Raising global veterinary standards

OIE improving education, infrastructure in developing countries
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Left: Chicken slaughter at a live bird market in Hanoi, Vietnam; Middle: Quarantine farm in Namibia; Right: Cattle with foot-and-mouth disease receiving treatment in Vientiane, Laos (Photos courtesy of OIE)

In recent years, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been making a major push to improve veterinary education and the regulation of veterinarians and paraprofessionals for the delivery of national veterinary services, as defined by the OIE. The focus has been directed primarily toward developing countries and those in transition.

To this end, the OIE has developed the following:

  • International day-one competencies of graduating veterinarians.
  • A model veterinary education core curriculum.
  • Twinning projects between partners from developed and developing countries that focus on sharing expertise about veterinary education and veterinary statutory bodies.
  • Legislative guidance for member countries describing veterinary educational requirements and responsibilities of veterinary regulatory bodies.

The OIE’s work continued during the third OIE Global Conference on Veterinary Education and the Role of the Veterinary Statutory Body, held Dec. 4-6, 2013, in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. More than 1,000 participants from 110 countries attended the event, including AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven, who chairs the OIE ad hoc Group on Veterinary Education, which defined the day-one competencies.

“It is very gratifying to see the products of our group actually being put to use, particularly in many developing countries where the current level of education is, on average, very poor. This will ultimately help to improve the quality of veterinary education, and, by doing so, benefit animals,” Dr. DeHaven said. “And, by improving the quality of veterinary services in these countries, they are better able to contain, control, and eliminate animal diseases within their respective boundaries. This helps all of us. I think this is a perfect example of the ‘greater good’ role that AVMA can—and should play—in our global, one-health environment.”

Also at the conference were Dr. Andrew Maccabe, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and a number of U.S. and Canadian veterinary school deans.

Actionable items

Twenty-three recommendations came out of the conference from member countries. They request that the OIE and its member countries take certain actions to follow through on fulfilling the need for minimum veterinary competencies and improving veterinary infrastructures worldwide.

One of the recommendations would establish a global list of veterinary schools in OIE member countries.

It asks that the OIE create a reporting system by which each member country would report to the organization the number of veterinary schools operating within its territory on a five-year cycle. The information would include for each institution the type of degree granted, the number of veterinary students per class, the minimum education required for admission, and the accrediting bodies. The collected information would be compiled and maintained within the OIE database and be made publicly available at the OIE website.

Other recommendations request certain tasks from member countries, including the following:

  • Establishing veterinary statutory bodies, if they haven’t already.
  • Making appropriate provisions for the welfare of animals used in veterinary education and research.
  • Developing or modernizing their national veterinary legislation to comply with OIE standards regulating the profession.

The OIE is being asked, among other things, to do the following:

  • Increase its collaborative activities with governments and donors to support countries that want to participate in twinning agreements.
  • Consider evaluating the quality of a member country’s veterinary workforce on the basis of its initial education and continuing education, particularly where recognized systems for evaluation of education don’t currently exist.
  • Encourage the creation of regional associations of veterinary regulatory agencies that could accredit local veterinary schools after an external audit and on the basis of criteria accepted throughout the region, to facilitate mobility of veterinarians.
  • Develop guidelines on best practices for the organizing and functioning of veterinary regulatory agencies, including guidelines on the legislative base and the establishment of public-private veterinary partnerships.

Members will consider endorsing the recommendations at the 82nd World Assembly of Delegates of the OIE in May in Paris.

Tools for success

The OIE’s work on good governance and veterinary education started in 2006 when it created a tool to evaluate the performance of veterinary services in a country, the “OIE PVS tool.”

The evaluation is performed by OIE experts at the request of national authorities. It determines the current level of performance of a country’s veterinary services on the basis of 46 competencies—from human, financial, and physical resources to laboratory infrastructure to market access.

In a second phase, another team of experts identifies and prioritizes gaps in the country’s ability to comply with OIE international standards, helps form a shared vision with stakeholders, and helps establish strategic initiatives to reduce those gaps.

As of August 2013, more than 230 national missions had been completed under the PVS tool, or pathway, according to the conference’s proceedings. As a follow-up to an evaluation, and at the request of member countries, the OIE may provide more specific support to improve veterinary education and veterinary statutory body performance, including twinning projects, to build veterinary capacity.

Dr. Derek Belton, head of the OIE’s International Trade Department, wrote in the conference proceedings that results of PVS assessments performed between 2009 and 2013 revealed, in more than half the countries assessed, “that the VSB had the lowest level of advancement for capacity, i.e. ‘the VSB has no capacity to implement its functions and objectives.’”

According to the conference proceedings: “There is an urgent need, particularly in the developing world, to strengthen (veterinary services’) and (veterinary statutory bodies’) competence in line with international standards of the OIE, especially those dealing with quality and good governance. In many countries, however, the quality of veterinary education falls short, and this problem is worsened by inadequate functioning or even absence of the VSB. In such countries, the veterinary profession has serious difficulty in meeting societal expectations on the public good component of their activities, particularly with respect to veterinary public health, animal welfare, and food safety. Recognizing these difficulties, OIE members have mandated the organization to take a global leadership role in establishing the minimum veterinary education requirements for effective national VS.”

Related JAVMA content:

OIE developing minimum veterinary education standards (April 1, 2010)

Veterinary schools work across international borders (Sept. 15, 2013)

Starting from day one (Aug. 1, 2011)