Wednesday, November 4, 2015

One world, one health

Showing a photo of football players in a huddle, veterinarian Cheryl Stroud described the One Health approach to human, environmental and animal health as "very much a team sport.”

“There are a lot of people walking around this meeting who’ve never heard of One Health,” said Stroud, executive director of the One Health Commission, during Tuesday's special session on "Exploring the Interface between Emerging One Health Issues and Health Policy." “It’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of being sure that everyone who needs to be at the table for all the wicked problems we’re facing” is there.

Those wicked problems include pollution in our oceans and emerging infectious diseases that spread from animals to humans, she said. Like so many Annual Meeting presenters, she said the answer lies in relationships and partnerships, and working hard to break out of silos in medicine, public health, veterinary medicine and environmental science.

“We’re trying very hard to figure out who’s doing what in One Health, so we can connect hands,” she said. “Collaborations don’t just magically happen. They start with relationships. And relationships don’t magically fall out of the sky.”

At the session, co-sponsored by APHA’s Epidemiology Section and Veterinary Public Health SPIG, Stroud told several stories about why everyone should be involved in One Health. When her son was 20 months old, for example, he developed diarrhea that persisted for six weeks. She and her husband fell ill as well. Her son’s pediatrician had no answers.

Frustrated, the then-student at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine took one of her son’s soiled diapers to the school’s lab for analysis. The results showed he had cryptosporidiosis, a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites. Stroud says the work of One Health in connecting animal, environmental and human health means these days, her son’s diagnosis would have come much more quickly.

Another example she used: hypothyroid cats, which vets in past years had never come across, but now see fairly often. And research shows the emergence of that condition among our feline friends can be linked to a chemical used to make flame-resistant fabrics and upholstery. Now research is looking into the health effects of that chemical on children.

“We need to heal the past and live the present, and indeed we need to dream the future,” she said, urging session attendees to help spread the word about One Health. “It’s really up to us.”

— D.C.

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