Check out our January Newsletter here: OHC January Newsletter
When we talk about One health we often think of infectious diseases. Although an integral part of One Health, the initiative stretches further than zoonotic infections; we must not forget about the important intersection between human and environmental health.
Before moving to Fort Collins for school, I lived in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I recently came across an article on National Geographic which talks about the use of open fires inside rural homes across the country, and other third-world countries like it. Guatemalans living in villages with little-to-no resources or access to education use open fires inside their houses for cooking, therefore endangering the lives and risking the health of everyone living there. Not only are these provisional stoves an obvious fire hazard but they also expose the family to respiratory illnesses and serious burns. Homes are small, usually unventilated one-room spaces, and family members breathe in the smoke whenever they are inside. Women and their children are the most affected since they are inside as the fires burn, but men have to carry the heavy wood logs on their backs for miles to bring them home for the wives to use. This puts a large strain on their bodies and leads to neck, back, and skeletal complications later on.
These practices also affect the environment, as they promote deforestation and contribute to air and chemical pollution. To keep them burning longer, families throw other materials into the fire, including plastic, rags and garbage. Not only do these contaminate the environment but they also produce harmful toxins when burned that the individuals then inhale.
Several aid groups work on installing new stoves around Guatemala and other countries with the same problem. These stoves are safer, more environmentally-friendly and efficient alternatives to the open fire. But open fires are still being used, even in homes where the new stoves are already in place. Why does this happen? Many of the families simply do not have the money to buy gas refills for the new burners, but most keep using the open fires solely out of habit.
Culture and tradition, in this case, become barriers to health and advancement. As future practitioners, public health workers, innovators or overall promoters of change, we must understand the communities we are working in and their values. It is difficult to foster change in communities where something has been done a certain way for centuries. We must, therefore, learn to work with their traditions and not against them. Can you think of solutions that are easy to implement and adopt to help the families in the rural villages of Guatemala? How can we work with individuals to caution and educate them about all the possible health and environmental risks yet respecting their traditions?
Want to read the National Geographic article? Find it here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/07/guatemala-cook-stoves/).
Although we’ve known about similarities in the health between people and animals for centuries, it wasn’t until recently we recognized that those similarities can be used to further understand and improve health of both people and animals through comparative and translational medicine. This falls under the One Health umbrella quite well.
The New York Times recently posted an article called “The Mystery of Wasting House-Cats” by Emily Anthes and explains how hyperthyroidism in cats was very uncommon until the 1970’s. There was a link between a class of flame retardants used in household goods and development of thyroid abnormalities in cats. Despite this, there is not a clear understanding how that could translate to human health. This story is a good example of how a unique population health case lead to the investigation and unveiling of a potential cause for an uncommon medical problem becoming common. It also highlights potential avenues for further research to be conducted in the human health field directly related to this. I highly recommend looking up the article!
“The Answer to Cancer May Be Walking Beside Us” is a documentary done at Colorado State University. It highlights the comparison between cancer in pets and cancer in people: the similarities, differences, and how that can be used for diagnosing and treating cancer. By using both animal and human models for diagnosis and treatment, we can “translate” that information to develop new methods for diagnosis and treatment across species boundaries. Pets provide a powerful model to study because they are commonly exposed to the same environmental factors that people are. This contrasts with rat/mice models where many environmental factors are strictly controlled and regulated. Check out this documentary when you have the time!
The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is an ongoing study in which they are following 3,000 golden retrievers throughout their life and are studying the illnesses they may develop. This is similar to the Framingham Heart Study conducted in people where participants were studied throughout their lives and has provided profound amounts of invaluable information on the risk factors for heart disease. These studies are great examples on how lifetime studies can be used to recognize risk factors and incidence of diseases in entire populations, and helps in comparing research models across species.
Brigadier General John Poppe, the highest ranking military officer with a veterinary degree, will be visiting CSU on Thursday, Feb 12! He will be providing a “One Health in Operation” seminar starting at 11am in Room 101 at the CSU Diagnostic Medical Center (Map of DMC). Please come join us! Pizza will be served after the lecture, and if you plan to attend, please RSVP HERE!
Researchers at ILRI have identified areas where One Health can create a tangible difference, even providing associated financial gains for our investments in collaboration!
The literature reviewed suggests that every dollar invested in One Health would yield five dollars worth of benefits. Therefore, increased investment in One Health on a large scale has the potential to transform the management of emerging and neglected zoonotic diseases and save the lives of millions of people and animals.
Click HERE To read more!
This piece in the Huffington Post succinctly helps to dispel some common misconceptions surrounding the frightening novel viruses and “super bugs” frequenting the media as of late. CSU One Health Club hosted the lead author, Dr. William Karesh, for a student luncheon this past February.