Task force begins work on one-health initiative

Published on December 15, 2007
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Thirteen forward thinkers from academia—including student representatives—and from government, industry, and the health science professions came together Nov. 27-28 at AVMA headquarters for the first time as the AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force.

Drs. Pappaioanou and Blackwell

Chaired by Dr. Lonnie J. King, the task force first discussed its charge and methods of achieving progress. It was in April 2007 that the AVMA Executive Board approved its establishment, a recommendation from Dr. Roger K. Mahr, who is now immediate past president. In his address to the 2006 House of Delegates as incoming president, Dr. Mahr had outlined his vision for a national one-health initiative uniting veterinary, human, and ecosystem health.

"A nucleus of the most visionary individuals was selected for their expertise and not necessarily as a representative of a specific group," Dr. Mahr noted. There is, however, a member representing the American Medical Association, nominated by the AMA and appointed by the AVMA Executive Board chair. In addition to the 13 members, there is one representative each from the AMA, American Public Health Association, and AVMA who serves as a liaison to the task force.

At the task force meeting, AVMA President Gregory S. Hammer noted, "We are looking for concrete, implementable recommendations from this. The stars are coming together, and we certainly have the stars around the table today."

The task force developed a working definition for, and examined the scope of, one health. It addressed the first four of the five points it was charged with by the Executive Board: (1) to articulate a vision of one health that will enhance the integration of animal, human, and environmental health for the mutual benefit of all; (2) to identify areas where such integration exists and where it is needed; (3) to identify potential barriers or challenges to such integration; and (4) to identify potential solutions to overcoming barriers or meeting challenges.

Task force members each discussed their vision of one health and its impact on global human and animal health and the environment. The group discussed a unified approach for moving the initiative forward.

A brainstorming session provided many potential recommendations that will be studied between now and the next task force meeting, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2008. Task force members discussed concrete and aspirational goals, what success will "look like," and how to achieve the goals. They also discussed a potential communication plan for the initiative.

The fifth and final point of the entity's charge is to prepare a comprehensive written report for the Executive Board detailing its findings and recommendations. The task force will provide those to the board for consideration this spring.

As the meeting drew to a close, task force member, Dr. Beth Lautner, said, "I've never been more proud to be an AVMA member. It's good to see an organization I'm part of move this forward."