Inspiring the next generation to see the world as one.
Charles Sayan, the executive director of the Ocean Conservation Society, states that environmental education is just as important as understanding and following the law. It is a nonpartisan value that “deserves a central place in public education”.
The majority of schools have a standardized curriculum covering math, science, history, and English, allowing students to broaden their understanding of the world. Additionally, students also may have classes like physical education and health, to improve their mental and physical health. However, as students are taught to protect their personal health, they are less likely to be taught about the environment. What often goes unnoticed is how closely interrelated environmental health is to human health.
Teaching students to appreciate the environment and learn the ways humans interact with the environment not only protect the health of the entire human population, but it also encourages students to transcend their abilities outside the classroom and into the real world. By bringing to light environmental issues to students at an early age, schools and teachers can cultivate students with a strong foundation of environmental stewardship and understanding. With this understanding, students build the necessary skills and knowledge to responsibly address environmental issues in the future to better the planet.
Recently, One Health Lessons launched the Lesson Leaders Program, to virtually teach grade school students. At the end of the lessons, many students are able to enhance their understanding of pressing environmental issues. Students do not need to be experts in environmental issues to feel motivated to protect the planet. All they need is the information that this issue exists and that they are the ones that can reverse the damages caused by it. This is enough to make students realize that they have the power to change the world for the better.
WIth One Health Lessons, environmental education is not limited to young students in grade schools. Our lessons can be taught to a variety of ages, and as we expand our lesson content, we hope to reach a broader audience, bringing One Health and environmental education to all.
Vanessa is One Health Lessons’ Administrative & Social Media Intern.
The year was 2020 and we were all excited for what the new decade was going to bring. We declared that 2020 was going to be our year, full of amazing memories and opportunities. However, only a few months in, life paused and without warning, everything was shut down. Brick and mortar classrooms, Sunday mass and sit-down dining were no more. Most of us were locked in our homes, with the exception of essential workers. The cause of this sudden upset in life being the new coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
It has been many months since the initial lockdown was implemented and it is impossible to deny that many aspects of day-to-day life have transformed. Restrictions continue to be lifted, and businesses have started to reopen to the public, with new precautions in place. Mask use, hand hygiene, physical distancing and working from home are just a few elements that are now widespread and commonplace in response to the pandemic
To prevent future pandemics, and allow us to live sustainably and harmoniously, it is pertinent that we embrace the One Health concept. Improving health outcomes involves caring for humans, animals and the environment and treating these three pillars, as one.
Why do we need a One Health approach?
Many microbes are zoonotic and have the ability to infect both animals and humans. Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent nor eliminate this problem. For instance, incidence rates for rabies in humans in Uganda have significantly decreased as interventions are focused on vaccinating the wild animal sources. Similarly, this is seen with widespread dog vaccination campaigns throughout Asia and Africa.
Who makes the One Health approach work?
The One Health approach is facilitated and supported by individuals across many sectors, with a wide range of expertise. Anyone and everyone who has the goal of improving health, can get involved in this movement.
To effectively detect, respond to, and prevent outbreaks of zoonoses and food safety problems, epidemiological data and laboratory information should be shared across sectors. Government officials, researchers and workers across sectors at the local, national, regional and global levels should implement joint responses to health threats.
The World Health Organization works closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to promote multi-sectoral responses to food safety hazards, risks from zoonoses, and other public health threats at the human-animal-ecosystem interface and provide guidance on how to reduce these risks.
Call to Action
We are all being called upon to join efforts and see to it that the plethora of One Health issues, including food safety, environmental contamination, zoonotic and chronic diseases, are given paramount attention and addressed with the One Health approach in mind.
Linda Atulinda is the Editor-in-Chief of The 50th Edition of The Makerere Medical Journal at Research and Writers Club in Uganda.
Since I was born and raised in Hong Kong, my mother tongue is Cantonese. However, as my schooling was at an international school in which the primary language of instruction was English and Mandarin, I am technically trilingual. While I spoke Cantonese regularly with my family and English with my peers, I always deemed Mandarin to be my “least familiar language” simply because I didn’t have many opportunities to speak it since grade school.
When I heard about the possibility of teaching a lesson in Mandarin, to be honest, I was uncomfortable. In fact, for the first time, instead of the usual feeling of excitement, I was actually petrified. Teaching… in Mandarin??? Initially, I thought: no way. Yes, I have a *slight* advantage because I've been teaching about One Health since March of 2019, but out of the 600+ students that I’ve taught, not a single lesson had been conducted in a language other than English. What came to be my first-ever Mandarin lesson would definitely be nothing less than an internal challenge.
I taught the lesson with three other people: Dr. Deborah Thomson (Founder and President of One Health Lessons), Tyler Chuck (Bay Area Scientists Inspiring Schools (BASIS)’s Senior Manager of Outreach and Education), and Yifan Shen (a fellow One Health Lessons intern). The class consisted of 60 students which was then divided into two English and two Mandarin lessons.
After Deb and Tyler’s introductions, it was my turn to introduce myself. I decided to do it in Mandarin for the sake of the students who are expecting a Mandarin lesson. After introducing myself, I confidently gave the floor to my fellow intern, Yifan. In Mandarin, a slight deviation in tone changes the entire meaning of a word, so when Yifan went on to introduce himself and emphasized the pronunciation of “Fan”, I realized I’d totally bombed his name. To be fair, I had never heard him say his name in Chinese, nor did I know what the actual characters of his name were, so I guess I had an excuse…
Before I go into the details of the next portion of the lesson, allow me to give you a mini lesson on the Chinese language in case you aren’t already familiar. First off, there are 50,000 characters in the Chinese language. Don’t let that number scare you, because an educated person in the Chinese language would only know about 8,000 of those. And even better, you only really need to know 2,000-3,000 to be able to read a newspaper. As for me, even though I have a university degree from the US, the fact that I was not part of the local school system greatly reduced the number of characters I needed to know, just as far as I could read and write proficiently to complete my final exam papers. Honestly, I would probably place myself in between the newspaper level and ‘highly educated' level.
To make things even more complicated, there are two “versions” of the Chinese written language: Traditional Chinese text and Simplified Chinese text. Think of them as two sets of the same 50,000 characters mentioned before, but some of them are in a simpler form. Now given these two versions of Chinese characters, you can choose to read it aloud in Mandarin or another dialect of Chinese such as Cantonese and they will sound the same in either format. So basically, written and spoken Chinese are distinct and the version of written Chinese that you use depends on the region that you live in. For instance, Simplified Chinese text is found in most of Mainland China, while Traditional Chinese text is most often used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
I bring this up because growing up in Hong Kong exposed me to the Traditional Chinese version of Chinese text. And so… you guessed it. The day of the lesson, I found out that the students use Simplified Chinese. I have to speak in a language that I was already unconfident about teaching in, and on top of that, I need to do it in a version of Chinese that I couldn’t fluently read…
The day before the lesson, I set it up so that the Simplified Chinese version for the students was shared on my computer screen, while I read off of the Traditional Chinese version on my iPad screen. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult and I was able to pick it up given my practice with my parents the day before.
