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NIAA Annual Meeting Focused on One Health

by 5m Editor
7 June 2010, at 12:11am

US - The six speakers at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture's (NIAA) annual meeting's Opening General Session, 'One Health: Implications for Animal Agriculture', delivered three take-home messages to those involved in animal agriculture.

The first clear and strong message was that the concept of 'One Health' is not new to animal agriculture since animal agriculture—from producers to government—has been long involved in animal health and public health. The second take-home message was that the One Health concept, as developed and presented by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical Association, may not be easy to grasp initially, but it is worth understanding and deserves the attention of those involved in animal agriculture. And the third and final message was that One Health will involve building trust and will require extensive communication among all involved entities—and animal agriculture must be a part of that communication.

Each of the six speakers at the Opening General Session of the NIAA meeting covered a different aspect of One Health.

Dr Corrie Brown, University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, covered One Health as it relates to the global food basket. Dr Brown stressed that animal agriculture is becoming more global as more people are including meat in their diet as middle class grows in developing countries. For example, per capita meat consumption in China has moved from 16kg in 1983 to 43kg in 1997 and is predicted to hit 73kg by 2020.

She said: "Global express is helping the world and US agriculture" and "International animal health is a public good".

Dr Roger Mahr, Chief Executive Officer of One Health Consortium, provided an historical picture of the One Health Concept. He explained that the concept's roots trace to the first school of veterinary medicine in 1761, and Sir William Osler, a Canadian physician and the father of one medicine, stated as far back as the 1800s that veterinary medicine and human medicine complimented one another.

Dr Mahler explained: "But animal health and human health are at a crossroads. Today's integrated challenges call for creative solutions and collaboration."

He added that the One Health Commission chartered on 29 June 2009, is finalising its plan and that plan includes creating a Center for One Health.

"One Health will transform how animal, human and ecosystems work together," Dr Mahler summarised.

In addressing the 'Past, Present and Future Veterinary Services' Role in One Health', Dr John Clifford, USDA, Chief Veterinarian, emphasized that the primary mission of Veterinary Services is animal health.

Noting that veterinary services is not a Lone Ranger and often collaborates with partners, including the Center for Disease Control, Dr Clifford said he does not want any gaps filled with more regulations and would prefer that government animal health divisions not get swallowed up by food safety divisions. He also acknowledged that a different approach to animal health may be required in the future.

Jay Ellenberger, Office of Pesticide Program at the US Environmental Protection Agency, talked about the third side of the One Health triangle: the environment. The government official reminded attendees that the EPA's mission aligns with One Health and that environmental protection encompasses human and animal health.

Dr Ellenberger said: "Environmental health fits in with One Health, and EPA's mission and responsibilities focus on this connection. Decisions must be made using the best science, transparency and collaboration."

Dr Harry Snelson, director of communications for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, took a middle-of-the-road approach and delivered a livestock industry perspective of One Health.

Pointing out that veterinarians learn about the human-animal interface from Day One since it is a part of their daily professional lives, he underscored that One Health is a new concept to public health. He explained that human health, unlike animal health, tends to be disease treatment centred rather than prevention-oriented. He also noted that the public lacks an understanding of animal issues and particularly as they relate to modern agriculture.

For One Health to be successful, Dr Snelson said that several topics need to be addressed. Among those topics are developing an agriculture/leadership that is without a biased agenda and raising level of awareness among public health regarding animal agriculture disease prevention efforts and conventional animal agriculture.

He stressed: "Animal ag has been the whipping boy long enough."

He added that the One Health partnership needs to be defined for all entities and that communication is key.

"We in animal ag need to understand where public health is coming from and vice versa," he concluded.

The Opening General Session's sixth and final speaker was Dr Billy Clay with the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology. Dr Clay shared three legal case studies with human health, animal health and environmental health implications. Each case underscored the vulnerability of animal agriculture when it comes to the American public and lawsuits. Even though a case may have ended in favour of the animal agriculture client, each case involved time, money and temporarily put animal agriculture in a negative light.

Moderator Annette Whiteford, NIAA board member, did not mince words as she wrapped up NIAA's Opening General Session. She said: "How engaged animal agriculture is in One Health can impact its future."

The six speakers agreed with this philosophy and urged those involved in animal agriculture to learn more about One Health, including its potential benefits and challenges.

With the exception of Dr Clifford's presentation, audio of the Open General Session presentations is available on the NIAA web site [click here].