PMCID: PMC3247836  PMID: 22165915
2.  Collaboration between infection control and occupational health in three continents: a success story with international impact 
Globalization has been accompanied by the rapid spread of infectious diseases, and further strain on working conditions for health workers globally. Post-SARS, Canadian occupational health and infection control researchers got together to study how to better protect health workers, and found that training was indeed perceived as key to a positive safety culture. This led to developing information and communication technology (ICT) tools. The research conducted also showed the need for better workplace inspections, so a workplace audit tool was also developed to supplement worker questionnaires and the ICT. When invited to join Ecuadorean colleagues to promote occupational health and infection control, these tools were collectively adapted and improved, including face-to-face as well as on-line problem-based learning scenarios. The South African government then invited the team to work with local colleagues to improve occupational health and infection control, resulting in an improved web-based health information system to track incidents, exposures, and occupational injury and diseases. As the H1N1 pandemic struck, the online infection control course was adapted and translated into Spanish, as was a novel skill-building learning tool that permits health workers to practice selecting personal protective equipment. This tool was originally developed in collaboration with the countries from the Caribbean region and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Research from these experiences led to strengthened focus on building capacity of health and safety committees, and new modules are thus being created, informed by that work.
The products developed have been widely heralded as innovative and interactive, leading to their inclusion into “toolkits” used internationally. The tools used in Canada were substantially improved from the collaborative adaptation process for South and Central America and South Africa. This international collaboration between occupational health and infection control researchers led to the improvement of the research framework and development of tools, guidelines and information systems. Furthermore, the research and knowledge-transfer experience highlighted the value of partnership amongst Northern and Southern researchers in terms of sharing resources, experiences and knowledge.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S2-S8
PMCID: PMC3247839  PMID: 22166059

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