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The main University of Aberdeen library is an imposing building, with a startling glass exterior that suggests tree trunks reaching for the sky. This was the venue for a workshop in December 2014, with contributions from 31 people rep resenting plant, human and animal health. Human and animal health already work together, drawn together by shared interest in zoonoses and explored under the One Health concept or movement. Plants have slowly become part of a wider health debate that includes the environment, agriculture and nutrition. But plant health still has a weak voice, despite its fundamental importance to all life.
The workshop was an attempt to foster stronger links with human and animal health. What can we learn from each other? Where do activities and research intersect? How can we work together to achieve more? The main sponsors for the meeting were Plantwise, a CABI programme, and the BSPP. We held the meeting in Aberdeen because of my ties with the Institute for Biological and Environmental Sciences. The university has a thriving Centre for Sustainable International Development, led by the admirable Dr Hilary Homans. Hilary has also worked in human health. We also wanted to draw upon expertise and experience from the university medical school. The workshop began with general introductions to each health area followed by case studies. Those of us who’d worked with the Global Plant Clinic at CABI – now considerably expanded into Plant wise – wanted to learn how to establish more effective plant health services in developing countries, where losses due to pests and diseases have the most devastating impact. How could we learn from work done to improve primary (human) healthcare? Or the effective ness of community-based animal health workers in serving pastoralists around the world, trying to survive in the most difficult conditions. Solveig Danielsen began by introducing Plantwise, a major programme led by CABI, now active in 33 countries. She pointed out the over-arching importance of plant health to food and feed safety, food and feed security, nutrition and livelihoods. Talking about mycotoxins and other food and feed contaminants suggests that the plant pathologist’s definition of plant health needs to be broadened. Esther Schelling from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute told us that animal health systems had been neglected. National veterinary services were generally agencies of Ministries of Agriculture (which also house plant health departments). She described joint vaccination campaigns held in Mongolia and Chad, where animals and children were treated. Human health was well represented, with Pamela Abbott sharing her long experiences in Rwanda. José Nyamusore of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre was unable to attend but sent a presentation on the implementation of One Health. Charles Kajura from Uganda also contributed long-distance, outlining efforts to combine plant and animal health services in Uganda. Sophie Haesen from Basel elaborated on this further – this time in person. Rwanda was mentioned a lot during the workshop. Callixte Gatali of the University of Rwanda gave a presentation on mass extension and large scale campaigns against major plant diseases, highlighting efforts to combat banana xanthomonas wilt and facing up to the new challenge of maize lethal necrosis disease. These and other examples highlighted the similar ways in which the different health sectors work, and brought into sharper focus the need to talk about methods and approaches and their usefulness regardless of the actual disease being addressed. Odede Ochieng from SIDAI in Kenya explained via Skype how a franchise programme in Kenya was exploring new ways to deliver better animal health services and products to farmers through agrodealers. SIDAI currently focuses on animal health yet 40% of the products sold in the agrodealers are for plants. Nearer to home, Julian Smith from Fera gave a lively presentation on plant diagnostics. Julian has a wealth of experience from working around the world and explained the challenges in getting new technologies to the places where they are most needed. He described pragmatic solutions to help phytosanitary organisations respond to extension and farmer needs. Alan White from Skills@work talked about a mobile phone app for human health in Ghana and Jo Rodgers from Access Agriculture demonstrated the power of sharing high quality training videos online. Further reporting from the One Health frontline came via Ian Scoones and his report on the STEPS programme at the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University. The blizzard of acronyms continued as participants from three different health sectors began to get better picture of what each other was doing – and noting the scope for future collaborations. I hope you get a flavour of the common themes that emerged, particularly in service delivery. The participants were slightly wide-eyed at the end, having looked at diverse topics through a cross-sectoral telescope. But why not? What’s the difference in monitoring malaria and maize lethal necrosis disease outbreaks? By the time Barbara Häsler from the Royal Veterinary College spoke on the last session I don’t think anyone was surprised to be hearing about the Evaluation of One Health. Barbara talked about developing standardised methods and approaches to evaluate health activities. How do you know that what you’ve done has been successful? She illustrated her talk using an assessment of rabies campaign in Sri Lanka. The short talks led into group discussions. Participants chose the topics and reported back in plenary with their collective thoughts on: agriculture, nutrition and health; information and knowledge exchange; primary/rural healthcare; new metrics and methods to measure health outcomes; health promotion and disease prevention; biosecurity; and training and professional development. This was an ambitious range of topics for a workshop and we only really skimmed the surface of major themes and their wide-ranging issues. But the enthusiasm of engagement and warmth of responses at the end of the workshop showed that we’d begun a slow but I hope steady path towards widening the debate on one health and beyond – with plant health an accepted component. I’m immensely grateful to the workshop sponsors, the decisive support from Gary Foster and of course the contributions of everyone who made their way to Aberdeen. The workshop could not have been held without the tireless ef forts of Hilary, ably supported by Michaela Johnson and the library staff. My thanks to them all. Next stop: a one health forward workshop in Rwanda?
Eric Boa University of Aberdeen