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'Where medics and vets join forces'
On November 5th 2010, a symposium on intersectoral collaboration between the medical and veterinary professions in low-resource societies was organised jointly by be-troplive, the Belgian Platform for International Health (be-cause Health), ITM’s Strategic Network on Zoonoses (One Health Network), and the Strategic Network on Neglected Diseases. The symposium was hosted in the Campus Rochus of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. The complete programme can be found in the annexes.
Two hundred and twenty four experts attended the symposium. Besides the Belgian expert members of be-cause Health, be-troplive and the two ITM Strategic Networks there were also representatives of the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGDC), of the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) and participants from Universities, Research Institutes, NGO’s and implementing agencies from all over the world. Students from the Master course in Tropical Animal Health (Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp), students from the joint Master "Management of Vegetable and Animal Resources in Tropical Areas" (Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech Faculty and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Liège) and students from the International Master in Public Health Methodology (Free University of Brussels) were also present. In total, people from forty one different nationalities and with various backgrounds attended, allowing a multidisciplinary and multinational approach.
Joep van Mierlo executive Director of Vétérinaires sans Frontières Belgium moderated the first part of the meeting and, after the welcome address, introduced the Director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), Prof. Bruno Gryseels who officially opened the event.
The rationale of the symposium (see annexes) and the scenario of the day were introduced by Tanguy Marcotty, veterinarian (ITM) and Joep van Mierlo. The aim of this event was mainly sensitizing professionals on the added value of sharing knowledge and to join forces (“one plus one is more than two”).
Afterwards, Pat Conrad (University of California UC Davis) presented an introduction to the One Health concept as an approach to global health challenges, including human and animal health aspects, but stressed also the importance to keep the environment present in a global holistic approach.
The remaining of the day was divided into four themes each followed by a Q&A session. The first session aimed to inform the attendance on the role of animals as reservoir for human diseases. First speaker was Philip Craig (University of Salford, UK) who presented Echinococcosis and Hydatidosis as an example of parasitic zoonoses. Jacques Godfroid, (Norwegian Veterinary School) illustrated infectious zoonotic diseases with the example of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis at the wildlife/livestock/human interface.
The second theme covered the subject of assessment of the burden of zoonotic diseases and was moderated by Jozef Vercruysse, parasitologist at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ghent University. Filip Meheus, health economist at ITM, highlighted the re-evaluation of the burden of disease estimates for neglected tropical disease. He was followed by Jakob Zinsstag (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel) who illustrated the burden of zoonoses on animal and public health.
After the lunch break, offered by the organisers in the forum of Campus Rochus, the activities started again at 2 PM with theme three “Voices from the field”. This session gave the opportunity to mixed teams to present the results achieved jointly or to present some thoughts on the advantages or difficulties to work together. The moderator of this part was Dirk Van der Roost, medical doctor of ITM. The first presenters were Abdou Razac Boukary (ONG Karkara) and Mallam Abdou Badé (Hôpital Général Niamey) from Niger who worked jointly in a study on human tuberculosis in the frame of a PhD on tuberculosis and brucellosis in urban settings. Secondly, Hamid Sahibi (Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II) and Hind Filali (Institut National de l’Administration de la Santé) presented the perception of Hydatidosis in rural areas of Middle and High Atlas in Morocco. The last presentation of this theme focused on participatory epidemiology in animal and human health, a discipline where some techniques and experiences can be shared. Presenters were Saskia Hendrickx (International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya) & Cyrille Pissang (VSF-B, Kenya). After an animated discussion, moderator Dirk Van der Roost handed directly the chair over to a duo of chairs, namely Lucille Blumberg, medic from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Sandringham, South Africa and Katja Polman, parasitologist (ITM).
This last part was in fact the core of the discussion on “the road ahead” as the last session was called. First, Michel Van Herp, medic from Médecins Sans Frontières (Belgium), was asked to give an introductory presentation called “The role of animals in public health crisis: source of diseases or shield?”. Provocative questions were put regarding the added-value of collaboration, even in emergency situations. This fuelled the discussion during the subsequent “Buzzing with coffee”, when attendants were asked to discuss with people they had never met before and preferably from another discipline to share their views on One Health. From the moment they agreed on certain aspects, they had to move to another interlocutor. This coffee break was followed by a very animated and fruitful general plenary discussion.
Tine Demeulenaere from Damian Foundation, acting as representative of be-cause Health, closed the day on behalf of the Chairs of the four organising platforms & networks. She said that it had been an exciting event and stressed the original concept of bringing two different worlds together while looking for interfaces and possible synergies. But she emphasized that this was only a beginning, and that stakeholders have the duty to give more attention to this, operationally as well as in research. She thanked also the logistic and secretary staff, the interpreters and the organising joint taskforce with members of be-troplive, because-health, the ITM Strategic Network on Zoonoses (One Health Network), and the Strategic Network on Neglected Diseases. Finally, in name of all participants she thanked the Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for funding and invited the audience to participate and enjoy the closing reception.
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