This blog focuses on the ZOODLE word ‘STUDY’.

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Today is the seventh annual One Health Day, which celebrates the close connectedness of public, animal and environmental health, and highlights the increasingly urgent need for One Health approaches and coordination across these sectors if we are ever going to solve the complex global challenges facing us right now.

This year One Health Day also marks the end of our ZOODLE campaign, the daily word game all about infectious diseases that can spread from animals to people. ZOODLE has been running since World Zoonoses Day on 6 July, starting with the rather obvious ‘virus’ and more than 250 people playing. Over the long haul of the next 87 days it got trickier, the rules had to be bent a little  (you try coming up with 87 five letter words linked to zoonoses …) but ZOODLE has kept its momentum and we are hugely grateful to our loyal followers for sticking with it.

The work of our Hub – our ‘study’ – is also a long haul. Since the start in February 2019 there have been peaks and troughs. Times when fieldwork was so intense it seemed the whole Hub was out there – interviewing key actors, swabbing chickens and their vendors in markets, riding shotgun on trader TukTuks, or uploading photos of exhausted, exhilarated colleagues enjoying shared suppers at the end of long days. Then times of pandemic and lockdowns when the fears and frustrations of isolation were mitigated in no small way by our shifting community of practice to frequent online meetings, workshops, webinars, chats – good to sustain the study and the soul but perhaps not for the eyes or the exercise.

And times of anticipation and joy at the sheer scope of research and impact opportunities we could realise with five secure years of programme funding. Followed by times of deep uncertainty and stress when a large proportion of that scope disappeared overnight with the savage funding cuts inflicted on GCRF programmes in March 2021.

Data, insight and knowledge

Fiona Tomley
Professor Fiona Tomley, Director of the One Health Poultry Hub, addresses the 3rd all-Hub conference.

Now, halfway through the fourth of our five years, we are building a good head of steam as we climb the next peak. Our third Hub conference, a hybrid event, was held last week in Dhaka hosted by our brilliant Bangladesh team. The depth and volume of data, insight and knowledge emerging from our Hub study is remarkable and we are in an intense period as we analyse and synthesise the outputs of interdisciplinary fieldwork and lab pipelines before entering the next and final phases. Even more heart-warming is the high level of trust, respect and friendship that has developed and is being sustained between researchers from diverse backgrounds, cultures and disciplines. Being face to face in Dhaka really brought this home – and I can be sure that the excellent and committed researchers in our Hub will continue their interdisciplinary approaches well into the future, in new projects and programmes, partnerships and collaborations, and in turn will hand on the One Health baton to those who follow.

Working with stakeholders

One definition of ‘study’ is “detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation”. In the One Health Poultry Hub we understand the word in its broadest sense and an integral part of our study is the continued learning we gain from working with varied stakeholders – from market traders to public health policymakers, from feed dealers to specialised agencies, from farmers to pharma, and many others.

We also know it is a key part of our study to disseminate findings quickly to stakeholders, to sustain ongoing communication with them about the processes by which we got to those findings and why we think they matter, and to support open, equitable platforms for discussion, advocacy and influence.

Agricultural intensification continues apace, rushing to meet the nutritional needs of an expanding world population, and the challenges of zoonotic disease emergence and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will not disappear any time soon. The study of precisely how specific food systems, in our case poultry, generate zoonotic threats, is an essential precursor to having smarter systems for monitoring, managing and minimising risks to people, animals and the environment.

On this One Health Day, let’s celebrate the fact that seven years on from the first event, the concepts of cross-sectoral communication, cooperation and collaboration are gaining increased traction and approval at national and international levels, albeit sometimes slower than we might hope for. But let’s also resolve to keep up the momentum – and if we can do that by having a little fun on the way with something like ZOODLE, then I hope that meets with approval.

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