PhilOHUN’s One Health Webinar Series

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.

Webinar sessions

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.