Experts from the colleges of veterinary medicine at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota are teaming up to increase collaboration between public health and animal health sectors against some of the world's most menacing public health threats.
The project aims to identify forces driving the emergence of new diseases and the worldwide implications, establish a shared vision for effective response, develop strategies for targeted activities, and sustain leadership and cross-disciplinary collaborations to successfully address these challenges.
All of these pursuits will involve a broad range of representatives from government, academia, and the private sector, as well as international representatives. This initiative will bring together organizations that have not previously worked together.
"We've seen West Nile virus, SARS, monkeypox, and avian influenza emerge from the animal world and create serious health threats to people, and there are many more diseases like them lined up," said Dr. Lonnie King, former dean of MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine and co-principal investigator of the project.
The project is funded with a $1.4 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and additional contributions from Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota.
This initiative aims to develop a cadre of leaders from higher education, the private sector, and government regulatory agencies who can work effectively at the intersection of animal and public health.
"Starting with key leaders and decision makers in higher education, the private sector, and government oversight agencies, we urgently need to create a shared understanding and develop actionable alternatives that address these issues in a proactive rather than reactive manner," said Dr. Kevin Walker, professor at the National Food Safety & Toxicology Center at MSU, and co-principal investigator.
It is estimated that 75 percent of the newly emerging diseases are transmitted from animals and humans, according to Dr. Will Hueston, professor at both the College of Veterinary Medicine and School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, and co-principal investigator.
"Diseases that transmit between animals and humans are not new; what is new is the potential magnitude and complexity of the biological, socioeconomic, and environmental factors involved," Dr. Hueston said.