Examining the Elephant – MLA ’13 Recap

May 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Once again, there were too many interesting sessions, and it was difficult to decide which ones to attend.  But, being a human that can be only in one place at one time, I had to make some difficult decisions.  I chose to attend some of the alternative programming presented by our conference partners, and will listen to the recordings of the traditional presentations I missed. One session I particularly enjoyed was sponsored by the International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS), entitled Examining the Elephant: the Many Views of One Health.  It was presented by Gary Vroegindeway who is the director of Global Health Initiatives at the University of Maryland.  The title of the talk was taken from the old Indian story of several blind men who each examined a different part of an elephant, and formed their own opinion if what an elephant looked like.  This concept reflects the various definitions, or lenses as Dr. Vroegindeway calls them, of One Health.  I must admit that I was not familiar with the concept, thinking that the title of this year’s MLA conference (One Health: Information in an Interdependent World) was a nod to the international scope of the attendees.

Dr. Vroegindeway defines One Health as “a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines to obtain optional health for people, animals and the environment” This is not a new concept, going as far back as Hippocrates’ comments on public health and Rudolph Virchow’s view that there is no dividing line between animal and human medicine.  One Health is evolving from a concept into a discipline, with courses being offered at various institutions.  The CDC has a page on their website (http://www.cdc.gov/ONEHEALTH/) as does the USDA (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/).  More information may be found at the One Health Initiative website (http://www.onehealthinitiative.com/index.php).  Several libraries including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have developed LibGuides on the topic. (http://researchguides.library.wisc.edu/onehealth). 

Some of the lenses that provide definitions of One Health are

  • translational and comparative medicine: what we learn from one species that can be translated into another
  • zoonotic diseases: passed between animals and humans
  • wildlife/environment: the impact of intensive livestock production or disappearing wildlife species on the environment and human health

There is a lot of discussion about what One Health is, but not enough is being done to further the cause.  Some barriers to action are legal, political, financial, and cultural. 

Dr. Vroenindeway concluded by encouraging us to view One Health through a broad lens, looking the holistic view of how wildlife, domestic animals, and humans interact with the environment and how this interaction affects the health and wellbeing of all parties.

I would like to thank NAHSL for allowing me to attend MLA 13.

Jill Golrick, MS, AHIP
Library Director


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