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Letter from the editor | 150

The sickness of a country at war

The sickness of a country at war

At first sight the cover of this edition may not be to the liking of our regular readers. As if the reports of deaths, holdups and kidnappings in the media were not enough is it also necessary for Pesquisa FAPESP to deal with the same subject? Yes, it is necessary, especially when it deals with a broad piece of research on the subject, carried out using scientific criteria, which offers valuable data so that more effective public security policies can be demanded. In this particular case, the wide-ranging report of our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto has shown that one in every ten people in the city of São Paulo who have been the victims of violent episodes over the last year (holdup, kidnapping, physical aggression or sexual abuse) have signs of post-traumatic stress disorder; this is the equivalent of 1.1 million people. This was the first survey into the occurrence of this problem in the country, in work done by some 50 researchers from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and Ceará.

Patients with post-traumatic stress are unable to lead a normal life. They often abandon their work and alter the daily lives of members of their families. When the period analyzed is extended to cover their whole life we see that 26% of the inhabitants of São Paulo (2.8 million people) had signs compatible with this emotional problem that is triggered by violence. As one of the authors of the study rightly noted, the numbers are those of a country at war. In the case of Brazil, the most violent side of this urban war, which is typical of cities like São Paulo, Rio and Recife, can be seen in the murder of young men, where the numbers are terrifyingly high and keep on growing. But there is also a domestic side to this, when the aggression occurs at home with fights between couples, violence against children or sexual abuse committed by the spouse or parent. Zorzetto’s report indicates that the researchers are keen both to measure the occurrence of the problem in the population and to seek more effective treatment for patients. As you can see, this is a good topic to grace the cover of Pesquisa FAPESP (page 20).

Another good subject for discussion, this time in the academic field, is about the incongruent results in two academic performance ranking tables (page 28). One comes from the Thomson Scientific database and puts Brazil in 15th position, with 2.02% of all the world’s scientific production in 2007 (in 2006 it was 1.92%). The Scopus database, on the other hand, marketed by the Elsevier publishing house,  places the country in the same 15th position, but with 1.75% of the world’s production. The universes of these two databases are different and it is impossible to know if the difference is accidental or a trend. But there are those who see in these numbers the first sign that the exponential increase in Brazilian production over the last twenty years has reached its limit although there is no consensus among specialists about this. In any event, the report by our political editor, Fabrício Marques, raises a question that will lead to much debate and analysis and many articles over the next few years.

Unlike the texts mentioned above chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will cause no controversy or debate. Even so, the study presented by assistant science editor, Maria Guimarães, takes a new approach to an old problem. She shows how competition for oxygen causes the fatigue that is common in cardiac and pulmonary insufficiency and leaves those who exercise and have the disease with the sensation of having “legs made of lead”. What is new in this work is the fact that it deals, specifically with this  disease,  with circulation and respiration as interlinked systems (page 44).

Assistant editor, Dinorah Ereno, from the magazine’s technology department, talks about a plastic packaging recycling project that involves three innovative processes (page 82). It is hoped that one of them will lead to the reuse of the plastic PET bottles for producing new containers that can even have direct contact with food. This is something encouraging in a world that is increasingly concerned about sustainability.