COST Action CA18218

Sarah Cuschieri - Experiences of the network from Malta

Dr. Sarah Cuschieri, Lecturer with Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Malta is in the burden-eu spotlight to share her experiences of our network, and undertaking our first short-term scientific mission.

Why did you join the burden-eu network?

The opportunity to join the then newly established COST Action (CA18218) presented itself at a very appropriate time in my professional career, as I was preparing to defend my PhD thesis. My thesis focused on the burden of non-communicable diseases at a population level. With my PhD research studies coming to an end, participation within the network seemed a great opportunity to broaden my knowledge and expertise, building on my PhD studies. The concept of burden of disease has never been explored at local levels in Malta. Being part of the network was a good opportunity for me to work with other experts in the network to develop new methodological approaches to explore this, and also to help build up skills in translating knowledge to public health professionals back home.

Can you tell us about your experience within the burden-eu network so far?

I was fortunate to be the first member of the network to participate in a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) which was hosted by Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium, under the mentorship of Prof. Brecht Devleesschauwer. The aim of the STSM was to familiarise with the concept of burden of disease through the disability-adjusted life year DALY metric and then perform calculations under guidance for the most common diseases in Malta: low back pain, and diabetes. A collaborative exercise was performed using nationally representative data from Malta’s Health Interview Survey (2014-2015). This led to a successful publication in Archives of Public Health Journal as well as poster presentation at the World Congress of Public Health in October 2020. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were developing plans to carry out a workshop for Maltese public health professionals on the burden of disease concepts, using our published work on low back pain as a case study. In addition to this, we were trying to acquire the data inputs to progress to estimating the burden of diabetes. Both these activities remain on hold due to the immense pressures of the pandemic, but remain in our pipeline of work when time will allow in the future.

Other benefits of being an active member of the network has been the opportunity to connect with other small states members, where together we have been developing further collaborative research efforts.

Has the burden-eu network met your expectations?

This is my first experience as a country member participating in a COST Action network. So far, it has been an invaluable experience. I am looking forward to continuing collaborating with different members to develop different deliverables, as well as participate actively in the upcoming training schools.

Further information on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to low back pain in Malta can be found in the journal publication below.

Cuschieri S, Wyper GMA, Calleja N, Gorasso V, Devleesschauwer B. Measuring disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to low back pain in Malta. Arch Public Health. 2020;78(68). doi: 10.1186/s13690-020-00451-w

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