In the blink of an eye, we were moved to our breakout rooms. The second graders’ faces popped up on my screen one by one as I put the biggest smile on my face. After talk of species, mutations, and zoonotic diseases, the students were most aggressive to participate in the sentence mutation activity where they filled in the blanks of a sentence with their own words to model a genetic mutation. Not only did it practice their Chinese reading skills, it also made the fact that “mutation is change" an easier concept to understand.
There were a couple times where I could sense that some students were not as confident in Chinese as others, so they would ask questions in English and I would try my best to respond in only Chinese in order to encourage them to speak it as well in the supposedly Chinese class. I knew that if I let the students know that I was also fluent in English, they’d all switch to only asking me questions in English. (I am speaking from experience, because when I was a child I spoke to my bilingual Mandarin teacher in English whenever I got away with it!) Throughout the One Health lesson, I may or may not have stumbled through my basic range of Chinese vocabulary and used many hand gestures and check-ins for understanding, but overall, I’d call it a great success. The students were eager to learn, engaged, and spoke mostly in Chinese. As the lesson ended, we were brought back to the main session with all 60+ kids. It was there that we received a heartwarming, all-at-once but out-of-sync “thank you” from all the students. Yes, heartstrings were pulled.
In closing, this is one of the most meaningful lessons I’ve taught in my entire 1.5 years of volunteering with BASIS. To teach in Mandarin was something I was always shy of doing due to many fears and doubts about my own language abilities, but this was the perfect opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. The eventual gain of knowledge and gratefulness of the students who learned something that day is what draws me back to teaching, over and over again.
Doris Ma is the Lesson Leaders Program Intern with One Health Lessons.
Children are the future. Those who are young, kind and brave own the future. Today, Mother Earth is aching, humans have not been kind to her. She needs us to change our ways and allow her to heal her wounds. Her recovery cannot be complete, until everyone appreciates that we all depend on our single planet.
That is why I believe in the mission of One Health Lessons. Its mission is to inspire every child and adult on the planet to value the interconnection between our health, animal health and the health of plants and the environment. Promoting One Health awareness is a step towards a sustainable world. We hope to inspire young leaders to dream of a career in science and, thereby, enrich humanity.
One Health holds great complexity and even greater dreams within itself. To make it even more complex, the world is changing every day. As a medical student, I take it upon myself to lead positive change and work towards a truly sustainable world, not only in my Turkish community but all around the planet. By becoming an intern with One Health Lessons, this organization has given me the chance to meet inspiring experts from different disciplines and cultures and live a true One Health experience. Each week, I’m learning something new while meeting passionate individuals who want to contribute to our global mission. Together, with hundreds of other volunteers around the world, we are working to inspire the next generation to see the world as one.
Doğa Nur Köşker is the Blog, UK/Europe Promotions, and Language Expansion Intern with One Health Lessons.
This article was first posted in a publication with our partner, The University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
I was so nervous in anticipation of teaching my first One Health Lesson to third grade learners in California a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if my internet would hold up and I was worried about navigating everything virtually- from teaching, calling on learners to participate, and going through the slides seamlessly. Not to mention, making sure I captured their attention enough with a topic that can sometimes seem somewhat abstract.
But I had so much fun! The learners were completely engaged, answered questions, and even brought up topics that related to the lesson in ways I wouldn’t have even thought.
For instance, the particular lesson I was teaching surrounded the topic of COVID-19 and one of our vocabulary words was mutation. Near the end of the lesson, one of the learners inquired about her favorite animal, the white tiger. She was curious how white tigers…. well…. happen. So, we were able to discuss mutations in a way she could understand and find genuine interest in, further navigating how mutations can be either good, bad, or neutral change.
To demonstrate that mutations happen in many things- from people to animals to plants to viruses and beyond- there was a picture of a mutated strawberry on the PowerPoint slide. This mutation made like like multiple strawberries glued together to create a massive one
One of my favorite quotes from the lesson was when one of the learners said “I want all the strawberries in the world to look like that so I can take longer to eat them!”
Honestly, it was a strawberry that probably would have been thrown out as not uniform enough to be included in a typical U.S.-based grocery store.
Yet, here was this third grader excited to eat a strawberry that looked different than what he was used to! And it got me thinking about how much food we waste in the U.S. simply because it doesn’t adhere to certain physical and visual standards without even considering if people would still buy them. Not only would this individual buy them, he would enjoy eating them so much more than regular strawberries!
So, teaching One Health Lessons was not only fun and inspiring for the learners I was teaching, but for me as well. I hope to never lose the ability to learn from children and see the world in newer, better, more hopeful and enjoyable ways.
Dr. Leslie Brooks, DVM, MPH is a Certified Lesson Leader with One Health Lessons.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has devastated populations across the globe. Since 2019, this scourge has claimed the lives of many and stifled economic growth, leaving millions impoverished. Over 74.4 million confirmed cases and over 1.65 million deaths have been reported globally at the time of writing. Putting these stupendous figures into perspective, the number of positive cases is almost twice the population of Uganda.
However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. More than half of all infected people worldwide (54.2 million people) have made full recoveries. This is primarily due to great scientific advancements since the last major pandemic (Spanish Flu) that have gifted us life-saving drugs and a much more resilient global health system.
The SARS-CoV-2 genome was first sequenced in January 2020, and since then scientists worldwide have been working tirelessly to develop and produce successful vaccines.
What is a vaccine? A vaccine is something that trains the body’s immune system so that it can fight a disease it has not yet come into contact with. Vaccines are typically designed to prevent disease, rather than treat it. They often consist of agents with a close resemblance to disease-causing microbes. This ranges from showing the immune system a weakened (“attenuated”) or killed form of the microbe- or even, only a small portion of the microbe!
Vaccines have played an amazing role in the eradication of illnesses like smallpox. There are currently more than one hundred COVID-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of development around the world. In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an American regulatory body that is one of the global standards for approval of therapeutics and vaccines, authorized a Pfizer and BioNTech's Coronavirus vaccine called BNT16262 for emergency use. This remarkably effective vaccine is administered in two shots, weeks apart. The immune system is revved up with the first dose and then it is brought to a protective level by the second dose.
As science is always changing and discoveries are constantly being made it is to be expdcted that more long-term studies of the immune system and its memory will be greatly valued in the future.
