Making an impact through One Health education

One Health is an approach that focuses on the intersection of people, plants, animals, and the environment, and strives to create optimal health outcomes for all members of these ecosystems. This approach takes place at local, regional, national and global levels to find effective ways to address health issues and create successful public health interventions.

UConn Students for One Health is a student organization working to bring this approach to the UConn community and this week declared One Health Week 2020. As part of this week-long educational initiative, the club held a discussion on science. communication and the overall purpose of One Health with Dr. Deborah Thomson, veterinarian and founder of One Health Lessons.

“The reason I wanted to become a veterinarian is because I wanted to help my patients, the animals, but also help the family that depends on those animals,” Thomson said.

Thomson first discovered One Health when she was a student at Tufts Veterinary School. She has since traveled the world educating the next generation about the One Health approach, and recently found herself working on Capitol Hill as Congressional Science and Technical Policy Officer for Dianne Feinstein, Senior Senator from California.

“One Health’s mission…is to inspire the next generation, you and all of your younger brothers and sisters, to see the world as one,” Thomson said.

Thomson founded in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, in hopes of alleviating pandemic anxiety by providing educational resources. The program is suitable for children from 6 to 18 years old in order to teach them the link between human and animal health. The organization is made up of over 70 people from around the world who translate these lessons into over 30 languages. The goal is to get every child on the planet interested in One Health.

“When it comes to education for children, it’s the same principle as when you talk to the most polished politicians: keep the message simple,” Thomson said.

Thomson learned a lot about the difficulty of trying to enact meaningful and lasting policy change through his time working in Congress for Feinstein. She emphasized the importance of developing strong communication skills and having the ability to translate your ideas into tangible, well-thought-out arguments.

“If there’s one thing you remember, education is nothing without good communication,” Thomson said. “And by having good communication, you educate whoever you talk to.”

Many attendees wanted to know how they could get involved with One Health and have an impact while at UConn and beyond.

“I think you can take advantage of your student status very well. It’s just about having the courage to make cold calls and see if you can meet someone,” Thomson said.

Although One Health is a holistic approach, you can take action in your local communities to get involved. According to Thomson, speaking to future educators, writing in your local newspaper, and speaking to 4H clubs are just a few examples of how you can use your voice to educate those around you.

“There are so many different angles for One Health,” Thomson said. “That’s why it’s so important to understand the context, understand the needs of the person you’re speaking with, and then steer One Health to meet the needs of the audience.”

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