Professor Tony Barnett
Social Sciences of Infectious Diseases
15-17 Tavistock Place
Professor Barnett joined LSHTM in 2013 after ten years at the London School of Economics with honorary status at the LSHTM. He is also Honorary Professor in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester.
He has a general interest in the social sciences of infectious diseases. From 1986 to 2007, his researchfocused on the social and economic effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and Asia - including Russia, Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
He has studied the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural societies in Africa, on commercial, voluntary and public organisations, and has written about problems of costing the epidemic, and in particular its costs in relation to social reproduction, hedonic loss and hope. He has also worked widely on the availability and costs of anti-retroviral treatments in Africa. In 2005, he was appointed to the Expert Advisory Group of the UK government's Foresight Project, Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases, where he worked on the human and bovine tuberculosis as well as on HIV/AIDS. From 2007-2009, he led a large study of the potential impact of pandemic influenza on the UK together with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, the LSE, Queen Mary University of London and the LSHTM. At the same time he led a large study of the effects of HIV/AIDS on state security. This was funded by the US Social Science Research Council, The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others. It had sub-studies in South Africa, Indonesia, India, The Russian Federation, Mozambique and Myanmar. In 2010-2011, he was one of the researchers/authors of the United Nations report: "On the front line: A review of programmes that address HIV among international peacekeepers and uniformed services 2005–2010".
Current Research Focus
The Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Poutry Hub – an interdisciplinary and international award held between the Royal Veterinary College (lead institution), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, Chittagong Veterinary and Agricultural University, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Bangladesh, Christian Medical College, Vellore, India, City University of Hong Kong, Pirbright Institute, UK, Free University of Brussels, University of Oxford,UK, Anand Agricultural University, India, Government of Gujarat, India, Nirma University, Ahmedabad, India, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Chennai, India, Chatham House, London, National Institute of Animal Sciences, Vietnam, National University of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Vietnam, National University of Veterinary Research, Vietnam, Vietnam National University of Agriculture - in other words, a truly innovative international collaboration to meet a truly Global Challenge.
This innovative projectdeploys the skills, theories, insights and experience of social, clinical, laboratory and epidemiological sciences. The LSHTM input is provided by Professor Tony Barnett, Professor Brendan Wren (https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/aboutus/people/wren.brendan ), Dr Richard Stabler (https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/aboutus/people/stabler.richard ), and Dr Punam Mangtani (https://www.londonntd.org/research/researchers/dr-punam-mangtani ),
The GCRF One Health Poultry Hub will address the need to meet rising demand for poultry meat and eggs in developing countries, while minimising risk to international public health. Population growth is driving global demand for poultry, meat and egg production; this unfortunately creates conditions in which animal diseases can spread to humans (‘zoonoses’). These include bacterial food poisoning and strains with avian influenza with epidemic or pandemic potential.
The GCRF One Health Poultry Hub will adopt a ‘One Health’ approach to the issue of combatting animal-to-human diseases by bringing together a team of laboratory, clinical, veterinary and social scientists. This team will test and evaluate novel interventions. The need for safe poultry production is most urgent in South and South East Asia, so the RVC and its partners will then use their local networks in these regions to put its positive research to immediate use.
The challenge: To achieve sustainable global intensification of chicken meat and egg production whilst reducing risks to human and animal health and welfare
Articulation: Poultry meat and eggs are the most popular global source of animal protein for human consumption. Chickens are well suited to high intensity production due to their efficient feed conversion and lower carbon emissions compared to other terrestrial livestock. Their production is already more intensive than for other species and is predicted to grow 85% by 2050 (compared to 31% for pigs). Sustainability of the global poultry sector raises major concerns for public health, due to its considerable externalities, chief of which is risk linked to generation of zoonotic disease hazards. Intensification of poultry production in high-income countries (HIC) began in the mid-20th century, and after decades of progression, vertically integrated, intensive operations run by small numbers of firms and suppliers are dominant. In low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) intensification is occurring rapidly in association with economic growth, and models of integration are much more diverse. S and SE Asia are at the leading edge of current expansion with some examples in the region of state-of- the-art broiler and layer farms operating with high biosecurity. However, a major manifestation of commercial production is rapid growth of small/medium sized units (500 – 5000 birds), located in densely populated peri-urban areas, operating with poor biosecurity amid a mix of livestock, wild and domestic animals, backyard poultry and wildfowl.
