One Health aka Conservation Medicine aka Ecosystem Health aka Planetary Health are all different names for a similar concept. In short, these frameworks focus on health relationships occurring at the interfaces of the environment, animals, and humans. Or as I like to say, One Health looks at human, animal, and environmental health together instead of in isolation; they all interact and depend on each other. Examples of One Health issues include: emerging infectious diseases, biodiversity loss, ecosystem function degradation, and habitat use conflicts, among many others. Last year I received my Master’s degree in Conservation Medicine (MCM) from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and as I told someone recently, it was the best academic decision of my career. I love looking at challenging conservation and health problems from every angle and working in an interdisciplinary manner, which brings me to my current project this summer.
Pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa generally lack access to health services due to their mobile lifestyle, remoteness, and marginalization. However, they rely on livestock for their livelihoods and therefore, highly value veterinary services. That’s were integrated vaccination, or combining human and animal vaccination services, comes in. Public health professionals have previously harnessed the dependency of pastoralists on veterinarians by implementing integrated vaccination programs to increase vaccination coverage and reach individuals during specific human disease outbreaks. I first heard about integrated vaccination from Dr. Stacie Dunkle V’07, as I mentioned in my previous post. She discussed it in the context of increasing vaccine coverage among pastoralist children in Ethiopia, but my mind immediately made another connection, specifically, to Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR). PPR is a disease of small ruminants that is particularly devastating to pastoralists – it can wipe out their whole herd. I knew about PPR because I took a participatory epidemiology class with Dr. Jeff Mariner, a Tufts vet grad and faculty member, who is part of the project team for the USAID-funded PPR Vaccination Project. The project is being implemented by Tufts and the University of Florida with regional and local partners in Uganda and Kenya. It turns out that integrated vaccination can not only increase vaccine coverage among children, but also decrease costs, and increase trust between health professionals and pastoralists. Therefore, I thought it might contribute to the PPR eradication campaign, and Dr. Mariner agreed! This summer, I will be investigating the possibility of integrating human and animal vaccination services in Turkana and West Pokot Counties, where PPR has been endemic since 2007. I’m going to interview decision makers (heads of veterinary and public health departments), implementors (veterinarians and public health officials at the sub-county level), and community members about integrated vaccination. More specifically, I want to:
- Identify the key actors in human and animal vaccination
- Identify what human and animal vaccinations are currently taking place (i.e., who’s targeted)
- Identify previous or current collaborations between animal and human health services
- Identify structures in place that will facilitate collaboration
- Compare perceptions on partnering vaccination services as part of the PPR elimination campaign
- Determine obstacles to integrating vaccination services, and solutions to those obstacles.
Ultimately, I plan to create a strategy to integrate vaccination services in Turkana and West Pokot.
In other news, Taty and I went birding at Bolton Flats yesterday. The map had trails outlined, but they were mostly nonexistent. We spent a couple of hours bushwacking through the tall grass and swamp, but had a great time overall! Some of the birding highlights included an indigo bunting, yellow-throated vireo, common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, and alder flycatcher. We saw 30+ species in total. Also of note, we went to an orchard market right near the entrance and discovered cider donuts. They were freshly made and still warm, and covered in cinnamon sugar… So good :-).
I’m heading to Zurick this afternoon and Nairobi after that. Have a meeting planned on Tuesday with Dr. Abuom, my project mentor, at the University of Nairobi Veterinary School. Can’t wait!