Trajectories Project launches a dashboard with interdisciplinary data from the Amazon Region on international platform
When talking about data science for health, we might think of something hard and almost hermetic. This impression can be put into perspective with a complex combination of interdisciplinary data to analyse complex scenarios, such as the Brazilian Amazon. This challenge was taken on by the team led by researcher Claudia Codeço from Fiocruz's Scientific Computing Program (PROCC).
The experience of combining this data was presented during the webinar "Using interdisciplinary data and concepts in research: the Trajectories Project", held on October 26 on zoom, organized by the Vice-Presidency for Education, Information and Communication (VPEIC/Fiocruz), PROCC and the Fiocruz Hub, in partnership with The Global Health Network. Led by Rachel Lowe, a researcher at the Centro Nacional de Supercomputación de Barcelona (BSC/Spain), the main objectives of the event were to present the project and its database, launch the dashboard for its visualisation and demonstrate its potential uses. In addition to the project coordinator and chair, speakers included Raquel Lana, a postdoctoral researcher at the BSC/Spain, Ana Rorato and Ana Paula Dal'Asta, both post-doctoral researchers at the National Institute for Space Research (INPE/Brazil).
The Trajectories Project is part of the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (SinBiose/CNPq), a member of the International Synthesis Consortium, whose objectives are to seek answers to complex problems, making use of interdisciplinarity and the integration and harmonization of concepts and data from different areas of knowledge. In this context, the Amazon is a model scenario for applying the concept of synthesis.
Claudia Codeço points out that, when thinking about the Amazon, we need to go beyond biodiversity and reiterate its importance as a major water reservoir. The region concentrates around 20% of all the fresh water in the world and both the forest and its population depend on this resource for their survival, food, production, transportation, economy and leisure, explains the researcher. In this sense, Codeço states that "we need to reverse the thinking that everything in the Amazon is poverty so that we can bring wealth and health to all these dimensions", generating new indicators to seek sustainable solutions for the region.
Epidemiological, environmental and economic components
The development of interdisciplinary indicators can be considered challenging for several reasons, since they have to be harmonized in both time and space. It therefore depends on factors such as the availability of data, the period in which it was collected and the geographical region to which it refers, as Raquel Lana explains. She stresses the need to create new indicators that can take account of the epidemiological situation in the region, with the competition of various diseases such as Chagas, malaria, dengue, among others, so to overcome data that focus only on incidence, and end up simplifying a scenario that is much more complex.
The environmental dimension of the project includes data such as habitat loss, land cover, transportation methods and climate anomalies. The graphs presented show an increase in deforestation in recent years, as a result of the dismantling of the public policy that acted to curb this activity. Ana Rorato draws attention to forest degradation, i.e. the gradual loss of forest cover through the selective removal of wood, which is concentrated in the arc of deforestation and causes structural changes in the forest, making it more vulnerable to fires and other damaging processes.
In the field of economics, the data is taken from the demographic and the agricultural census, which take place every ten years in different periods of the decade. The research uses the Multidimensional Deprivation Index (MDDI), which combines multiple deprivations that Amazonian families experience in a given period. Ana Paula Dal'Asta highlights the opposition between land and forest in the economic trajectories of the Amazon. According to the researcher, land is seen as a resource, while the forest is seen as an obstacle to be overcome, a disparity that divides those who only want to exploit the land for cultivation, grazing and mining and those who make use of the forest system as a form of subsistence and production, around the products that the forest offers.
The potential of the Trajectories database
The project's database and the methodology used to build the indicators are available for wide use, as Claudia Codeço said. She reiterates that the set of economic, environmental and epidemiological indicators alone already provide measures for mapping Amazonian landscapes but calls for the development of new indicators that can link health and wealth in the Amazon.
Use by other countries
To use these indicators in other countries, Ana Paula Dal'Asta believes that indicators such as the MDDI could be applied with the necessary adjustments to suit local contexts, as well as the dimensions they would cover, data sources, among other factors.
Despite its periodic updating, which follows the production of demographic and agricultural census data in Brazil, and which generates trend data over a given period, Codeço points out that trend indicators and faster indicators can be combined to assess epidemics, rapid landscape transformations and climate anomalies, for example. In this sense, she indicates the HARMONIZE project, led by chair Rachel Lowe, which seeks to develop computer models to harmonize data and detect associations between climatic and environmental factors and the risk of disease, and use them as a source for public policies.
The role of local communities
In addition to the harmonization, predictive capacity and quality of the indicators, Codeço points out that several communities in the region already monitor climatic conditions, fishing stocks, degradation of their surroundings, among other conditions that affect their lives. She states that the union with the peoples of the Amazon region is fundamental to bring reality and creativity to the development of indicators that reflect the local scenario.