As opposed to traditional types of vaccines where a weakened virus or a killed virus is used to stimulate the immune system, Pfizer’s vaccine is focused on mRNA (the coding instructions in a cell that create proteins). The protein of great attention is the infamous “spike” protein that is found on the surface of the novel coronavirus. Without this protein, the virus could not enter a cell. With certain mutations to this protein, the virus can enter a cell more easily. If this protein was floating on its own- without a hazardous virus attached to it- it would stimulate a person’s immune system to such a degree that the immune system would seek out and destroy anything with that particular protein. This, of course, includes any future novel coronaviruses that enter a person! Isn’t science incredible? The spike protein is seen as target practice!
All this commendable and ground-breaking work was developed by scientists and engineers and clinicians of various backgrounds. This work came as a result of scientists taking the One Health approach. Yet, all of this work could be undermined by anti-vaxxers. With the rise of social media, vaccine skeptics have gained the ability to quickly spread misinformation about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, based on mRNA technology allows cells to manufacture fragments of the virus so that the human body builds its strength through the aforementioned target practice. Antivaxxers pose a public health threat due to ignorance and not because of malice. When people do not understand something, they have a greater chance of fearing it. That’s why every single educated person has the responsibility to leverage their position and platform (like this blog!) and properly inform the masses and fight misinformation.
Jacob Othieno is a second-year medical student at Makarere University in Kampala, Uganda.
I’ve never taught young children before. The thought of lecturing a young class was intimidating at first. My initial impression was that young kids would be difficult to control and would not be interested in anything that I had to talk about. Sure, I’ve been a teaching assistant for my college courses, but teaching science to people in higher education for some reason is less intimidating to me than teaching an elementary school class. It wasn’t until after I taught my first lesson to a class of 3rd graders did my perspective on elementary education change.
I had an amazing opportunity to teach a lesson on One Health to a third grade class at West County Mandarin School through our collaboration with Community Resources for Science. To teach this class, I had to go through the Lesson Leaders Program, a training program designed by One Health Lessons to develop anyone above the age of 18 into eligible teachers for One Health lessons. The training program consisted of 4 steps: 1) Fill in the sign-up sheet 2) Attend a 1-hour overview session led by Community Resources for Science in California 3) Watch a recorded lesson on One Health online and take a quiz and 4) Teach a California class remotely with the assistance of another volunteer. After these steps, I successfully became a certified Lesson Leader for One Health Lessons.
After going through the training program, I already felt more comfortable teaching young children. Yet, the few minutes before I started teaching, I was still nervous. This lesson was a unique one. Besides teaching kids situated in the US thousands of miles away from me, I was teaching them in Mandarin, my mother tongue. Fortunately, One Health Lessons has their One Health lessons translated in over 75 languages, including Chinese, by over hundreds of volunteers around the world, so I did not have to make any additional edits to the lesson.
At 1 AM (Taiwan Time), I logged into the Zoom call ready to teach some kids. Immediately, I faced a group of children ranging from kindergarteners (5-year-olds) to third graders (9-year-olds). I was assigned to teaching third graders that day; my fellow teachers Dr. Deborah Thomson, Tyler Chuck, and Doris Ma were assigned to the other grades. We were separated into breakout rooms, and immediately, I was left alone with my group of third graders.
I introduced myself and started the lesson. Initially, the kids were hesitant to answer my questions, but after a bit of pushing, the kids started interacting more. What helped was that the lessons were designed to be extremely interactive to ensure that the content continuously grabbed the children’s attention. By the end of the lecture, the students were competing to answer questions and ask their own questions. After the lesson ended, the teachers and students regrouped, and the teachers received a lovely “THANK YOU” from over 60 children at once. That gratefulness from the children made this experience very rewarding and inspiring.
Looking back, I could not be happier that I went through this training program to educate a potential group of future scientists about One Health. It is so important that we start to increase awareness of the connection between human, animal, and environmental health to children from a young age. By doing so, we may be able to prevent the next disease outbreak, slow down climate change, and save countless human and animal lives. I hope to continue teaching children around the world about One Health and promoting a concept that is crucial to the future of our world.
Yifan Shen is the Asia Promotions/ Language Expansion Intern with One Health Lessons.
It was a normal Thursday afternoon as I was sorting through One Health Lessons emails in my role as the Language Expansion Intern. Dr. Thomson and I had been communicating over email about logistics of the Kiswahili language team when she asked me to call her. It seemed like no big deal – we were just going to sort out a couple of things on the phone rather than an email chain, which seemed like a good idea to me. As soon as I picked up the phone though, Dr. Thomson asked me, “Would you like to teach a lesson in 5 minutes?” My jaw dropped. It was 12:55 PM on one of the last days of my final exam week and Dr. Thomson wanted me to teach my first lesson with almost no time to prepare?!?
I was in the midst of about 10 different assignments for school, not to mention keeping up with my One Health Lessons intern duties and as the cherry on top - I wasn’t exactly dressed professionally... unless you call a cat sweater professional attire! (Since we were going to teach kids, Dr. Thomson said the sweater was totally fine.) Dr. Thomson also added that this was an English Language Learners (ELL) class, so I would have to make sure to use lots of gestures and speak slowly. With no time to prepare, let alone teach the lesson in a new kind of way, I felt like I had been thrown straight into the deep end! Then again, the best way to learn and grow is by facing challenges head-on, and I knew that if I could teach this lesson, I could teach any lesson! So, I eagerly and nervously answered “YES! I would love to teach this lesson!”
Before teaching your first One Health Lesson on your own or with a buddy, you learn the best practices for teaching a lesson by watching two past lessons. Though I felt confident with the material and knew the tips and tricks of how to teach a One Health Lesson, I had no real experience in teaching primary school children nor teaching an ELL class. Nevertheless, I hopped on the Zoom call, cat sweater front-and-centre, ready to give it my best shot. The smiling faces of about 18 kids put me immediately at ease. Dr. Thomson, luckily, was there to assist in teaching the lesson, so I had a safety net if I needed it. As soon as I got started, though, it felt like a breeze! I really enjoyed encouraging every student to actively participate in the lesson and helping them to get excited about One Health. Throughout the lesson, I made sure to talk slowly (usually I’m a pretty fast talker!), use gestures, and emphasize concepts more than once. Everything went by so fast that before I knew it, my time was up! At the end of the lesson, we asked the students to explain some of the key terms (like "zoonotic disease" and "One Health") we taught during the lesson, and I was thrilled to see that they had understood and retained the information. The whole process was exhilarating and exciting, and I can’t wait to teach another lesson again soon!
Juliette Nye is a student in the Masters of Conservation Medicine program at Tufts University. She is now, because of her teaching experience, a Certified Lesson Leader with One Health Lessons.
As a teaching assistant at the university level, my students are usually in their late teens or early twenties. I was able to expand my teaching experience to children, after I shadowed Tyler Chuck, the Senior Manager of Engagement and Outreach program for the BASIS Program in California. After watching him teach the lessons, I gained the confidence to teach 8-year-olds in the U.S. and 5-year-olds in Mexico. I taught the 8-year-olds first and I loved it! Kids are so interested in learning and it is amazing how excited they are to participate (especially compared to my college students who I have to coax an answer from) the young kids were a breath of fresh air!
