Integrated

Integrated Approach to Zoonoses workshop: The Highlights

“Thank you” to the local organising team at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), in the Netherlands for organising a topical workshop in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The theme was “Integrated Approach to Zoonoses – a systems thinking primer” and was delivered online on 8th October 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated there will always be new and emerging zoonotic diseases which pose a threat to global health. These diseases sit at the interface of human, animal and/or environmental health. As the last 20 months have shown us, this type of threat can take place in any country and requires a coordinated approach across different sectors, and collaboration between these sectors.

This exercise-based workshop welcomed 25 delegates from 7 countries – Norway, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. Delegates were selected and grouped according to the countries they came from, and early-career researchers collaborated with each other and more experienced professionals to investigate how signalling and responses to zoonoses are organised in their respective countries, who plays a role in it and how to enhance collaboration between sectors.

The workshop was an opportunity to use a systems thinking approach to understand and discuss the reality of working with complex systems that interact at the human-animal-environment interface.  Delegates also had the opportunity to experience and practice the use of two tools which are useful to discuss and possibly improve disease management – stakeholder analysis and systems mapping.

The stakeholder analysis and systems mapping tools used in this workshop are part of the European implementation guidelines to support countries setting up or strengthening collaboration in the area of risk analysis of zoonoses, developed within the COHESIVE project with with many institutes and professionals from different sectors including public health, veterinary health ad food safety and different disciplines, such as epidemiology, microbiology, social sciences and risk assessors. The COHESIVE project is led by Dr Kitty Maassen from RIVM, who also designed and delivered this workshop together with Dr. Simon Ruegg, a veterinary epidemiologist and experienced systems thinker at the University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Part of the delegates were in their early career stages and their backgrounds and skills were diverse across the human, animal and environmental One Health fields, including biological sciences, veterinary medicine and management, agronomics, and public health. Bringing together people from across the health disciplines made this module truly cross-disciplinary and highlighted the advantages of a One Health approach.

Five delegates from the OHEJP’s stakeholder institutions were offered VIP places to participate in the summer school. These delegates worked at the European Food Safety Authority,  European Centre of Disease Control, European Medicines Agency and World Health Organisation, and offered the perspectives and knowledge of key European policymakers with regards to the use and implementation of the systems thinking approach taught in this workshop.

The composition of the backgrounds, skills and experiences of those participating allowed for interesting collaborative discussions and for knowledge and experiences to be shared.

Exercise-based One Health training opportunities such as this workshop demonstrate what can be achieved through providing interactive and collaborative learning platforms to expand professional networks and to train the next generation of future scientists through sharing their knowledge, perspectives, and expertise from across all pillars of One Health.