January 15, 2015


 Work continues to fight emerging pandemic threats in Africa, Southeast Asia

Posted Dec. 30, 2014

Under a new five-year award of up to $50 million, the University of Minnesota and Tufts University will be part of an international partnership to strengthen global workforce development against emerging pandemic threats. Called One Health Workforce, the work is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 program, which builds on the successes of the agency’s programs in disease surveillance, training, and outbreak response.

Since 2009, a coalition comprising the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Development Alternatives, Bethesda, Maryland; Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine; Training and Resources Group, Arlington, Virginia; and Ecology and Environment Inc., Chicago, received up to $185 million in a five-year cooperative agreement with USAID to create the Respond project via the initial Emerging Pandemic Threats program.  

A team of veterinary, nursing, and public health students as well as a nurse from the University of Minnesota work together on community challenges in western Uganda. As part of the Respond project, faculty from U of M, Tufts University, and Makerere University in Uganda work with these interdisciplinary teams of students who go into rural villages together. Part of the time, they practice in their respective health clinics. The rest of the time, they work together to identify community health needs, implement interventions, and develop business venture concepts to address these needs. (Photos courtesy of Dr. Katey Pelican)

The project’s aim was to strengthen countries’ capacity to identify and respond to new disease outbreaks in a quick and sustainable manner. The following was accomplished:

  • Two one-health networks were developed at universities under the leadership of deans in 10 countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. These networks involve public health and veterinary schools as well as nursing and medical schools in Asia. The networks created one-health core competencies that form the basis of curricula and other education tools at these institutions.
  • One-health teaching and learning activities were conducted that included global health institutes, one-health modular courses and interactive activities, student field experiences, and faculty exchange and development activities.
  • New and strengthened graduate and undergraduate programs were piloted, focused on creating a new kind of health professional with the practical skills and knowledge needed to address emerging infectious disease threats.
  • In-service training programs were developed, as a   university-government partnership targeted the creation of new one-health leaders in the existing workforces in these countries.

Now, with the Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 program, the focus is to build on the operational platforms, institutional partnerships, and expanded knowledge base developed over the past decade by USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program and the avian influenza tools to pre-empt or combat, at their source, newly emerging diseases of animal origin that could threaten human health.

More specifically, USAID’s EPT 2 program will focus on helping more than 20 countries in Africa and Asia detect viruses with pandemic potential, improve laboratory capacity to support surveillance, respond in an appropriate and timely manner, strengthen national and local response capacities, and educate at-risk populations on how to prevent exposure to these dangerous pathogens.

The EPT 2 program is being managed by USAID with technical collaboration from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In addition to these partnerships, USAID funded three new projects this past November to provide additional technical support to developing countries. 

Health professional students get an interdisciplinary, field-based training experience in "one-health villages," or long-term engagement field sites—this one located in Thailand—as part of the Respond project via the Emerging Pandemic Threats program.

One of those projects is the One Health Workforce. It builds on the partnership and expertise of University of Minnesota and Tufts University, and global university networks established during the Respond project, which recently concluded after five years of work. The Respond project successfully built capacity to respond to emerging pandemic threats.

This new global workforce development program will focus on the One Health Central and Eastern Africa Network—14 public health and veterinary medical institutions from the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda—and the Southeast Asia One Health University Network, which includes 14 faculty members from 10 universities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These university networks, alongside the University of Minnesota and Tufts, will, in turn, partner with in-country government ministries to define the one-health workforce and determine the competencies, knowledge, and skills required in practice, and in undergraduate and graduate education. From there, curricula, training modules, field experiences, and other teaching and learning opportunities will be established to ensure that future graduates are prepared to address disease detection, response, prevention, and control challenges. These capacity-building activities will be anchored in local institutions, including universities, to support long-term sustainability.

“These global partnerships will create a new generation of skilled health workers needed to battle infectious disease threats like Ebola in the world’s most vulnerable communities,” said Dr. Katey Pelican of the University of Minnesota.

“We’re helping our colleagues be ready to respond with sustainable models that maintain change long into the future.”  

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