The UC Davis WIFSS One Health Food Systems Conference 2020 was a two-week long virtual event that brought together over 60 undergraduates and postgraduates from China, Japan, Nepal, the US and the UK. The aim of the conference was to outline the potential benefits of the One Health approach and explore its relationship with the food we consume- from its origins in the soil all the way to the plate we are served at a restaurant.
So what is One Health?
The One Health approach is a fairly new concept that is being implemented into healthcare systems globally. In essence, it is an interdisciplinary vision that considers the relationship between people, animals and the environment in order to improve health for all. Take food-borne diseases for example, a severe public health issue that causes almost 600 million illnesses worldwide every year. Not only do these contaminations result in sickness, but the subsequent destruction/ recall of affected foodstuffs leads to economic losses and food insecurity. In order to adequately tackle this problem, we must first come to acknowledge the interactions between the health of the livestock that provides the meats, the health of the produce that feeds these animals, and the health of the environment that nourishes them. Microbial agents such as Salmonella can invade the food production chain at almost every point via vectors including wildlife, waste, dust and water. As a result, it is imperative that collaborations between bacteriologists, epidemiologists, soil scientists, hydrologists, veterinarians and physicians occur to implement broader and more comprehensive solutions. In my opinion, it is this sort of collaboration that truly underpins the effectiveness of the One Health strategy.
My takeaways from this conference
The concept of One Health was first introduced in this conference by Dr. Bennie I. Osburn, Dean Emeritus, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Director, Western Institute for Food Safety and Security. He brought forward the need to raise awareness, team build and have a call to action when applying One Health. These three steps became a reoccurring theme throughout the conference, even forming the premises of our final presentation where we discussed a One Health issue of our choosing. Another idea that became a common motif during the conference was the power of one. Ms. Chris Brunner, Communications Director at WIFSS, described the power of one as the ability for each attendee at the conference to contribute to the One Health movement. I drew a lot of inspiration from this idea when writing this blog post, and I really hope that it motivates you to do some further research into the One Health concept too as it is something that everyone can get involved in!
After the introduction of these themes on the first day, I kept them in mind throughout the rest of the two-weeks while listening to a variety of insightful lectures by professors and professionals of different backgrounds. At the same time, I worked with a team of 7 students on designing solutions for a One Health issue, of which we decided to apply the approach to mitigating the potential impacts of flooding. Much like One Health, coming up with a realistic plan of action with my team gave me the opportunity to experience what collaborating with others from different fields was like. I really enjoyed my discussions with them, and this also gave us the chance to get closer to one another and become good friends.
All in all, I am very glad that I had the chance to participate as a sponsored student for this event. I would like to say a massive thank you to those who organised this conference, and also my team members who made me feel welcome and appreciated! I have definitely learnt a lot more about One Health, and am excited to put this knowledge into good use as I continue my veterinary journey.
For more information about the conference, click the link: http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/onehealthconference/