One Health Conference 2018: Paving the way for collaborative medicine

Posted on November 28, 2018 by Laura Turner

The WHO defines One Health as an ‘approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.’

On Saturday 10 November the University of Liverpool welcomed the National Student One Health Conference 2018. With One Health being such an important concept for the future of veterinary medicine, it is vital that students are introduced to this idea during their time at university. Curriculum material on the subject of one health can be very varied from university to university, so it is important to offer students the opportunity to explore this through other avenues.

I hold the role of Veterinary Public Health Officer for the International Veterinary Student Association (IVSA) and this year I took on organisation of this conference. It can be difficult to engage students in this topic, and generally isn’t a conference that many people want to fund! That said, with the help of BVA, the VPHA and the University of Liverpool we were able to cover our costs and put on a one-day event packed full of brilliant speakers.

The conference was open to veterinary, medical and biomedical students from across the UK. We welcomed attendees from Glasgow, Bristol and London from a range of medical courses including one tropical disease biology student! Talks ranged on topics such as the association of child and animal abuse, the public health risk posed by raw feeding in dogs, zoonotic disease and collaborative approaches to healthcare in developing countries.

Key Themes

Dr Emanuele Ricci (Lecturer in Veterinary Forensic Pathology, University of Liverpool) began with an informative lecture on his work as a veterinary pathologist. Initially, the medics were confused about the relevance of this to humans, but all became clear when Dr Ricci presented evidence of the link between animal and child abuse. This emotive subject encouraged students to think outside the box about the one health concept.

Professor Matthew Baylis (Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Liverpool) spoke about how the changing global climate is driving a worrying migration of vectors, such as mosquitoes and midges. Delegates were interested to know how Prof. Baylis’ work could be used in public campaigns to tackle climate change. After mentioning a possible opportunity for students to get involved with his One Health research in the Horn of Africa, Prof. Baylis was inundated with students eager to learn more.

Dr Emma Fishbourne (Lecturer in Livestock Health and Welfare, University of Liverpool) rounded up the day with an interactive workshop where students investigated food security and sustainability. Delegates worked in groups to identify dilemmas faced by the global food production industry and try to come up with solutions. This sparked heated debate about diet, ethics and personal beliefs.

Feedback

The day really was a huge success, demonstrated by the feedback we received on an online questionnaire sent out after the conference. One student said: "It was a really well organised day with interesting and engaging speakers, it has greatly improved my existing knowledge about one health.", while another commented that the “really inspiring day” was “so well thought out, even down to reducing plastic waste with the free flasks and vegan/gluten free options." The food certainly did go down well – as part of the ethical approach to the conference our caterer was a Syrian refugee who cooked a wonderfully authentic buffet of traditional Syrian dishes.

Veterinary students were massively over-represented as attendees, highlighting the need for a generation of interest in One Health within the human medical profession. By introducing students to this concept with valuable events such as this, hopefully we can inspire the medical professions to join forces in order to strive toward better health – for people, animals and the environment.

More information

Laura Turner

Written by Laura Turner

Laura Turner is the Veterinary Public Health Officer for the IVSA, and a 3rd year veterinary student at the University of Liverpool.