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One Health: Four health sciences students learn rabies elimination in Ethiopia
This summer, Ohio State University faculty and students are visiting Ethiopia as part of the Ohio State’s One Health Summer Institute, a partnership with Ethiopian academic and government colleagues. The team includes four health sciences students who will work on a rabies eradication project.
In addition, the One Health Summer Institute will offer courses to Ethiopian students and professionals from June 17 to August 10. Along with courses, the partnership will conduct projects that will identify and manage issues of infectious diseases and chronic diseases affecting both humans and animals in relation to air, water, and food quality. Those projects include rabies eradication, cervical cancer screening and treatment, environmental hygiene, food security, and food safety.
“The ‘One Health’ partnership is crucial to make the world better and healthier,” said Wondwossen Gebreyes, professor of molecular epidemiology.
Four students, Ally Sterman, Korbin Smith, Laura Binkley (pictured) and Karissa Magnuson, from the Ohio State health sciences colleges will work on the rabies project in Gondar, Ethiopia.
Sterman, a second-year College of Veterinary Medicine student, said she has always been interested in global veterinary medicine.
“Once I heard that a group of students and staff were working on a project to help decrease the presence of a deadly zoonotic disease through both vaccination and sterilization of companion animals, I knew I really wanted to be involved,” Sterman said.
The project will be led by Robyn Wilson and Jeremy Bruskotter from the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Their goal is to implement a rabies prevention and control plan. The project has five work packages; they will be working on the first.
“Students will conduct in-depth interviews with a variety of stakeholders, namely to assess their understanding of the rabies exposure and infection process, and to uncover any additional socio-psychological factors that may be increasing the risk of exposure and infection among targeted populations,” Wilson said. “These findings will then be used to develop more targeted and effective risk communication efforts that focus on the most critical gaps in knowledge and potential misperceptions and barriers to the eradication of rabies in the country.”
Binkley, a second-year dual-master’s student in the College of Public Health and School of Environment and Natural Resources, said she has always been interested in the ecology of zoonotic disease through a one-health perspective.
“Rabies itself is often considered to be a model disease for the One-Health initiative,” Binkley said. “This project provides me with the perfect opportunity to look at rabies transmission at the human-wildlife interface.”
After the collection of data, the group will host a rabies stakeholders’ workshop bringing together government officials as well as representatives of diagnostic labs. They hope the plan will serve as the model for the implementation of canine associated rabies elimination at a national level.
Smith, a senior undergraduate in the College of Medicine’s School of Health and Rehabilitation, said he hopes that working on the project will help eliminate health disparities in underdeveloped countries.
“It is my belief that we should do our part to ensure every person on this planet receives the proper health care treatment,” Smith said.
Binkley also has hopes the project will relieve underdeveloped countries of curable diseases.
“I feel that rabies, along with other infectious diseases, should not still be endemic anywhere in the world,” Binkley said. “With information obtained from this study I hope we are able to identify critical control points for prevention as well as improve community understanding of the disease. Ultimately, I hope that a surveillance program monitoring high risk animal populations in the area will be initiated and that the prevalence of disease can be significantly reduced.”
For Magnuson, a third-year College of Veterinary Medicine student, this project will help expand her educational horizons.
“I have always found the people of Africa to be rich in culture and history and the wildlife and natural scenery to be breathtaking,” Magnuson said. “To be part of such a vital project is truly a privilege.”
The summer institute is part of the three-year strategic partnership plan taking place from 2013-2015. The goals that are shared by Ohio State, University of Gondar and Addis Ababa University include teaching and learning, research and innovation, outreach and engagement, and resources stewardship. The hope is that a successful model will be produced, which can then be used globally.
“Our commitment focusing on infectious and chronic disease capacity building in Ethiopia will have a major impact on the global society,” Dr. Gebreyes said. “This partnership is very important to the scholarly mission of our university as it provides opportunities to students and faculty that are not available using traditional means.”
About The Ohio State University College of Public Health
The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond. The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy. It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program. The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).