Raised Awareness on the Multifactorial Facets and Faces of COVID-19
The recent global pandemic’s onslaught brought the Philippines to a standstill and forced people to adopt a “new normal”. This included the shutdown of academic facilities, restructuring of health systems, and redesigning lifestyles which included the work-from-home setup and the constant seesawing from one type of quarantine classification to another. In addition to COVID-19’s effects on human lives, the pandemic also influenced animals, plants, microorganisms, and the environment. The complex nature of COVID-19 calls for assessing societal challenges brought by the pandemic through the One Health approach. Charter members from the Philippine One Health University Network (PhilOHUN) saw into these challenges and designed a means to fight the growing aftereffects of COVID-19 through a series of online seminars that emphasized a one health approach to understanding its origin, spread, impact, and management. The PhilOHUN Webinar Series “Ensuring quality of public health communication, diagnostics, and infection prevention and control on humans and animals in response to COVID-19” was held from September through December 2020. The goal was to inform the members of the academic community, healthcare-providing units, and local governments/authorities of the risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the core of the approach is the fundamental recognition that the health of people, animals, plants, and their environment are interconnected, therefore the specialists in these areas and in related sectors must come together and work towards comprehensive and global health outcomes. Policies, interventions, research, and even education in One Health must be multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and involve multiple sectors.
Understanding COVID-19 through the lens of One Health “Collaboration is not natural. Teach collaboration intentionally.” This was a key point from Dr. Louricha Opina-Tan, a community health expert from the University of the Philippines-Manila, which aptly reflects one of the challenges when promoting health in that it requires a multi-sectoral approach to be truly effective. The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to both learn about COVID-19, as well as to learn how multiple sectors are both affected by and involved in pandemic preparedness and response. PhilOHUN handpicked 16 experts to deliver 16 talks via videoconferencing technology and stimulate fruitful discussion among the participants. The series was designed to educate on the science behind the spread and management of the disease, to equip the participants with information on how people and animals were at risk, and to examine how university-level education and government’s policies and decision making could preserve and nurture affected life forms in the event of a pandemic.
Three sessions tackled the science behind the novel coronavirus as a causative agent along with proposals for palliative/curative measures. Dr. Mary Grace Dacuma’s talk highlighted the origin, extent, and future directions of the viral pandemic. The individual talks of Dr. Philip Tan-Gatue and Dr. Gerry A. Camer discussed the potentials of traditional Chinese medicine and modern biotechnology to address the need for a cure and palliative measures, respectively.
The pandemic’s potential effect on animals, plants, and microorganisms were also discussed. Animal health was the focus of two talks, first by Dr. Ronello C. Abila who provided an overview on the risk of COVID-19 on wild animals, and then by Dr. Raymond N. de Villa who described how to protect and continually nurture house pets in the event of a pandemic. Dr. Rico C. Ancog’s talk shed light on plants and waste management for maintaining healthy and resilient agricultural and natural systems. Dr. Flor Marie Pilapil-Amante brought into perspective the looming threat of antimicrobial resistance with the rise in antibiotics overuse during a pandemic.
Challenges in the changing norms on education and healthcare were examined in four separate sessions. Dr. Louricha Opina-Tan’s lecture highlighted the essential link between the community and the academe for information dissemination at the grassroots level. This was augmented by Dr. Anthony Cordero’s talk on the importance of community engagement in the advent of social distancing and isolation. The contribution of universities to the national healthcare system was tackled by Dr. Anthony Perez and Dr. Ma. Genaleen Diaz, sharing their experiences as a local hospital administrator and director of a COVID testing facility, respectively. The relationship between data analytics and its effect on policy making was the highlight of three sessions. Dr. Fredegusto David discussed how public data was managed and analyzed for modeling epidemiological trends to support public health policy making. Dr. Jomar Rabajante related the use of mathematical modeling in influencing the local government units’ decision and policy making. Dr. Beverly Lorraine C. Ho shared on the use of risk-based data analytics in implementing public health policies and protocols.
Providing a sociological perspective on risks associated with the pandemic was the focus of Dr. Nina T. Castillo-Carandang. Dr. Ma. Cecilia Ascalon delved more into protecting mental health given the drastic lifestyle changes the pandemic has caused. by Emmanuel T. Galang, University of the Philippines – Los Baños, PhilOHUN
About the organizers
PhilOHUN, composed of eight charter universities in the Philippines, is a member of SEAOHUN as of December 2019. The network is engaged in generating socially relevant academic excellence on One Health by leveraging education, research, and training developed in collaboration with university networks in Southeast Asia. The webinar series facilitating team was headed by Dr. Renard M. Jamora; for further information, he may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow updates from PhilOHUN, find them at: https://www.facebook.com/PhilOHUN/.