The World Bank has granted Massey University $5m in funding to extend its education programme strengthening Asian public health and veterinary capacity to combat zoonotic diseases.
In the first phase of the programme that has just completed, 67 health professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal were trained in One Health epidemiology concepts as part of two Massey qualifications specifically developed for the programme – a Master of Veterinary Medicine (Biosecurity) and a Master of Public Health (Biosecurity).
Now, Massey staff working with colleagues from other leading international universities will enable that learning to be put into practice, through the development of One Health Hubs and collaborative disease investigation projects.
These activities will assist the former students and their health professional colleagues in the South Asia region to combat real-world problems relating to zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, rabies, brucellosis and anthrax.
Project Director Dr Eric Neumann says the second phase builds on the Masters degree training and provides the graduates with a chance to “operationalise the concepts they’ve learned through their formal Massey training and to extend their expertise to others in the region”.
The phase two activities will involve creation of an organisational structure embedded in the South Asia region, development of a collaborative online work environment, and implementation of disease investigation projects that are focused on the critical health needs identified in each country, he says.
One Health Hub project manager Dr Peter Jolly says the One Health Hubs are a key vehicle for applying the training completed to date. “We now have trained specialists in each country that will lead projects focused on important zoonotic diseases in their countries,” he says. “Through building intellectual capacity in the region, control of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza can be undertaken using an integrated approach that involves both veterinary and public health specialists.”
An online meeting point – HubNet – is being devised to provide both the forum and the resources needed to carry out these projects.
“HubNet gives participants an operational framework,” Dr Jolly says. “The online forum will provide them the space to interact with one another and also give them access to an e-library, disease database, communications and reporting tools, and a learning management system.”
Once hub members begin work on a project they can efficiently identify sampling or experimental work that needs to be carried out and be mentored through to its completion. “We want these projects to influence policy and have a real impact,” Dr Jolly says.
The phase two funding covers One Health Hub activities through to the end of 2013. By this time, Dr Neumann anticipates the hub participants will have the experience necessary to maintain the collaborative environment provided by HubNet with much less reliance on Massey University. “The idea is to create enough value in the HubNet environment that the early participants are motivated to adopt it as their own.”
The World Bank manages funding for the Masterate training and development of One Health Hubs on behalf of the Avian and Human Influenza Facility, a multi-donor trust fund financed mostly by the European Union that supports influenza-related programmes in various countries.