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Online Course

Bats, Ducks, and Pandemics: An Introduction to One Health Policy

Princeton University via Coursera

Overview

Welcome to "Bats, Ducks, and Pandemics: An Introduction to One Health Policy".

One Health is the concept that human, animal, and environmental/ecosystem health are linked. The concept provides a useful framework for examining complex health issues such as food safety and security, emerging and vector-borne diseases, and antimicrobial resistance. It can be used to analyze government policies to determine if they are effective in improving health and well-being.

Agriculture is the foundation of civilization. Surplus food enabled the growth of cities; cities led to nations, and nations discovered the science and technology that allowed populations to grow. But agriculture comes with costs including environmental and ecosystem destruction and the emergence of zoonotic diseases. Antibiotics are the foundation of modern medicine. But antibiotics have come with costs too, including antimicrobial resistance and potentially harmful changes to human and animal microbiomes.

This interdisciplinary course will cover diverse subjects such as basic epidemiology, public health, public policy, basic microbiology, food safety, and security, zoonotic diseases, sanitation and hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, environmental and ecosystem health, and the national and international organizations that oversee health, agriculture, and the environment. Disease outbreaks including Influenza, Q fever, and Ebola will be discussed. While the course was developed and recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic, the concepts learned very much apply to it. This course emphasizes holistic, not siloed, approaches to health, and disease.

Syllabus

Getting Started. One Health, Public Health, Basic Epidemiology
-Public health examines the health of populations. Public health professionals rely on epidemiology, the collection, and analysis of health data from groups of individuals, to determine which diseases are causing the most problems and require governmental interventions. The One Health concept recognizes that human health relies on healthy animals, environments, and ecosystems. Integrating the One Health concept into public health requires the inclusion of health data from animals, such as pets, livestock, and wildlife, as well as environmental data, such as air and water quality. In this week’s sessions, we will briefly discuss public health, epidemiology, and One Health.

Public Policy, Environmental and Ecosystem Health, National Governments, International Organizations
-A nation’s constitution determines its government’s structure, function, and funding. Public health and One Health are inherently governmental responsibilities since they benefit entire populations. Public policy is the study of what governments do or don’t do regarding specific issues. Environmental health focuses on the non-living (i.e. air, water, and soil) aspects of specific geographic areas. Ecosystem health, in contrast, examines the interactions between living organisms with each other within a specific environment. This week’s sessions will discuss public policy, the differences between environmental and ecosystem health, and the structure and function of national governments and international organizations relevant to implementing One Health nationally and globally.

Human Nutrition, Basic Microbiology, Food Safety, Food Security
-“You are what you eat!” said Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer, and gastronome in the early 19th century. The importance of good nutrition is essential for health and well-being. We must learn that when we eat, we feed not only ourselves but our microbes as well. Microbes including bacteria and viruses play an important role in human and animal health, but some also cause disease. Food must be free of contaminating microbes and substances in order to be safe for consumption. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization because it provides a relatively secure food supply. Agriculture is both threatened by and contributes to climate change. This week’s sessions will discuss basic nutrition and microbiology as well as food safety and food security.

Examining Leadership, Corruption, Communication, and Healthcare Access
-Who’s in charge matters when responding to deadly epidemics. Decision-making, or the lack thereof, can make the difference between life or death. Political and public health leaders must develop good working relationships in order to develop effective policies during public health crises. They must be able to communicate well, and they must not be corrupt. Corruption undermines public trust and jeopardizes health. For a government to be prepared for any public health threat, quality healthcare must be accessible to all. This week’s lectures will discuss political and public health leadership, corruption, communication, and healthcare access.

Antimicrobials: Antibiotics, Antimicrobial Resistance, Bacteriophages, Vaccines and Antivirals
-Antibiotics are the foundation of modern medicine. Without safe and effective antibiotics, many modern therapies such as elective surgeries become too dangerous to do because the risk for infections becomes too high. Many microbes share resistance genes enabling them to evade antibiotics. Worsening antimicrobial resistance threatens the practice of modern medicine. Bacteriophages are tiny viruses that are the natural foes of bacteria. They are highly specific and challenging to use as antibacterial agents; nevertheless, they might serve as important alternatives or adjuncts to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In contrast to bacteria, viruses are technically not alive and cannot be killed. Therefore, antiviral agents work by blocking viral activities such as entering cells and hijacking cellular machinery to make new viruses. Vaccines are typically made from pieces of dead bacteria, inactivated viruses, or genetically engineered proteins that mimic bacterial or viral proteins. Vaccines work by providing target practice for the host’s immune system, enabling it to prevent invading microbes from causing disease. This week’s sessions will discuss antibiotics, antimicrobial resistance, bacteriophages, antiviral agents, and vaccines.


Containing Disease Outbreaks, Prion Diseases, Bacterial Diseases and Viral Diseases
-Containing disease outbreaks requires a variety of responses including epidemiologic investigations, widespread testing, contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and if available, administration of medications and vaccines. Effective public communication and trust are essential. Many of the disease outbreaks that are spreading into human populations come from animals and are either directly or indirectly related to agriculture. Response strategies depend upon the type of microbes such as bacteria, viruses, or prions causing the outbreaks. This final week’s sessions will discuss containing disease outbreaks as well as examining public health crises caused by different microbes: prions, bacteria (i.e. Q fever), and viruses (i.e. Influenza and Ebola). For the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there will be readings and discussion questions, but no video at this time.

Taught by

Laura Kahn

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