I also had the opportunity to teach one lesson in Spanish, which is my first language. After teaching the 3rd graders, I felt even more confident about this lesson but- guess what?- most 5-year-olds don’t know how to read and are just starting to learn about science! Despite this real-time realization on my part, they were very enthusiastic about the One Health lesson!
Kids are like sponges. Ask any parent. It seems that everything you tell them will stick in their heads for days, even weeks. Also, they are a lot more adept than we may think. We may believe a concept went right over their heads, but they do listen and they do learn quickly! A few days after my lesson, I followed up with the teacher. She told me that her students were giving her feedback about what they learned during my hour-long virtual lesson with them. One student shared that she told her parents that animals could carry viruses and bacteria and that we should leave them alone and give them sufficient space so that neither people nor animals get sick from each other.
If you have never taught kids, I will offer you some advice. They love to tell you stories and they will ramble on about what they had for breakfast or the names of their pets for a very, very long time. But they also love to hear stories and learn new things. These kids are our future, and we need to plant the seed for science early on. When that seed grows, they will bloom into strong leaders and advocates for our planet. As Whitney Houston once said, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside." Educating the future leaders is the best investment in the planet today.
Miriam Avila is a Master of Public Health student at Kansas State University and she grew up in Mexico.
As we are approaching the end of 2020, an exceptional year by all accounts, it is time to share with the world the plans for the next chapter of One Health Lessons.
Throughout the months of November and December, the One Health Lessons team has grown to include Certified Lesson Leaders! These incredible individuals have committed to 4-hours of training that included (1) an hour-long orientation session focused on communication techniques to be used with students of various age groups, (2) successfully passing a quiz based on a recorded online One Health lesson, (3) observing and assisting a live One Health virtual lesson with students in California and (4) teaching their own One Health virtual lesson.
Today, these Certified Lesson Leaders from Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Taiwan, Italy and the USA are planning to teach lessons in their own communities and in their own first languages. Once they teach at least five lessons in their home communities, they will become Certified One Health Lessons Ambassadors. With this honorable title, they can then teach others in their own community, and in their local language, how to teach lessons from OneHealthLessons.com. With this program, I see the future to be bright.
Onwards and upwards, my friends!
Deborah Thomson, DVM is the President and Founder of One Health Lessons.
Antibiotics are medications used to treat bacterial infections in humans, animals and crops. Similarly, “antimicrobial” is a term which encompasses all drugs designed to stop the spread of bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other microbes.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – no longer respond to the drugs that were designed to eliminate them.
AMR poses a major threat to public health. For instance, the more resistant a bacterium becomes, the less treatment options are available; this situation is very dangerous.
Information about Food-Borne Bacteria
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can get into food in several ways:
Guidelines for Antimicrobial Stewardship:
Tiyeyosibina Jegede is an Antmicrobial Steward and a One Health Advocate.
I used to think that the cats in my city were afraid of me.
Cats are unique animals and can make for a great pet. They are caring, loving, and attentive. They are also natural hunters! Cats are carnivorous, as they feed on other animals, like rats, lizards, grasshoppers, and more.
While I was living in a hostel, I noticed that my initial concerns about cats were wrong. They are simply protecting themselves by running away from strangers. Once you gain their trust, by offering them food and water, they are no longer afraid. All it takes is a little love.
This realization taught me that we should treat all living beings in the world with love. Humans, animals and plants deserve kindness and respect. As we go through life, we encounter strangers, new environments and new animals and a small act of kindness or generosity can go a long way in making the world a better place. The cats that I thought were scared of me, are actually very loving and affectionate- they just needed time to get to know me.
I attribute my new knowledge of the ecosystem and the connections between all living things to my experience with OneHealthLessons.com. I have learnt that the Earth is for all! In order to live in harmony, we need to take the first step in improving our relationship with each of the main One Health pillars: humans, animals, plants and the environment. What act of kindness can you do today to make the world a better place?
Malik Olatunde is the West African Regional Coordinator of Oli Health Magazine, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations Headquarters Board, and the Blog Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
Earlier this month, on October 6th 2020, the Rural Water Initiatives for Climate Action (RWICA) and One Health Lessons hosted a socially-distant community event in Uganda. The event was centered around conservation of the environment and harmonious coexistence of animals, humans and the environment, especially in the current global context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three interns attended to represent One Health Lessons: the Senior Promotion Intern -Mr. Oscar Arac, the 1Hope Liaison Intern - Ms. Natasha Nakkazi, and the Lions Club and Social Media Intern - Mr. James Baguma Natweta. The founder of RWICA, sociologist and volunteer with the One Health Social Initiative and One Health Lessons, Ms. Aisha Nankanja was the lead coordinator for the event.
The event was held at St. Peters Secondary School in Naalya, Uganda. Event attendees included notable community leaders and public figures of Naalya and Namugongo, youth leaders, as well as Ms. Betty Mbolany, a senior environment officer and One Health focal person at the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) Uganda. Ms. Mbolany attended on behalf of the permanent secretary at MWE, Mr. Alfred Okot.
Two major topics were discussed at the event: conservation of the environment and pandemic prevention using the One Health Approach. Dr. Deborah Thomson, the One Health Lessons curriculum developer and founder made a virtual appearance to educate attendees about the relationship between animal, human and environmental health, and how this pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was rounded off with a tree planting, on the grounds of St. Peters Secondary School in Naalya. This gesture was done to symbolize a new beginning and also to encourage the youth to embrace nature and its conservation.
Jackson Were is the Publications Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
People often undermine the importance of nature to the development of their economies and their standard of living. However, a report offered by the World Economic Forum titled New Nature Economy illustrates that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore susceptible to nature loss.
According to the International Monetary Fund, GDP constitutes the sum of the market prices of all final goods and services produced in the country's economy in a single year. This is all of the output generated within the borders of a country. This means that a large percentage of the products that we use each and every day to simplify our lives owe a large debt to biodiversity. Furthermore, the profitability of many industries also greatly depends on the health of ecosystems. For example, forestry, fishing, agriculture and ecotourism all rely on natural resources. Other industries, such as cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, also depend on biological material and genetic resources in the creation and manufacturing of their product.
A report by the World Economic Forum states that human activities and expansion are quickening extinctions and altering the natural world at an unprecedented rate. Humans represent just 0.01% of all living things, yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants. This poses a dire threat to ecosystems that people and animals all over the world depend on for their survival.
