June 27, 2018

One Health Education: Where Are We Today?

Although the availability and offerings of One Health academic programs in the United States are growing, gaps remain. The One Health Action Collaborative analyzed current academic programs and made recommendations for improvement.
By Kerry Lengyel
Evaluation of health security systems in the United States in 2016 revealed a prevalent issue: inconsistent coordination across federal, state, and local health sectors.
 
To address this concern, the World Health Organization has encouraged the United States to build a more formal One Health strategy that enables coordination among all stakeholders in human, animal, and environmental health. One avenue for achieving this goal is by applying congruent core competencies across One Health academic programs in higher education. 

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In a discussion paper released earlier this month, a research team composed of members of the National Academies’ One Health Action Collaborative explored the evolution of One Health academic offerings in the United States, analyzed how core competencies are being applied in these programs, and made recommendations for addressing perceived gaps.

In a search of the literature and online communications, the group identified 24 manuscripts and reports on existing core competencies and One Health academic degree programs—7 of which were selected for closer evaluation. They also identified 45 One Health academic degree programs throughout the United States.
 

Findings

Among the 45 programs the research team found, 27 were master’s level (60%), 10 were bachelor’s level (22%), and 8 were doctoral programs (18%). Only 14 of the programs had competencies publicly available online (31%); 4 other programs provided a list of competencies when asked directly (9%). There is currently no accrediting body for One Health degree programs.

The team noted that some key areas were more likely to be included in One Health curricula. Well-represented disciplines (found in 75% or more of all degree programs) included epidemiology and environmental health/ecology. Underrepresented disciplines (found in less than 25% of all degree programs) included plant biology, antimicrobial resistance, and law.

“The variety of educational levels from undergraduate to doctoral, tailoring of programs to specific areas of emphases such as policy, law, and conservation, as well as programs being administered by schools of various disciplines not limited to the veterinary field, indicate a diverse and growing pool of One Health educational programs,” the investigators wrote.
 

Future Directions

While the findings show that numerous schools and disciplines are employing One Health educational programs, they also reveal several gaps. The research team made the following recommendations for current and future One Health academic degree programs:
  1. Clearly state core competencies of the program, including proficiency in at least 1 health science.
  2. Educate future professionals in the One Health arena in disciplines that are currently both well represented and not well represented, such as antimicrobial resistance, law, and plant biology.

Also worth noting is that the majority of One Health academic degree programs are for master’s level students, leaving few options for undergraduate veterinary students interested in this discipline. But Jonna Mazet, DVM, MPVM, PhD, executive director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and one of the investigators, said undergraduate veterinary students can still gain experience.

“Look at the core competencies,” Dr. Mazet said. “If you’re not getting these out of your [undergraduate] program, that’s where you should add an elective or have an out-of-class experience.”

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