Strategies from Salzburg

Urgency of actualizing one-health concepts emphasized at global conference
Published on October 15, 2007
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A mounting awareness of the potential for what has been called a perfect microbial storm of emerging diseases is adding momentum to the one-world, one-health movement.

The one-health movement is a response to global challenges from zoonotic and infectious diseases, food safety, and environmental and social conditions, especially as developing countries grow in population and prosperity and demand more animal protein.

Grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron palace

In late November the AVMA will convene a task force to articulate a vision of one health that could lead to a national action plan. The urgent nature of the underlying issues has pushed one health to the forefront of other institutions as well.

An 18th century palace in Salzburg, Austria, was the setting for one such event—a Sept. 8-13 conference where 50 attendees from 15 countries focused on "The new century, new challenges, new dilemmas: The global nexus of animal and public health."

Since 1947, Schloss Leopoldskron palace has been home to the Salzburg Global Seminar, the nongovernmental organization that sponsored the conference. The mission of this NGO is to challenge leaders to solve issues of global concern, and one of its strategies is convening imaginative thinkers from various cultures and institutions.

Eleven of the 50 participants invited to the conference hold veterinary degrees, and at least 15 more are involved in animal health-related work. Dr. Lonnie King, Dr. Will Hueston, and Kevin Walker, PhD, co-organized the event. Dr. King directs the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Hueston directs the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Walker is a professor at Michigan State University's National Food Safety and Toxicology Center as well as international senior adviser with the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Drs. Tsegaye Habtemariam and Ron DeHaven

The point of assembling diverse stakeholders who might otherwise not cross paths was to devise "sustainable practical strategies." Attendees received daily briefings written by Trent Wakenight, a consortium coordinator at the MSU National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. His briefings captured dialogue on critical issues, creative ideas, and strategic actions.

According to The Daily Briefing, the global nexus conference culminated with the pronouncement of a working vision for future strategic action: "Optimal global health embracing the interdependence of humans, animals and the environment"

The full assembly emphasized the need to communicate a sense of urgency and to define specific approaches for the range of audiences affected by these global issues. Public and animal health must be approached from a global as well as a local level.

As Dr. Hueston said, "We are less able to anticipate and develop containment strategies because we as scientists tend to think we have all the answers, and we don't actively engage the populations most affected as partners in finding new approaches."

Among the strategic principles developed at the conference were the following:

  • increasing education and training programs
  • creating open spaces for dialogue among decision makers and practitioners working in public health
  • enhancing collaboration among all nations to counter the spread of disease across seemingly borderless country lines by humans and other animals and through the environment
  • identifying the stakeholders directly impacted by each issue and engaging them through culturally determined strategies

"Old solutions to new problems are not going to work," Dr. King said. "We have to think differently in an increasingly complex world."

Dr. Walker said, "Part of moving forward is realizing that there may not always be solutions, and the future may be based increasingly on managing dilemmas."

Keynote presenters included David Nabarro, MSc, BM BCh, system senior coordinator for avian and human influenza in the United Nations Development Group, and Mark Woolhouse, PhD, professor of infectious disease epidemiology with the Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh.

The conference was part of a larger project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, aimed at developing global strategies to combat the spread of disease. The project was undertaken by the MSU National Food Safety and Toxicology Center, the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, and The Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, Calif.

After participating in the Salzburg conference, AVMA Executive Vice President Ron DeHaven noted, "This is as much about social movement as it is about the science. We need to get people thinking in different ways to really make a global difference.

"The AVMA One Health Initiative will engage the veterinary profession in developing innovative strategies to meet these multifaceted challenges to world health.