To better articulate the severity of these findings, the World Wildlife Fund, the Global Trade Analysis Project, and the Natural Capital Project conducted a Global Future report. This report attempts to quantify the global economic impact to environmental change. The model used currently covers six essential ecosystem services: pollination, coastal protection, water yield, timber production, fish production and carbon sequestration. These were selected because they are among the most economically important, and their connection to economics are clearly documented in the academic literature. One of the key highlights in this report indicate that loss in carbon storage and a reduction in coastal production services alone, which will occur if we continue to lose mangroves, coral reefs, seagrasses and salt marshes, would reduce annual global GDP by 0.46% by 2050 due to the impacts of flooding and erosion on coastal cities and agricultural land. This is the equivalent to an annual loss of $327 billion USD. A separate studyfrom the Global Forest Watch shows that the tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, including 3.6 million hectares of primary rainforest. This is the fourth-highest annual loss of the century and has devastating impacts on global carbon storage.
The question remains, what can we do to combat these unprecedented declines in biodiversity? One of the steps we are taking to fight this staggering loss, is providing accessible lessons for children and adults on the concept of One Health. It is ever more important to have the conversation with learners of all ages, and discuss that our actions impact the rest of our ecosystem. We are not living in isolation from the animal or plant kingdom, and understanding this connection is the first step towards sustainable change and a thriving future.
Ian Mujjabi is the Economics Intern with OneHealthLessons.com.
Just opening up in the shade of the high trees. The forest floor is damp and soft, similar to a drying sponge made of natural mulch, debris and organic decay. Yellow and red toadstools dot the floor but there is an elusive flower of delicate pale violet petals that is starting to make a statement- ready to declare itself as the most beautiful flower in all the land.
The thick and unmalleable leaves are covering its base, providing solid support for its crown to flourish. The solid green stalk has miniature ants running to and from the opening flower and the ground. Its distance from the damp earth is a considerable distance for the ants with their several miniscule legs. The flower’s petals are starting to open and its aroma is intoxicating. Deer are soon seen in the area. Owls gather in the nearby trees. Squirrels and furry striped chipmunks make an appearance for the event.
Determined and methodical, the lilac flower petals open in all directions with yellow frills rolling out beyond them. Inside the plane created by the purple delicate petals sits a person with wings who is the size of a thimble. The person, not only is small, but is mighty with wit, wisdom, and humor. She has the ability to persuade all humans to treat the Earth with love and respect. This flower, giving birth to this small angel, is the most beautiful flower in the world.
This entry was created by a person who would like to stay anonymous but wanted to contribute to the promotion of the Global Arts and Music Contest. For more information about the Arts and Music Contest, see the blog entry (below) from September 26, 2020.
The role of social media has become more relevant in health promotion during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during lock down. As citizens were forced to stay home and physical contact with others have been reduced, many people turned to social media to stay connected, and up to date with current events. Health units and governments also took to social media to share information with the public on how to best protect themselves and others. “Stay Home, Stay Safe”, “Wear your Mask” and “Practice Social Distancing” were common phrases plastered across media outlets. This information is key to minimizing the disease spread and protecting the most vulnerable. Furthermore, statistics about incidence and prevalence of infections as well as deaths and recoveries were shared, not to scare, but to communicate the gravity of the situation and keep the public accurately informed. It is with this observation that I have concluded that social media is key in promoting One Health.
We live in a digital age, where almost everyone has an online presence. Emails, meetings, weather updates, and shopping can all be orchestrated from the palm of our hands. Perhaps the greatest advantage of technology is the ease to connect with others across the globe. We can instantaneously share our ideas, thoughts and opinions through virtual networks and communities. Many others such as educational institutions, retailers, celebrities and public health agencies have also harnessed the power of social media. They can share news, events and updates to their followers with the click of a button. In a perfect world, these people would use their platforms to improve community wellness by encouraging information sharing and healthy behaviors. Regarding One Health, social media can be used to inform, educate and empower people about health issues, and enhance the speed at which information is sent and received during public health emergencies or outbreaks. It can also be used to mobilize community partnerships and promote action-oriented leadership.
Social media is more than a mere communication channel. If utilized effectively, it has the potential to improve One Health awareness globally through engaging, interacting and communicating with various audiences. Social media provides a channel for various professionals from different disciplines to connect and combine their efforts to achieve One Health in action.
Limitations to Social Media Usage
Being a relatively new technology, there is little known about the long-term consequences of social media usage. However, there is a strong link between excessive social media use and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts. The best advice I can offer when using social media is:
What should be done?
To maximize the potential of social media, health agencies and other organizations should develop a plan for incorporating it into their overall communication strategy. The agency must identify what audience they are trying to reach, how that audience uses social media, what goals and objectives are most appropriate and what social media platforms fit best with the identified goals and objectives.
The One Health-focused industries can utilize social media platforms to engage their audiences and create meaningful bonds; in the past, creating such connections were once hindered by time and distance but this is no longer the case. Through social media, we will be one step closer to establishing community-based partnerships which address public health problems and ensure harmony between people, animals, and the environment.
James Natweta Baguma is the Social Media and Lions Club Liaison Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
When a room is flooded, you first try to drain it by using bowls, buckets and the like. But then you find out that the level isn’t changing, because water keeps rushing in. The only logical option in that case is to find the source of the leak and seal it up; that’s the permanent solution to the problem.
Now, let’s apply this hypothetical scenario to real life. The room represents the Earth and the water is the dwindling health status of its occupants. Fixing that broken pipe and stopping the leak is where One Health comes in. It gets to the root of the problem. We are, by now, aware of the existing interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environment and how the One Health Approach aims to achieve optimal health outcomes. This connection creates some kind of a domino effect such that a faux pas with one aspect automatically touches on the rest as is seen with pandemics (like the current COVID-19 pandemic) stemming from animals. To deal with the pressing problem, we’re doing damage control: wearing a mask to protect us from the virus, giving supportive care to the infected individuals, developing a vaccine, etc. As essential as this is, it’s not a perpetual solution for our health because pandemics will keep happening unless, of course, we find that metaphorical “leak”. To do that, we need to enlighten the public about One Health and part of this responsibility falls on health students.
We currently live in a digital era where the internet has taken the world by storm and the younger generations have proven just how powerful the internet can be in advocating for change. We see how social media campaigns promote helpful policies and challenge the objectionable ones. The vast majority of students belong to this rising generation and, therefore, they have greater access to their peers compared to those of previous generations. This force, combined with the magic of the internet, will go a long way in facilitating One Health globally.
Being the next generation of health practitioners, we need to do something different to tackle our ‘leak’ problem as we can’t keep repeating the same mistakes our successors did. So, we change the narrative, and focus on better care of the environment. However, words are not enough- one needs to live by them. People look up to us (young medical professionals in training) to guide them and set an example for them. Every step you take matters. You can’t be advocating for One Health and at the same time support aimless deforestation or reckless refuse disposal. If you go to a beach and you see swimmers littering the water, you don't conform to such group pressure. Since you know better, you must act better, and set an example for others to follow.
