Established in 1996, this month Cochrane Brazil (Centro Cochrane do Brasil) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades, Cochrane Brazil has supported authors from different regions of the country, and produced more than 300 Cochrane Reviews for the Brazilian Ministry of Health. Some of these author teams are now in a position to lead the production of Cochrane work in their own regions.
Earlier this year, Cochrane was delighted to announce the launch of its first national Cochrane Network, consisting of the Brazilian Cochrane Centre (located at the Centro de Estudos em Medicina Baseada em Evidências e AvaliaçãoTecnologica em Saúde in São Paulo) and five new Affiliates, located in the cities of Fortaleza and João Pessoa (in the Northeast region of Brazil), in Belém (in the Amazon region), in Petrópolis (in the Southeastern region, near Rio de Janeiro) and in Muriaé (in the Central West region).
To mark their 20th Anniversary celebrations, Dr. Alvaro Atallah, Director of Cochrane Brazil, tells us more about their achievements. You can also read this interview in Portuguese.
Dr. Alvaro Atallah, how does it feel to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Cochrane Brazil?
We feel honored for the opportunity to have contributed to the uptake and use of evidence-based health care (EBHC) in many different settings of Brazil. We feel happy with our educational achievements and the training of thousands of Brazilian health professionals, teaching them how to produce and use high-quality synthesized evidence. We feel proud to have contributed with health authorities to help establish national policies regarding evidence-based health care.
Can you share with us, in your own words, how it all began?
In 1988, Doctors Richard Peto and Rory Collins invited me to help design a randomized trial on aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia. I went to the Clinical Trials Services Unit in Oxford University where I met Professor Iain Chalmers, with whom I established strong professional and personal bonds which last up to this date. I was invited to participate in the meetings that resulted in the creation of the Cochrane Collaboration in 1992.
Soon after, Iain encouraged us to found the first Cochrane Center in a developing country. Iain was our patron and inaugurated our Centre in October 1996, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, within Sao Paulo Federal University.
Looking back over the last 20 years, what have been the highlights for you?
In the late 1990s, we created a strong partnership with Sao Paulo Federal University through which we trained hundred of undergraduate students and residents, as well as 260 post-graduate students (masters, PhD and post-doc) in the principles of evidence-based health care and systematic reviews. The work of Cochrane Brazil led to the creation of the first post-graduate course in in the country and the first undergraduate course in evidence-based health care for medical students in Brazil.
In 2003 our team started to train strategic technical officers of the Brazilian Ministry of Health. This initiative resulted in savings of approximately 5 to 10 billion dollars per year in the budget of the public health system in Brazil. In 2011, thanks to this continued work, the President of Brazil created a federal law (number 12401) which mandated the use of high-quality health technology assessments, using Cochrane Reviews as the gold standard in health research, to incorporate any new technology in the national health system.
We have produced more than 300 Cochrane Reviews. Three of the team members of Cochrane Brazil rank among the top 10 authors who have produced the largest numbers of publications in the area in the country.
We have invested in the dissemination of the “culture of evidence-based health care” all over the country, using distance courses and approximately 1500 TV programs broadcast in open channels prime time with the support of important partners like the Sao Paulo Medical Association. These initiatives continue up to this date.
In 2007, the president of Brazil (Lula), along with several ministers and authorities, visited Sao Paulo Federal University to launch a national family program and to acknowledge and recognize the work of the Brazilian Cochrane Center in the country.
In 2007 we held the XV Cochrane Colloquium in Sao Paulo, with approximately 1000 participants. Alongside the intense scientific program, the social activities of this Colloquium were very successful and created new friendships. The activities included a soccer match between Cochrane participants and famous (retired) Brazilian players (such as Socrates, Rivelino, Ademir da Guia, Raí, Edu and many others), as well as samba classes. The farewell party of this Colloquium was one of the most popular ever!
In 2013, thanks to our work within the Education and Health Ministries, we helped to create an evidence-based health care site with thousands of evidence syntheses and health technology assessments freely available to all Brazilian healthcare professionals.
Why are these the most important to you?
At the beginning, we faced a strong resistance in relation to EBHC and the relevance of the Brazilian Cochrane Center by many investigators, institutions, and university professors. Over time, we managed to overcome these barriers and obtain the recognition and even endorsement of universities, professional associations, and the Ministry of Health for our work. Recently, we have also gained the respect of regional and Supreme Court judges and journalists for our work.
What are the priorities for you and Cochrane Brazil in the forseeable future?
We want to keep on investing in developing and expanding the culture of evidence-based health care - not only in the health field, but also in other areas such including law, journalists, librarians, and consumers in general. We are also developing a network of Affiliate Centers within the country, as part of the first national Cochrane Network.
How are you celebrating the 20th anniversary?
We are preparing a celebration ceremony that will include awards to all those who have helped us over the years such as Health Ministers, Deans, Co-ordinators of the post-graduate courses, colleagues who helped us to found and run the Center, authorities of the Brazilian legal system, and national and international pioneers of the Cochrane Collaboration.
What’s your message to health decision makers in Brazil at this special time for Cochrane Brazil?
We are very happy with the progress that health decision makers have made over the years in Brazil and for their continued support for our work. We hope that they will continue to endorse our work and help to disseminate the concepts of evidence-based health care to the new generation.
Cochrane Brazil celebrate their 20th Anniversary on 31st October 2016.
Visit the Cochrane Brazil website
Read this in Portuguese