Contribution to Sustainable Development Goals: One in nine people in the world (~815 million) are undernourished and two thirds of these live in Asia, with S Asia having the greatest hunger burden (~281 million undernourished) . Lack of dietary protein contributes significantly to childhood stunting and wasting, and to poor health in adolescent, pregnant and lactating women and a goal of SDG2 is to achieve internationally agreed targets on these aspects by 2025. Poultry meat and eggs are the major source of animal protein in Asian diets and our aim to secure safe expansion of this critical protein source relates directly to SDG2. By developing interventions to reduce transmission through poultry of zoonotic disease hazards such as avian influenza viruses (AIV), food-borne pathogens (FBP) including Salmonella and Campylobacter, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), we contribute directly to goals in SDG3 to strengthen capacity for risk reduction and management of health risks and combat communicable zoonotic disease. By following the whole chain, from production to distribution, including waste from farms, live bird markets, and slaughterhouses, we will generate evidence for mitigating risks of contaminating potable water sources, and land pollution, priorities of SDG6 and SDG11 respectively. Our overarching aim to achieve sustainable intensification of poultry production in LMIC settings necessarily links to local entrepreneurs, key players in business development and expansion, particularly for small and medium sized producers. With strong stakeholder networks and lines of dissemination for communicating best practice, we will provide support to these important job creators, a specific goal of SDG9.
Need for investment and activities: In S and SE Asia, intensification of poultry is occurring in a context of unprecedented rates of economic growth, urbanisation and megacity development characterised by diverse local, national and regional politics, regulatory frameworks of variable quality and enforcement, culture, economics and trade. We hypothesise the current models of continuing intensification are not sustainable due to the serious risks for public health. New systems of poultry production are required that effectively mitigate health risk at the human/poultry interface using a One Health approach. These should be tailored to local situations and explicitly take account of epidemiological, socio-economic and environmental contexts and behaviours. Large scale interdisciplinary analyses and synthesis are essential to generate evidence to identify what are the major constraints to changing human behaviours and to test and implement interventions and policies to (1) reduce or eliminate risk to public health, (2) improve economic sustainability of the industry, and (3) improve animal health.
Value to the global landscape: The urgent need for new strategies for safe and sustainable food systems is most evident in S and SE Asia. For this reason, we will replicate programmes of field work, analysis and interventions in four countries of the region that are at differing stages of intensification, viz Bangladesh (BGD), India (IND), Sri Lanka (LKA) and Viet Nam (VNM). There will be one study site per country, except in India where there will be two, in the South and North-West. In each of these 5 study sites, production and distribution chains with known different levels of intensification (from backyard to full vertical integration) will be selected.
With high quality networks of animal, microbial, biomedical mathematical and social scientists from organisations in 12 countries, we will implement a portfolio of scalable research with the capacity to take a strategic role in an innovative global agenda to harness the benefits of intensification whilst reducing deleterious public health risks.
Research Vision and Programmes
Vision: We hypothesise: a) Intensification of production and associated value chains, through its impact on chicken population structure and dynamics, creates conditions for generation and dissemination of high impact zoonotic disease health hazards; b) Mitigation requires holistic interventions designed and implemented across multiple scales of distribution (including the poultry immune system, husbandry practices, reorganisation of poultry marketing, changes in institutional settings and regulatory measures). This necessitates understanding the intensification-related biological processes that lead to increased risks, and the socio-economic processes that underlie different intensification models.
Understanding how to supply increasing quantities of poultry protein to growing urban populations demanding a better life, while minimising disease risk, points to paradoxes of presence in the construction of the knowledge which leads to policy. For us, reconciling macro-level ‘performance’ data generated by remote monitoring and management of the value chain, with detailed knowledge from intensive fieldwork in social and natural sciences is the relevant paradox of presence to be resolved in this research. We consider it essential to capture ‘on the ground’ understanding of the subtleties and contradictions of specific behaviours, interactions and attitudes, and map this directly to the molecular genetics of chickens and pathogens, to interpret patterns and emergent properties of disease risk captured by high level data. Recognising this paradox of presence and its methodological significances and understanding that it must be solved (or at least worked around) to deliver effective change, is central to our framework. Human actions, beliefs, calculations and decisions shape the structure that enables and governs the molecular and organic processes in the value chain. Understanding, rather than assuming, the role of human agency and the structures that constrain it, in generation of zoonotic health risks is at the root of this project.
