28 May 2018
Introducing the concept of One Health to undergraduate students
Next semester, the Doherty Institute is teaming up with the School of Population and Global Health in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science to deliver a new breadth subject, Our Planet, Our Health.
The interdisciplinary breadth subject will introduce The University of Melbourne students to the ‘One Health’ concept, an emerging area of interest in the health profession, which considers the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health.
Throughout the semester, several staff from the Doherty Institute will present as guest lecturers, including Trish Campbell, a University of Melbourne Research Fellow from the Institute’s Epidemiology Unit.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an infectious disease modeller working in the Epidemiology Unit here at the Doherty Institute. I look at developing transmission models, either mathematical or computational models, of how diseases spread in populations and how we might best control them.
What does the concept of ‘One Health’ mean?
One Health is an integrated, holistic approach for looking at complicated systems of human health, animal health and environmental health and how they all interact with each other.
Each of these systems alone is very complex and we’ve learnt we need to look at all these complexities at the same time if we are to understand how they interact with each other, and what these interactions mean.
For us at the Doherty Institute, One Health is essential in combating zoonotic diseases, those which spread from animals to humans, and understanding how and why this occurs. However, I should mention it also encompasses food nutrition and how people best use the land sustainably to produce adequate food supplies, how Indigenous populations interact with their environment and what we can learn from their approaches.
Why is One Health so important?
As I mentioned, from an epidemiology and disease standpoint, it’s critical in helping us understand zoonotic diseases, for example the Hendra virus, avian and swine flu.
In order to address a zoonotic disease, we need to understand and consider all the different aspects of the transmission. That is, how it spreads in the animal population, how it’s transferred to human populations, and how the environment impacts on these interactions.
A One Health approach allows us to bring in experts from each of these different fields and collaborate across different levels and different regions both locally and globally, to look at some of the different approaches.
The World Health Organization recently published a list of the most important emerging diseases, and seven of the eight that are on the list are zoonotic, so the concept of One Health is more important than ever.
How did the Institute come to be involved?
While we specialise in infectious diseases and immunology, we are very engaged with the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science and the School of Population and Global Health. The subject actually arose from several years of discussion between academics from these areas about how we can teach students about this broader interaction that is constantly occurring and why we need to collaborate.
Who should study this subject?
Anyone with an interest in human and animal health, in ecology, and in Indigenous health, and as it is a breadth subject, first and second year students in any discipline are eligible to study it. The subject has been designed to allow students to extend skills they may be learning in specific subjects and apply them across a broader range of challenges.
You’ll be a guest lecturer during the course, what will your lecture focus on?
I’m going to give a very basic introduction to how we use infectious disease models to respond to emergencies and emerging diseases, and to help us better understand how diseases spread between animal and human populations. We also have a number of other lecturers from the Doherty Institute who are going to be presenting. They’re going to be touching on such topics as the drivers of emerging infectious diseases, the use of antimicrobials and the development of antimicrobial resistance, how surveillance data is used to respond to emergencies and a great case study about plague in Madagascar. So, some really interesting lectures!
Enrolments for Our Planet, Our Health are now open for second semester. For more details on the subject visit the website.