Planting “SEEDS” to Grow One Health in Viet Nam
One Health Camp on Rabies Risk Communication
With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) One Health Workforce Project – Next Generation (OHW-NG) Project, the Viet Nam One Health University Network (VOHUN) successfully organized a “One Health Camp – Rabies Risk Communication”, which ran from July 24-26, 2020 in Cong Thanh commune, Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province, a community at high-risk for rabies. The camp’s objective was to provide an opportunity for students to: (1) understand the importance of implementing a One Health approach to disease prevention; (2) apply One Health core competencies in disease prevention activities; and (3) conduct a community engagement activity to raise awareness of and help prevent rabies in the community. The camp application process was competitive, and applicants were required to complete a 10-question, multiple choice exam and submit an essay detailing their perceptions of and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Three hundred seventy four (374) applicants applied to the camp and 50 students were selected to participate. A rabies-focused virtual training course was conducted at the beginning of the camp and students were assisted with development of rabies risk communication plans. Wanting to mimic the collaborative, multi-sectoral nature of One Health, students worked together in online groups to develop their risk communication plans all with the support of VOHUN faculty members. As a direct result of the camp activities, five rabies communication plans were presented to 532 community members within five villages of Cong Thanh commune. Each group developed a unique approach to educate and communicate with the local communities about rabies, answering questions such as “what is rabies?”, “how is rabies contracted?”, “how should one respond if bitten by a rabid dog or cat?”.
One particularly effective mode of delivery for attracting local community members to the event was live performances. Plays and short dramas that the students created about rabies were engaging and comical, but more importantly, they were educational and memorable for the audience members. One student group even re-wrote the lyrics to a popular folk song giving it a rabies-prevention theme and performed it live, which was a huge success. To solidify and help apply the messages, community members were given hands-on instruction on proper washing techniques, especially for bite wounds.
The district health center, commune health station, and village leaders were supportive of the students’ efforts and were impressed by quality and presentation of the communication plans. The camp and subsequent events were highly successful, as they were attended by community members and local officials. Rabies awareness rose after the event and with further engagement could continue to grow if messages are reinforced and community members pass their knowledge onto friends and family.
"My experience can be summarized in one word: SEED. “SEED” stands for Solidarity, Encouraged, Effective, and Developed – these words encompass the valuable experience I gained during this memorable time. At that moment, I dreamed that our mission is the “great seed” of VOHUN’s future and I hope to accompany the Network in continued training of the next generation of SEEDS."
- Thao, Nguyen Thi Mai, Leader of Student Group 4
Many students expressed that this camp was their favorite event to-date in their academic careers, as it gave them a valuable opportunity to learn and share their knowledge and skills in a culturally relevant framework. Additionally, the amount of creativity and work required to make a communication plan successful was valuable experience that students will use as they advance into the One Health workforce.