Bridging Divisions and Developing New Partnerships




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Feb 03, 2020
by Claire Kidwell
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Bridging Divisions and Developing New Partnerships

Veterinarian Kachen Wongsathapornchai reflects on populations understanding One Health Kachen Wongsathapornchai (center) at Salzburg Global Seminar

Kachen Wongsathapornchai believes the One Health approach is best described by the words, “inclusiveness, openness, and sharing.” Without these traits, he suggests, it will be challenging for people to understand the nuances between different health sectors.

Wongsathapornchai, a veterinarian specializing in epidemiology, sat down to share his thoughts during the Salzburg Global Seminar and Ending Pandemics program, Finding Outbreaks Faster: Metrics for One Health Surveillance.

In this program, one of Ending Pandemics’ aims was to extend the concept of outbreak milestones used to generate timeliness metrics into the realms of livestock, wildlife, vector-borne diseases, and environmental drivers of disease outbreaks.

Wongsathapornchai is among a group of specialists gathered to help determine outbreak milestones relevant to livestock, wildlife, and environmental sectors. Generally speaking, Wongsathapornchai suggests most people are primarily concerned about human health and not the outside factors which impact it.

He says, “When people are thinking about One Health, they’re focused on One Health and the benefits to humans, which I mean, in a sense [that] already goes against the ideas of One Health. It does not necessarily always have to be about humans. But of course, humans could benefit...”

In his role, Wongsathapornchai oversees activities related to veterinary epidemiology capacity development in Asia and the Pacific, provides advice to governments on strategic planning for animal health and disease control, and is currently serving as the regional manager, ad interim, of Food and Agriculture Organization Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases.

Previously working at Thailand’s Department of Livestock Development (DLD), he had the opportunity to co-pioneer the establishment of the first Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians. He believes it might be easier for people to understand One Health if they recognized the bigger picture.

“I think that it’s easier for [people] to understand…like ASF situations or other diseases that affect primarily animals or wildlife that could also have an impact on their well-being. Not just health, but overall well-being… Whether or not they would have food on their plates every day or whether or not those foods would still be affordable to them.”

One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach that identifies the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. This approach has the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

“Although we say that this One Health is not new - it’s been around for a decade or two - but we’re still learning on how to work together. And as we expand our [reach] into other areas… we’re doing a lot better now compared to 20 years ago when we started talking about health because we learned from experience on how to work together,” Wongsathapornchai says.

Having worked at regional and international levels with various organizations, Wongsathapornchai possesses several years of experience. He has worked on projects on diseases including pandemic influenza, avian influenza, and African swine fever. While working for FAO, he was fielded to Cambodia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, and Myanmar.

Working toward a One Health approach, Wongsathapornchai indicates there are challenges bridging gaps between different sectors, but these can be overcome if the right mindset is adopted. He says, “It’s completely new, and there are so many uncharted territories that we still need to explore if we want to be more inclusive and if you want to be more open-minded. But I think there is no recipe to this. If people are willing to work together, they always find a way.”

For a summary of the program, download our 12-page newsletter, featuring illustrations, interviews, and insights.

The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Finding Outbreaks Faster: Metrics for One Health Surveillance, is part of the Finding Outbreaks Faster multi-year series. This series and program is held in partnership with Ending Pandemics.