Connecting animal and human health

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The Animal Health Institute and CQ-Roll Call Group hosted a forum April 27 in Washington, D.C., meant to raise awareness about the connection between animal and public health. Topics ranged from food safety and antimicrobial use to zoonotic diseases and animal welfare.

The event drew attendees from government agencies, public health and consumer groups, animal health stakeholders, and food science organizations as well as Capitol Hill staff.

During the panel discussion portion of the forum, AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven (pictured) said one of the challenges is a general lack of understanding about the connection between animal health and public health. "By promoting animal health, we're going a long way to promoting public health," Dr. DeHaven said.

In his keynote address, Dr. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon veterinarian and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, says veterinarians are becoming an "endangered species" in the area of food supply veterinary medicine even while global demand for a safe and humanely raised food supply is on the rise.

Noting how zoonotic pathogens account for approximately 75 percent of all new diseases, Dr. Schrader believes avian influenza, tuberculosis, and other zoonoses are a greater danger than we realize. "These (diseases) pose real threats to us, much greater than al-Qaida or weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton also spoke at the forum. He stressed the importance of science—not politics—in guiding the policymaking process in the areas of human and animal health.

"One of my priorities is to ensure government policies support continued innovation into new treatments and that the infrastructure in place protects the public health properly. Any action undertaken by Congress or the administration on this issue should be done judiciously, carefully, and in a bipartisan way," Upton said.