Initiative spans industries, aims to improve health, preparedness


Washington - Human and veterinary medicine have partnered in a collaboration to strengthen disease prevention and control, education and research initiatives for the benefit of all species.

WASHINGTON — Human and veterinary medicine have partnered in a collaboration to strengthen disease prevention and control, education and research initiatives for the benefit of all species.

Resolving to fly under one flag, the joint initiative has the goal of "bringing animal, human and ecosystem health together with one world, one health, one medicine."

"Together we can accomplish more to improve health worldwide than we can alone," says Roger Mahr, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and program leader in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA). The duty fell to the veterinary profession to take the lead on the initiative — under development since early last year — because no other profession fulfills such an important role for animals and humans, Mahr says.

"Emerging infectious diseases, with the threats of cross-species transmission and pandemics, represent one of the many reasons why the human and veterinary medical professions must work more closely together," says Ronald Davis, MD, AMA president. Human and animal obesity and the negative effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure also were identified as platforms needing action.

Industry, academia, government and student representatives from human and animal medicine have been appointed to a 13-member task force to formulate the actions going forward. Chaired by Lonnie King, DVM, former dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Strategy and Innovation, the team is charged with evaluating multiple industry weaknesses and developing a national plan for the future.

On the veterinary side, animal welfare, services, education, work force and economy were identified as key issues to be reviewed for improvement. Education systems need to implement creative training, recruitment and teaching methods to attract students to areas of shortage throughout the industry, while also increasing diversity in race, gender and ethnicity in the work force, Mahr contends.

"Critical paradigm shifts are needed in our approach to education if we are to meet the growing demands of our profession. We need to bridge relationships among disciplinary areas, such as veterinary medicine with public health, human medicine, biomedical engineering and animal science," he says.

Environmental awareness and disease preparedness and safety are priorities for human and animal industries, as cross-contamination of once species-specific ailments is on the rise. In the past quarter century, 75 percent of emerging diseases have been zoonotic, exemplified by avian influenza, West Nile virus and SARS, among others.

The task force will focus on these areas while fulfilling multiple key duties:

  • Define the One Health vision to integrate human, animal and public health

  • Identify current and future opportunities for change and advancement

  • Recognize challenges and solutions

  • Develop a report and recommendations to present to the AVMA in the spring of 2008.

The initiative aims to implement collaboration and communication among veterinary medicine, human medicine and related sciences to improve public health and care options — through comparative biomedical research — for humans and animals.

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