There are marked conceptual, methodological and theoretical discontinuities between molecular understanding of pathogen/host evolution, modelling of epidemiological processes, understanding the influence of social, economic, cultural and policy factors on relevant human behaviours, and engaging effectively with stakeholders to achieve meaningful impacts. Each identified task is of itself logistically complex and costly to implement but in isolation provides only a partial picture of the complex reality and succumbs to its own disciplinary bias.
Understanding this reality requires a unifying conceptual framework and ongoing dialogue in the research team that promotes new ways of working that allow for differences in disciplinary methods, bias, assumptions and views.
We will engage with this problem, because to ignore it would be to fail in efforts to work towards policies that can offer effective and novel solutions and resolutions – an important distinction in the context of the politics of policy processes. Effective and sustainable human action requires pragmatic and adaptable interventions rather than isolated technical solutions. OneChick brings together (a) interdisciplinary conceptualisation and theorisation of disease processes integrating across social and natural sciences (b) novel and cost-effective technologies for targeted understanding of human social, economic and cultural processes (c) high throughput molecular tools and modelling to link disease risks to specific human behaviours within the value chain (d) an innovative programme of learning and team building to increase interdisciplinary capacity and form the basis of a One Health focused strategy of external engagement and dissemination.
Live Bird Markets and Avian Influenza
For some years, he has worked closely with colleagues from the Royal Veterinary College. In November 2014, he, Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Dr Guillaume Fournié (from the Royal Veterinary College) and Dr Punam Mangtani from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at LSHTM, togethe with colleagues from Bangladesh and from Chatham House, were awarded a grant from the Zoonoses and Emerging Livestock Systems (ZELS) Programme: Reducing the risk to livestock and people to research the ways in which the network structure of live bird markets enhance or retard the likelihood of transmission of avian influenza. This project is funded by the BBSRC, ESRC, DSTL, MRC, NERC and DFID The research, scheduled to finish in 2019, include virology, mathematical modelling of poultry production and marketing, detailed ethnography and development of an experimental epidemiology using techniques adapted from behavioural economics.
Hope, emergent property variables and infectious disease acquisition
Work on hope includes empirical research (with Janet Seeley - LSHTM), Guillaume Fournier (RVC), Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), Jonathan Levin (Witwatersrand), Joseph Katongole (MRC and UVRI, Uganda) on the applicability of a hope index to understanding differential risk of HIV transmission in some Uganda rural communities and the inclusion of social variables in mathematical models of infectious disease transmission. Recent publications in the journal Global Public Health, February 2015, include: (a) Some considerations concerning the challenge of incorporating social variables into epidemiological models of infectious disease transmission, DOI -: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2015.1007155 ; (b) Hope: a new approach to understanding structural factors in HIV acquisition, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2015.1007154.
In addition Janet Seeley (LSHTM) and Tony Barnett have been working with Dr Chris Desmond (Director of the Centre for Liberation Studies; Lead Economist, Centre for Excellence on Human Development, University of the Witwatersrand and Research Fellow at Harvard University) to understand the role of hope as a factor in adolescent sexual and substance related choices in South Africa.
Professor Barnett researches FGM in various parts of Africa. He has provided expert witness advice about these matters in immigration and child protection cases in courts in the UK, USA, Netherlands and Germany. In 2013 together with his then colleague at the LSE, Professor Sylvia Chant, he appeared in the United Kingdom Upper Tribunal Country Guidance Case:
K and others (FGM) The Gambia CG v. Secretary of State for the Home Department,  UKUT 00062(IAC), United Kingdom: Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber), 8 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5163e5204.html
Professor Barnett does not teach any courses or supervise research students but is happy to discuss people's research plans with them.
Current research interests are:
infectious diseases and security
The role of hope and other emotions in understanding infectious disease transmission in human populations and in the understanding of behaviour change.
Work with colleagues from the LSHTM, Royal Veterinary College and elsewhere on avian inlfuenza, campylobacter and other poultry diseases.