November 3, 2022 marks the 7th annual One Health Day, “a global campaign that celebrates and brings attention to the need for a One Health approach to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environment interface.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
One of the goals of One Health Day is to build multisector collaboration and trans-disciplinary approaches — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels. To promote this type of collaboration and approach, the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN) convened a day-long partnership meeting on September 8, 2022.
The meeting consisted of 89 influential One Health educators, researchers, and practitioners to explore areas for collaboration across academic, public and private sectors, seeking to address complex health issues and public health emergencies. This workshop highlighted the critical need for sustained engagement with universities, who are uniquely positioned to integrate collaborative One Health approaches and core competencies in pre-service education and in-service training programs from national to regional and global levels. During the workshop, participants self-selected into four breakout groups including: One Health education and training, One Health research, Surveillance and laboratory capacity, and Surge capacity.
Breakout groups undertook a modified gap analysis to identify key gaps by each topic needed to strengthen health systems and identify university roles in helping address the gaps identified. Potential areas for cross-sectoral collaboration were discussed, with emphasis on the role of universities to promote One Health and sustain the identified initiatives. Participants voted on the top areas where university engagement is needed and ranked the following six focus areas for cross-sectoral engagement and investment.
1) Building the business case and value proposition for One Health at personal, professional, and societal levels
One Health promotes working beyond professional or discipline siloes, but there seems to be a difference in appreciation for the approach between veterinary and human medicine professionals. The meeting participants discussed the potential of using economics to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration across sectors when applying the One Health approach to manage public health emergencies, reduce risk of zoonoses, improve the state of the environment through nature-friendly agricultural and industrial practices, and promote the health of animals together with the health of people. This will also show the value for teaching One Health and raising a workforce with capacities to apply its approach to complex health challenges.
2) Translating One Health research into policy and local action
One Health research can cover a wide range of topics over the relevant disciplines. This is related to a fragmentation of research topics, and are consequently designed and funded in siloes without a unifying research agenda. The meeting participants proposed for universities to take on the role of coordinating this research agenda, and pull together stakeholders ranging from government organizations to private companies, and at-risk communities to co-identify research priorities and disseminate the results with communities. By working with stakeholders, universities can ensure that the research topics are not only uncovering new knowledge but are also relevant and responsive to needs on the ground, and can be disseminated more effectively.
3) Continuing professional development in One Health for credentialed in-service personnel
One Health approach was introduced only in the last twenty years, and there is still a need to raise understanding as to its relevance for the different domains of human health, animal health, agriculture, and environmental science. Soft skills are not easy to demonstrate, and undergraduate students need to be supported with experiential learning to bridge the gap between One Health theory and practice. Continuing Professional Development can be provided by professional associations and other training institutions. Faculty members who teach in the disciplines related to One Health are still in siloes, and need to be made aware of its approaches and raise their capacity to teach and apply it.
A system for qualification accreditation would assure potential employers that in-service professionals carry specific One Health skills. Licensure examinations and renewals can require updating in One Health research and competencies.
4) Providing ‘just-in-time’ risk communication training for university students and faculty to assist line ministries in community outreach during public health emergencies
The experience with the COVID-19 pandemic showed that the public needs support to understand what changes in behavior like wearing masks and vaccination are needed to minimize the spread of infectious disease, why they need to cooperate in these public health measures, and even how they can work together as communities to help surveil for new infections and care for each other. In the case of diseases caused by novel or rare pathogens, the situation could be very dynamic, and public health announcements by the government can at times lead to confusion, distress, and mistrust. Risk communication efforts are needed to help facilitate the needed change.
Curricular mechanisms such as field experiences and internships could be utilized as guided real-world application of One Health communication skills, with academic credits that may be earned. During public health emergencies, universities can quickly organize risk communication campaigns, and provide appropriate training to students on the content and delivery of public health messages. Students can then be tapped as a just-in-time workforce for surge capacity needs, supporting their own neighborhoods and towns, serving as trusted messengers and “translators” of technical.
5) Broadening One Health surveillance to in clude community, environment, wastewater, and antimicrobial resistance
The discussion around disease surveillance identified several gaps that affected the timeliness and effectiveness of disease detection. Ecosystems, animals and people need to be interconnected in terms of interdisciplinary surveillance, their data systems well integrated and interoperable, and connected to disease early warning systems. Human health surveillance needs to penetrate to community level, with especial care to include vulnerable subpopulations such as immigrants and cultural minorities, but is challenged by limited resources. Wildlife and livestock surveillance is a key part for detecting emerging infectious diseases of zoonotic origin, but laboratories for animal health testing are not as well equipped as laboratories for human health. Ecosystem surveillance, to include monitoring pollution and antimicrobial resistance, is also needed to support environmental waste management, pollution control, and other measures to curb the deleterious impacts of human activity.
Meeting participants discussed how surveillance needs to be broadened following the One Health approach. Universities can advocate for multisectoral and cross-Ministry collaboration, help establish field epidemiology training, and set up inter-sectoral laboratory centers. Universities can also develop pathways to integrate citizen science into community-based surveillance systems of their villages, farms, and environment and provide health education to at-risk people. Engaging communities in this manner could help to build trust in the data and promote health-seeking behavior, target sentinel species, monitor livestock, and support timely detection of environmental pollution and disease.
6) Southeast Asia-specific climate change research for One Health
The participants underlined a research gap in understanding environmental drivers of One Health challenges. This includes developing baseline knowledge of ecology, of wildlife as hosts to pathogens and the diversity of pathogens in hosts. That research can be used to identify the relevant influence of deforestation on risks of zoonoses, and develop evidence-based scenarios for how climate change may lead to environmental changes that, in turn, could affect the risk landscape in Southeast Asia in the future. Capacity building in climate science and risk mapping also needs to be addressed to enable One Health researchers to investigate the links between climate change, ecology, and One Health.
This meeting illustrates One Health in action and how partnerships can address shared health threats among humans, animals and the environment.
To download and view more photos: https://photos.seaohun.org/SEAOHUN2022PartnershipMeeting/Photos/