Adapting to global changes

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Dr. Gregg W. BeVier, citing data from the World Bank and other sources, said about 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 per person per day.

Dr. BeVier
Dr. Gregg W. BeVier (Photo by Greg Cima)

That 80 percent of the population likely spends little on veterinary services, he said, and the U.S. veterinary profession as a result has largely catered to a wealthy minority.

Dr. BeVier, who has worked as an executive for animal technology companies and managed the livestock portfolio for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, delivered a keynote speech on globalization, economics, and societies July 20 during the Global Health Summit at the AVMA Annual Convention in Chicago. Currently, he is with Sexing Technologies Swine Business. He said veterinarians will need to adapt to serve a population that is growing, particularly in developing nations.

“There needs to be more access to services,” Dr. BeVier said. “Veterinarians aren’t going to go out in these areas and do some of the things that need to be done. I’ve talked to them; they won’t move their families there. They don’t make enough money. They don’t want their kids living like that.”

Dr. BeVier said such adaptation could involve reducing restrictions on who can perform veterinary services, as economics, demand, and development push for more services by paraprofessionals. Those paraprofessionals could vaccinate and spay animals, for example, and veterinarians could train, work with, and make money in conjunction with them.

Dr. David M. Sherman, a member of Tufts University’s international veterinary faculty, said in a subsequent presentation on global warming, biodiversity, and emerging diseases that changes in the world’s climate will have effects on human, animal, and ecosystem health.

“As the planet heats up, it has impacts on all of those areas,” Dr. Sherman said.

The effects of global warming will be particularly negative for people who live in regions without the resources to react, he said.

Milder and shorter winters can help disease vectors survive in greater numbers or in new territories, including higher altitudes, Dr. Sherman said. Changes in grass quality similarly can help parasites survive and force changes in livestock management.

Dr. Sherman also noted that bluetongue, a disease that can kill sheep and is spread by midges, had appeared only sporadically in Europe before the late 1990s but recently has been found as far north as Denmark.

Dr. BeVier said veterinarians’ future roles in pet care could shift toward increased use of video communication with clients to provide home-based care. Veterinarians could also gain larger roles in food production, with work on genetics, animal health, processing, and regulation.

“The veterinarian could emerge as the integrated food value chain leader, because the veterinarian has the education to think about all that,” he said.