5 Ways to share One Health concepts in veterinary clinical practice
January is International One Health Awareness Month, a time to put special focus on the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. One Health encompasses more than just the study of zoonotic infections: It’s about the similarities and differences between human and animal health, as well as the impact that human and animal activities have on the environment and on each other.
As veterinary professionals, we are particularly well-suited to be experts in a variety of One Health concepts. In addition to the health of our patients, many of our professional activities support and improve human and environmental health.
For example, did you know that vaccinating pets for canine distemper virus can protect endangered Siberian tigers?
With all our responsibilities throughout the day, finding meaningful ways to educate our clients and the general public on One Health topics can be challenging at first, but in the big picture, our role in protecting our communities’ health is just as important as the hands-on care we provide to our patients.
Here are some ways you can incorporate One Health education into your practice:
Inspire clients to take action.
Help clients get excited about One Health topics by sharing your own enthusiasm and interest while offering proactive steps they can take. While they probably already know that contact with their pets is good for them, you may be able to inspire clients to help others in the community who would benefit from human-animal interaction by highlighting One Health topics on social media or in your practice. (Start with some ideas from The Pet Effect.)
Take advantage of technology.
Social media, email, and your website are platforms to share interesting One Health information and practical tips. Have a podcast? That works great too! Don’t limit yourself to clinical topics about the species or conditions you treat. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s One World, One Health website has many interesting topics to spark inspiration.
Send home a recap.
Client compliance with treatment plans not only leads to the best outcomes, but it’s critical to preventing illness in pet and human populations. You give your clients so much helpful information during your visits, but how much are they retaining? By creating your own paper (or digital) handouts, you can emphasize key points so that clients can remember them and share them with their families.
Pre-made handouts make record writing and discharges more efficient—and they can be a powerful way to aid in technician utilization when technicians are able to review them with pet owners. Need inspiration or don’t want to make your own? Check out these examples made by the AVMA, the CDC, DVM360, AAHA, and the AAFP.
Get the kids involved.
We’ve all had experiences where the child in the exam room knew more details about their pet’s history than their parents. Kids have great memories, and they can help hold their families accountable. Find age-appropriate ways to teach simple One Health concepts—like the importance of handwashing to prevent zoonotic transmission—to kids. You can print a One Health coloring book from the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/pdfs/one-health-coloring-508.pdf.
Become a One Health expert.
Find ways to share your knowledge and experience. You can become a Certified Lesson Leader for One Health Lessons, a nonprofit organization founded by Deborah Thomson, DVM, which includes lessons that can be taught in-person (if you are local), or virtually to students and groups across the globe.
These are just a few ideas. You can come up with your own ways to help clients see the importance of One Health concepts in their daily lives and—as you share your expertise and excitement—you’ll also become a trusted and compassionate resource in your community.
One Health Basics (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
One World, One Health (Wildlife Conservation Society)
Sample forms and templates
Kids’ One Health coloring book (CDC)
One Health lessons
Bringing One Health to life through education and advocacy (NEWStat)
Emily Singler, VMD, is AAHA’s Veterinary Content Specialist.
Photo credit: © Denis Novikov E+ via Getty Images Plus
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.