Written by Gabriella Schmidt-Grimminger, BA, MPH, CPH from Saint Louis University School of Public Health and Social Justice, and the James A. Harding Scholar in the 2022 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program
Having moved to St. Louis, Missouri just under a year ago, I quickly figured out how proud the people of St. Louis were of their Zoo. Not only is the Zoo in St. Louis an amazing place to visit, but admission is free and they work with incredible public health leaders, such as Sharon Deem, DVM, PhD, DACZM, who specializes in conservation medicine, epidemiology, and One Health.
Our IPH Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track cohort had the opportunity to attend a journal club lead by Deem and a fellow research student, Theodore Hanson, to discuss the article, Biodiversity and Human Health Interlinkages in Higher Education Offerings: A First Global Overview. One Health recognizes just how interconnected the health of humans, animals, and the environment are to one another. The article mentions how few One Health curriculums have been developed over the past 15 years but how, within the past 6 months, they have taken-off in terms of awareness and recognition (at least in more developed nations.)
Reflecting on my AP environmental class in high school, as well as the oceanography and marine biology courses I took in undergrad, I have been pushed by many great teachers & professors to think about how humans are negatively affecting our own health by destroying biodiversity, and what that means for the health of animal and human populations years from now.)
The article also mentions that most of the institutions with a One Health curriculum are integrated within colleges of public health, and in our discussion with Deem and Hanson, we agreed this was because public health is a field of study that explores interconnected and interrelated areas of population health.
Something that I find ironic about my decision to peruse public health, is that although I was informed about One Health concepts, I never knew there was an academic field I could focus on to develop my interests further. I always believed that I would have to choose between my passion for the natural sciences and my drive to improve the health of community. Luckily, I stumbled upon a website that explained the type of person that should study public health, and it included individuals who have taken an interest in environmental science, which was the reason I decided to apply to an MPH program.
My first year of the MPH program was when COVID-19 broke-out, which is why I think One Health has gained such popularity across the globe within the past year. Like COVID-19, most of the emerging infectious diseases that we are coming across (75% to be exact) have an animal reservoir. This means that disease-causing pathogens live within certain animals, like mosquitos or bats for example, and multiply within that animal. Though the animal may not show symptoms of having the pathogen, when in close contact with other animals (including humans), the virus can be spread.
I am eager to see how the field of One Health continues to grow in the future, and I appreciated the time Deem and Hanson took to inform future public health leaders about the importance of One Health.