As a medical student, I feel the extra weight that is needed to uphold a country’s health policy. For instance, recently, people have been disregarding the COVID-19 guidelines and acting as if the SARS-CoV-2 virus has disappeared (i.e. not wearing masks properly). Meanwhile, I still wear a mask (covering both my nose and mouth) outside to remind others that the viral war is still going on. I do this even when I’m the only one around doing it. All of us health students need to take it upon ourselves to make that extra effort because we know better. We must set a good example for our peers. After all, we will be at the frontlines of this war against COVID-19 and other pandemics in hospitals later on.
Aishat is a medical student at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria.
Background: Epidemics and Pandemics
The novel coronavirus has greatly impacted our health, the economy and societies around the world. However, disease epidemics and pandemics like SARS, COVID-19, Ebola and Zika are becoming increasingly common due to global travel, urbanization, increasing contact between humans and other animals, and climate change. Consequently, the only way to successfully reduce the risk of future epidemics and pandemics is to view human, animal and environmental health as one, formally known as One Health.
What is the One Health Approach?
The One Health Approach is collaborative and interdisciplinary teamwork between people of various disciplines to improve the health outcomes for humans, animals, plants and their shared environment. The One Health concept recognizes the irrefutable connection between animals, humans and the environment (including plants), and its approach implements multidisciplinary strategies to solve complex health problems through collaboration, communication and evidenced-based interventions.
It is estimated that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals and 3 out of 4 emerging infectious diseases originated from animals. Due to increasing contact between humans and other animals, it is important to be aware of the common ways these diseases can spread such as: direct contact (ex. air droplets, blood, feces, saliva), indirect contact (ex. exposure to areas where animals live and roam – like chicken coops or barns), from vectors (ex. tick, mosquito), from food (ex. unpasteurized milk, undercooked meat) or a water source.
The Way Forward?
To prevent future epidemics and pandemics, a One Health Approach emphasizes the need for cooperation between academia, the government, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers, the public and media.
The One Health Approach has been featured and encouraged in the Tripartite Guide, designed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
The Tripartite Guide features the following strategic measures to prevent future pandemics:
In Conclusion, recognizing and implementing strategies that follow a One Health Approach is the only way to create a sustainable and healthy future for all.
Malik Olatunde is the Blog Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
What is BASIS?
Bay Area Scientists Inspiring Students (BASIS) is a Community Resources for Science (CRS) program that provides free, in-class and online science lessons led by passionate volunteers from STEM backgrounds. These lessons educate and inspire students to envision themselves as scientists, to engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning experiences, and to help teachers discover ways to make science interactive and fun. The program is based out of California and offers lessons to primary schools in Northern California.
There is a growing understanding and recognition of the power of science education in early childhood. It provides a basis for future scientific understanding and also builds important skills and attitudes for learning. STEM, or the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, pervades every part of our lives and is used to impact people and every living thing on earth. STEM empowers individuals with the skills to succeed and adapt to this increasingly complex, changing, and technological world. Furthermore, when children explore STEM activities at an early age, they learn that science, technology, engineering, and math can be interesting and fun! This positive attitude can lead to academic success and interest in STEM careers later on.
My Experience with BASIS
When you first start as a volunteer, you sign up for a one-hour orientation session with Tyler Chuck, the Senior Manager of Engagement and Outreach. During the orientation, Tyler reviews the logistics of volunteering with BASIS and provides tips for working with young students. These tips include keeping the kids engaged through age-appropriate activities and examples, asking the students questions to enhance learning and commending students who participate - which encourages them to continue to do so in the future.
Following this orientation, Tyler schedules an opportunity for you to shadow him teaching the One Health lesson to an elementary class. By shadowing Tyler, volunteers learn various teaching practices and create ideas for themselves to implement in their future classrooms. Shadowing also helps give the volunteers experience in front of a class, which increases their comfort level and alleviates first-time nerves.
After shadowing a BASIS session, volunteers are encouraged to watch at least one recorded lesson on One Health Lessons’ YouTube channel and then begin teaching on their own (while having a second volunteer buddy to assist). BASIS emphasizes that the best way to learn is by doing. A volunteer provides a list of dates and times when you are available, and BASIS figures out the logistics. You are matched with a participating classroom and begin teaching in pairs of volunteers. Should you need additional guidance, the CRS website has a plethora of resources available to help volunteers get started and become more confident in their teaching abilities.
Overall, BASIS is a great volunteer opportunity for scientists and engineers to get involved, as well as educate and inspire youth to consider a future in STEM. It has been an extremely rewarding experience thus far and I can’t wait to continue bringing the One Health message into many more classrooms.
Vanessa Nichols is the Administrative Intern at OneHealthLessons.com
Art and music have always been a crucial aspect of human life - inspiring creativity, community, and celebration, and they appeal to all age groups. Here at OneHealthLessons.com, we believe that music and art are truly international languages.
One Health is the connection between the health of humans, animals, plants, and our shared environment. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, teamwork among people from various disciplines is clearly needed to solve complex global problems. This teamwork is called the One Health Approach and it is something we all need to advocate for, recognize, and embrace.
Since 2016, One Health Day (initiated by the One Health Commission, the One Health Platform and the One Health Initiative team) has been officially celebrated each November 3rd. The One Health Day campaign is designed to engage as many people as possible in One Health education, awareness, events, and participation in ongoing global One Health projects.
Is it possible to bring the world together with a One Health focus? Yes, it is! And we feel that having a global art and music contest is the way to go! Art can be used to simplify the complex ideas of One Health into drawings for children as young as five-years-old! Isn't that amazing? Also, don't you think songs can be fun and/or relaxing? You can dance to them, you can sing them in the shower, and hum them while doing the dishes and listening to the radio! Why not use your musical talents as a tool to gain more One Health advocates to celebrate One Health Day? Any style of music and visual and dramatic arts are welcome! This global art and music contest makes a positive impact in the world!
With your contribution, we can bring the One Health message around the world! We can improve the future health of humans, animals, plants and the environment today! After all, we live in one world. It is time to talk about One Health.
Wishing you the best of luck while having a fun and inspiring journey in creating great music and art to share with the world in celebration of One Health Day!
Individual or group submissions are welcome!
Deadline is on October 30, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time.
More specific Contest details and the link for the submission of your entry can be found here.
By submitting a piece of art or music to OneHealthLessons.com, you permit us to use your work to promote One Health events without any financial compensation to you.
Highly-regarded submissions will be featured on one of our many Social Media platforms including our YouTube channel as well as our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts. These social media avenues will give your great artwork plenty of fans throughout the month of November. By posting and sharing your creativity through song, dance, photography, illustration, poetry, drama, etc., you can connect with other people across the globe! In addition, you can spread the One Health message in a safe and socially-distant way.
First place submissions will be featured on OneHealthLessons.com on One Health Day (November 3rd)!
Any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacob Michael Othieno is the Global Partnerships Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
What is One Health? One Health simply means the connection between animal health, human health and environmental health.
