Making an impact through One Health education

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One Health is an approach that focuses on the intersection of people, plants, animals and the environment, and strives to create optimal health outcomes for all members of these ecosystems. This approach takes place at the local, regional, national and global levels to find effective ways to fight health issues and create successful public health interventions. 

UConn Students for One Health is a student organization that is working to spread awareness about this approach to the UConn community, and declared this week as One Health Week 2020. As part of this week-long educational initiative, the club hosted a discussion on science communication and the overall goal of One Health with Dr. Deborah Thomson, a veterinarian and founder of One Health Lessons. 

“The whole reason I wanted to become a veterinarian is because I wanted to help my patients, the animals, but also help the family that’s reliant on these animals,” Thomson said. 

Thomson first learned about One Health while she was a student at Tufts Veterinary School. She has since traveled the world educating the next generation on the One Health approach, and has most recently found herself working on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Science and Engineering policy fellow for Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator. 

“The mission of One Health … is to inspire the next generation, you and all of your younger siblings, to see the world as one,” Thomson said. 

Thomson founded OneHealthLessons.com in May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the hope of alleviating anxiety about the pandemic by providing educational resources. The program is tailored for children ages six to 18 in order to teach them about the connection between human and animal health. The organization is comprised of over 70 individuals from around the world who translate these lessons into over 30 languages. The goal is to get every child on the planet interested in One Health.  

“When it comes to education for children, it’s the same principle as when you speak to the most polished politicians: keep the message simple,” Thomson said.  

Thomson has learned a lot about the difficulty of trying to enact meaningful and lasting policy change through her time working in Congress for Feinstein. She stressed the importance of developing strong communication skills and having the ability to translate your ideas into tangible, well thought-out pitches. 

“If there is one thing you remember from this … education is nothing without good communication,” Thomson said. “And by having good communication, you educate whoever you are speaking with.” 

Many attendees were interested in how they could become involved in One Health and make an impact during their time at UConn and beyond. 

“I think you can leverage your student status really nicely. It just comes down to having the guts to do cold calls and see if you can meet with somebody,” Thomson said.  

Even though One Health is a global approach, you can take action in your local communities to get involved. According to Thomson, talking to future educators, writing in your local newspaper and talking to 4H clubs are just a few examples of how you can use your voice to educate those around you.   

“There are so many different angles to One Health,” Thomson said. “So that’s why it’s very important to understand the background, understand the needs of the person you’re speaking with and then angle One Health to meet the needs of the audience.” 

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