How you can help inspire clients and your community to understand and value One Health.
One Health can be explained as both a concept and an approach. The concept refers to the interconnection between human health and the health of animals, plants, and their shared environment. The approach refers to collaboration between people of different disciplines, strengths, and backgrounds to prevent and alleviate health challenges.
Wherever you are practicing veterinary medicine, you can share a One Health mindset. By communicating with clients, speaking about One Health during career day talks, or volunteering to teach One Health Lessons (more on this below), you can learn to speak with others about this topic in ways they can understand.
THE EVOLUTION OF ONE HEALTH LESSONS
As a veterinarian, I wear that badge with pride at every meeting I attend, particularly those in which I give keynote speeches. I speak about why I chose to be a vet — “to help my patients, but to also help the people who are reliant on those animals”.
In 2016, I combined my two passions of veterinary medicine and teaching to bring One Health learning material and activities into communities in California. The first experience took place during Earth Day celebrations at an elementary and middle school (K-8). It was wonderful seeing the kids learn about One Health and start to care about it.
By 2018, on my days off from the clinic, I was teaching regularly in elementary schools about leptospirosis and Lyme disease, using lessons I designed. I recruited students from the University of California-Berkeley as well as friends from Toastmasters to teach the lessons with me. Even though they lacked a teaching background, they loved it and wanted to teach more.
In January of 2020, I was working in Washington, DC as the AVMA’s Congressional Science and Engineering Policy Fellow in the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. After the workday finished, I created additional One Health Lessons for both children and adults, with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. These lessons addressed where the virus likely originated, how students and their families could protect themselves today and in the future, vaccines (and why are they important), and mutations (and why it’s important to track them).
These lessons became available for all in May, when www.OneHealthLessons.com was launched. At the time, the website offered seven age-appropriate lessons focused on COVID-19. The lessons were (and still are) freely available for download, to teach either in person or online. After only one month, the lessons were being translated into over ten languages.
Over 1½ years later, the COVID-19 lessons are being translated into 88 languages through the One Health Lessons network, thanks to hundreds of volunteers around the world. In addition, the free Train-the-Trainer Program (also known as the Lesson Leaders Program) is in full swing, with approximately 100 certified volunteers now able to teach One Health topics in K-12 classrooms and at public events in their own communities around the world.
THE LESSON LEADERS PROGRAM
The Lesson Leaders Program consists of four hours of training:
1 The first portion trains participants on how to communicate One Health to both children and adults.
2 Trainees then watch a recorded lesson and pass a pedagogy quiz.
3 Next, they observe a live lesson being taught.
4 The final segment involves teaching a class with an experienced assistant.
With this well-established and successful system, adult volunteers (who must be at least 18 years old) are certified to teach One Health lessons. So far, volunteers trained through the Lesson Leaders Program have taught virtually and at in-person classrooms (where safe and appropriate) in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Basque Country, Portugal, the UK, Hungary, Turkey, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Uganda, and Hong Kong.
By teaching children in multiple countries virtually, a Lesson Leader comes to appreciate that our planet is quite small. It is common to see similar health problems around the world. However, the goal of One Health Lessons is to not only bring awareness but to improve the health of the world, for today and tomorrow. By serving as science role models and instilling a passion for One Health in younger generations, Lesson Leaders are helping to place the suffering planet into capable hands. I see children as stem cells — they can develop into anything, becoming teachers, politicians, veterinarians, ecologists and more. Wouldn’t it be nice if a politician had an innate knowledge of One Health since childhood? How would the world change if this was the case? It is time to act and inspire the next generation to see the world as one.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
If you’re interested in contributing to the global One Health movement, you can use these lessons to educate your clients and community as a Certified Lesson Leader. If you don’t have time to teach, consider sponsoring a One Health Lessons’ global event
or intern to help further the mission. Another option is to encourage your hospital to sponsor a community activity to increase One Health awareness. For example, a clinic-sponsored walkathon could raise proceeds for One Health-associated organizations such as One Health Lessons, the Wildlife Conservation Society, or The Jane Goodall Institute.
There are many other ways to volunteer and contribute to the mission of One Health Lessons, inspiring children and adults around the world to value the interconnection between our health and the health of the environment, animals and plants. See sidebar on above for a full list of ways to you can take part in this important mission.
I often think about what my patients are exposed to in their environments. I also think about the people sharing the household with my patients. Would I prescribe a topical flea preventative for a dog when there’s a toddler in the home? Probably not. While speaking during career day events in local schools, I emphasize how a veterinarian can impact the lives of people. Some vets work with farm animals and protect a nation’s food supply. Others work with animals who are seen as family members by their clients. Some work toward developing vaccines and other medications where lab animals are needed, and still others help craft national or international policies to improve the health and well-being of both animals and people.
With your veterinary degree, you have the power to improve countless lives — both today and in the future. If you are looking for inspiration, participating in the global One Health education movement can make a profound impact.