To understand this concept, let me tell you a short story about a forest in World X.
Once upon a time, there was a forest. It was a beautiful, lush forest with mossy riverbanks and trickling rivers. The inhabitants of this forest: birds, foxes, and bears, to name a few, lived in harmony with each other and for many years, the forest thrived.
Suddenly, there was a new visitor in the forest – humans. They came and took what was not theirs. Trees were cut down to make room for houses, roads were built which fragmented the land, and the balance of nature was thrown off. They hunted, they fished and they polluted. The forest was no longer thriving. Many animals lost their homes, and were forced to relocate. The humans brought new pests and competitors, which dismantled the very delicate food chain.
Soon, species and trees began to disappear. Food sources became scarce, but the humans continued to multiply. Many animals had few options left and were forced to live closer and closer to the humans. This increasing interaction brought new diseases and infections to the humans. Ironically, the humans’ selfish actions jeopardized and endangered their own health. What is that saying? What comes around goes around? Perhaps, this is the universe giving the humans their much needed wake-up call. We share one planet, and the health of humans, animals and the environment are not separate entities. To live together, we must be aware of these connections, which drive the world as we know it.
Malik Olatunde is the Blog Intern at OneHealthLessons.com.
The hospital was small and the river was clean.
Along its curves and falls was a lush green.
You could see birds and monkeys coming from the trees to drink.
It watered the gardens from which we ate.
But now, the river is in no haste.
It is slow and thick with waste.
Evidence of rising towns: sweet wraps, toys, beer bottles, blankets of plastic and bottomless shoes.
Once the hospital was small and the river was clean.
The river's bed was littered with rocks and countless species between.
Now, it is covered with oil and leaves that were washed down when the trees were chopped.
Its green-brown swirls go nowhere but swell. And the beautiful houses that replaced the trees are soaked.
All the animals, insects and birds have been forced to adapt.
Now, monkeys go to the market in search of food just like we do.
And since the river has slowed, the insects have swarmed too.
The hospital was small when the river was clean.
Now every few months, we add a new block or wing
To accommodate a new disease that is strange.
A disease from the monkeys, the river or the swarms that sting.
And all this has come from the river's change
That we didn't view as an immediate threat.
Yes, the hospital was small because the river was clean.
The river has proved that thinking of our health in isolation is futile
Because people, plants, animals and the environment are in constant interaction
Yet our contribution is almost always cruel.
We are the cause of each new infection.
And unless we speed up discovery and collaborate,
We risk slowing down recovery and the disease numbers we will aggravate.
We need the river clean to keep the hospital small.
Until the age of nine, I lived in an urban, technology-reliant city. There were towering skyscrapers that appeared to touch the skies. You could hear the sound of traffic and construction in even the most secluded corners, and the closest woodlands were hours away. As a result, I mentally placed humans and animals into two different bubbles: touching, but never colliding. However, after moving to Alberta, where nature is ubiquitous, I discovered the unmistakable reality that animals are all around us. Wanting to find out more about human impacts and relationships with animals as well as the environment, I scoured the internet for more information on this matter. I was fortunate enough to come across One Health. Learning about One Health as a grade nine student has provided me with new information and perspectives that would not have been revealed to me otherwise. I believe that learning about One Health before going to university will benefit students because it will educate and enable them to understand the relationship between humans, animals, and the environment, as well as inspire them to have different prospects in science.
One of the things that makes One Health paramount to any other organization is its ability to communicate information that can be understood by everyone. It is crucial, now more than ever, for elementary, junior high and high school students to learn about the impacts of animal health on humans. That is because COVID-19: a virus that likely originated from an animal is affecting our activities, social lives, and schooling. Something that surprised me at the beginning of the outbreak was that a large number of my classmates thought animal-to-human diseases were out of the ordinary. This absence of knowledge could be a threat to their safety and limit their views. Not only does One Health enlighten and raise awareness on the subject of zoonotic disease to students, it also paves the way for them to learn and understand it. One Health may even inspire them to pursue a career in science.
Like most kids, growing up, I had a frivolous mind and changed my career ambitions every other day. My top two choices, however, always remained within the peripheries of animal and human health. And so I had a notion that when the time came for me to choose a field of study in university, the choice between the two would be an onerous one. To my surprise, after learning about One Health, I realized that I could be involved in both fields. Learning about One Health has introduced me to different occupations and has in turn widened my knowledge of opportunities that are available to me to pursue my interests. Admittedly, I still have many tough decisions ahead of me before university starts, but One health has made it a little more manageable by showing me the available option of doing the two things I value most. Because of this, I believe students should learn about One Health so they can get a panorama of the different career possibilities they can choose from.
The day I learned about One health was the day I grasped that humans and animals were not two separate bubbles, but two different colored paints that influence and change each other. I think learning about One Health as a student is pertinent to finding solutions for new challenges concerning the health of humans and animals. It will undoubtedly teach and inspire them. One Health will introduce new relationships and, furthermore, will explain how important the health of both animals and humans are. One Health has invigorated my passion for animal and human health, and also provided me with new opportunities. More importantly, it taught me the significance of understanding human and animal relationships. The information I was lucky enough to obtain from One Health Lessons will shape and impact my future- just as it will affect the future of anyone fortunate enough to come across this organization.
“Those people are cutting down the trees!” exclaimed my 5-year-old-daughter (V). “Yeah! And the animals are saying, ‘you cut down my home… I’m going to come to where you are and find food’,” said my 7-year-old (J) with attitude.
The COVID-19 One Health Lesson was fun and engaging for our family. I could barely get through two slides without our children asking several questions and wanting to dive deeper into the subject.
When V asked, “Can they give a vaccine to the [wild] animals?” I was able to share with her about the rabies program in Maryland that seeks to vaccinate wild raccoons. Also, when we talked about ways to protect our environment, J asked, “If I use less paper, how will that stop them [paper production companies] from making paper?” So, I had the chance to give an age-appropriate mini-lesson on the economics of supply and demand.
It was neat to see them giggle at the pictured mutations, strike Influenza and Campylobacter in the online game, and make connections to our actual life. For example, as part of Free Forest School, we visited the same forest week after week for a year. Many times, we would spend time splashing in the creek. For a few weeks, we had a visitor, a Great Blue Heron. So, during the lesson, we talked about water quality and what might happen to that bird if water quality were poor or if we had polluted the stream.
As a homeschool mom with a background in public health, I get a special joy in seeing J and V engage with material that is dear to me.
For parents in the U.S., homeschooling or school-at-home has become an unexpected new normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I feel it’s a chance for many parents to become even more involved in their children’s education.
Whether you regularly homeschool or are doing school-at-home because of the pandemic, One Health Lessons add a source of enrichment to your child’s schedule and is a great information source for parents. I hope both parents’ and their children’s curiosity will be piqued, and more people will explore One Health, and engage with their families and communities to improve our collective wellness.
I see the blue sky behind him and the light gray paneling on the exterior of his family’s house. I see the small soccer net set up beyond him where his 4-year-old brother is haphazardly kicking around a miniature brown ball in the green grass. My student, sitting before me, is a ten-year-old boy with brown hair pointed in all directions. His name is Tony and he is wearing a tattered dark blue hoodie with faded print on it. He is leaning toward his laptop, being supported by either a bench or a chair- I cannot tell from this camera angle. I’m surprised, given the distractions, that Tony is paying attention to my class on his laptop.
Sitting 3,000 miles away in my own home, I advance the power point slide to one that has evenly-spaced trees and silhouettes of birds, bats, foxes and mice scattered throughout the white background. The students watch my shared screen. “What do you see here?” I ask my students “Does it look like a healthy forest or an unhealthy forest? Thumbs up if healthy, thumbs down if unhealthy or shrug your shoulders like this if you aren’t sure.” I demonstrate by exuberantly moving my shoulders up and down with arms slightly bent, palms ups, fingers slightly curled toward the ceiling.
I quickly click on gallery view to see all of my students at once- some are outdoors like Tony, others are in their kitchen, some are alone, some with pajama-clad parents shuffling on by in their slippers in the background. But, miraculously, all the students are doing one of the three actions requested.
“Great! Yes, this is a model of a healthy forest. All the different animals and trees are evenly spaced out- nobody is stepping on each other. Nobody is stressed out. There is barely any competition for food or shelter- enough food for everybody! This is a healthy forest. Now, let’s see what changes you notice between this and the next slide.”
I click to a new slide with the title of “One Health: Animal Health” in blue and purple print on top. “What are the changes? Raise your hand if you see them.”
Several hands go up. I see Sally, who has been remaining quiet, suddenly raise her hand. I unmute Sally’s computer. “Sally, what changes do you see?”
“Well,” she pauses and restarts with a surprisingly high-pitched voice, “I see” she pauses again “I see new people and less trees.”
“That’s great!” I say, “why are there less trees?”
Sally responds correctly: “Because people cut them down”.
I go on “and where are the animals?” Sally no longer looks willing to speak and I see many more hands being raised in their own siloed half-inch virtual portals that I have on my computer screen. Looking through the options, I find Candice and unmute her. “Candice, do you have an idea?”
“Most animals are being crammed together in the forest but some are near the people” she confidently declares. “Why do you think they are near the people?” I ask provokingly.
“Because they don’t have other options- either they huddle up in the forest and compete for food and homes- like trees and stuff- or they go out of the forest to look for those things.”
Leave it to Candice to drive home a point that I was trying to make! I think to myself.
“Good job, Sally and Candice! That is right. Now, let’s take one last long look at this slide and then compare it to the next slide. Raise your hand if you spot the five changes.” I advance the shared screen to the next slide which has “One Health: Human Health” written on the top in blue and red text, font of Arial Bold. Hands begin to rise. I shuttle back and forth between the two "One Health" slides for the surprisingly attentive students. More hands rise.
“Ok. Kyle, I unmuted you. What changes do you see?” Impressively, Kyle (with the help of some classmates) gets all five changes: 1. No more birds- why?- because they have too much competition for food and shelter so they either left or became extinct, 2. Less trees-why?- because people are chopping down the trees and the birds don’t have a place to live. Another student chimes in and mentions that some birds are pollinators and less birds means less plants in the area, 3. More mice- why?- because the birds that hunted the mice are now gone, 4. More foxes- why?-because there are more mice to eat, and 5. More animals near people- why?- because people have taken over the area where the wild animals have been living for many years and the wild animals do not have good options.
Now, I ask the big question. The mother-load of questions. And I wonder if they will get the right answer. “What happens when people and animals are unnaturally close together?”
I see three hands diffidently rise up. I unmute Felicia’s computer and invite her to speak. She scoots closer to the computer screen. We can hear a bit of talking somewhere else in her room but can adequately hear what she has to say.
“When people are near animals like that, then diseases can spread more easily between them.”
“Yes!” I say, maybe more enthusiastically than what I wanted, my heart racing with excitement. They are getting it! “And what is the word that we learned earlier in the lesson for a disease that can jump between different species?” A pause and then four hands are raised. I unmute Marco who notices the signal on his screen. He says the right answer in a way that almost sounds like a question, lifting his scratchy voice at the end: “zoonotic disease(?)”.
I continue: “Yes, and is the Novel Coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, that is going around the world and making you stay home from school, considered to be zoonotic? Can it spread between species? Thumbs up if yes or thumbs down if no or shrug your shoulders if you are not sure.”
I see ninety percent of students with their thumbs up and the rest either shrugging or with their thumbs pointed to the ground. “Yes!” I go on to say “Yes, this virus is zoonotic. That is why we need to make sure we keep our distance from wild animals. Let’s now talk about how we can protect ourselves from it, what researchers are doing to develop medications and vaccines and then let’s talk about how we can help prevent another zoonotic disease from going around the world in the future by focusing on environmental health and animal health- like in that forest example. Does that sound good?” I see a lot of heads nod in agreement.
We then play games to illustrate a few ways mutations can happen in people, animals, plants, bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. We talk about how mutations can sometimes be difficult to predict and some viruses seem to mutate more often than others. We then talk about how scientists are developing vaccines after they understand how this troublesome SARS-CoV-2 is mutating, creating different strains. One student writes in the shared text box “mutations are cool!”- I guess he meant that mutations are something to be understood and not feared. We then review how to protect ourselves from getting sick from SARS-CoV-2.
Teaching kids about One Health (or the idea that collaboration is necessary to efficiently improve human health, animal health and environmental health) is easy compared to teaching adults. After all, adults have already accepted the academia-established scientific silos, and don’t easily see how a veterinarian or environmental health scientist or even how maintaining biodiversity in a forest can play an important role in human health. I’ve been a One Health curriculum developer and invited guest science teacher for years. With a similar coronavirus online class, I talk to older students about the risks of eating wild animals (known as bushmeat), wet markets and the illegal wildlife trade because this also puts people unnaturally close to animals- but there is only so much one can fit into a 50-minute lesson. The student’s full-time teachers, who have invited me to bring this virtual lesson to their class, can develop the concepts introduced to bring science to life. The class can explore timely questions raised in today’s class like- how can an entire ecosystem collapse if it loses a single species? or how does the immune system work? or how can tracking mutations in a virus help scientists develop vaccines? or why is social distancing necessary today?
Students like Tony, Sally, Candice, Felicia, Marco, and the others from today’s lesson inspire me to continue delivering the message of One Health. These young people are inheriting the planet that my generation will leave behind and they need to fully understand that people’s actions on the environment influence both animal health and human health. Habitat loss and wildlife trade lead to unnatural interactions between people and animals. We must not forget that we are all inextricably connected.
This is One Health. And this is the future.