MOROTO DISTRICT, Uganda, Jan 11, 2013 — "Yes!" shouted all the participants in unison.
This collective response answered the question, "Are we together?", posed to the public health and animal health workers at the beginning of a One Health training held in Moroto, Uganda, Nov. 18-27, 2012. The event, which was the first of its kind in Uganda, brought together health professionals from various disciplines to provide better veterinary and human health services to the public.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa partnered with the Uganda People's Defense Force, Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, local non-governmental organizations, and Makerere University to provide ground-breaking training that allowed health professionals to share best practices for dealing with diseases that affect both humans and animals.
One Health unites health professionals from the human, animal, and environmental health fields to pursue a common goal with one comprehensive approach.
"This concept addresses the health challenges that occur in both the animal and human environments," said Mirembe Bernadette Basuta, an environmental health student at Makerere University and an instructor for the One Health training.
"The real importance of this training is that all the participants return home with knowledge about diseases transmitted between animals and humans," said U.S. Army Capt. Heather Stone, 448th Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team veterinarian officer in charge. "The goal of One Health is to have a lot of cooperation between the vets and physicians, so the diseases can be contained and response can be more rapid," Stone said.
The training consisted of six days of classroom instruction and three days of practical field exercises, and was attended by 19 Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs), 19 Village Heath Team (VHT) members and 15 UPDF medics. Trainees were handpicked by local health officials in order to spread knowledge throughout the area.
After attending the classroom sessions led by health professionals, participants moved to the field where they put their newly acquired knowledge to the test. Mentorship sessions focused on basic diagnosis of various diseases, treatment plans, zoonotic diseases, and preventative health.
"Under One Health, we are all coming together," said Amono Racheal, a veterinary student at Makerere University and an instructor for the One Health Training.
"The cooperation between CAHWs, VHTs, UPDF and United States Government has been really good," said Loyola Florence, a village health team member and a participant in the training. "With the information we learned here, CAHWs and VHTs have acquired knowledge of opposite fields to work better together. It's important for us to put it to practice."
The participants discussed health care as the joint responsibility of all health workers, as well as local capabilities. In addition, the training helped build new relationships among the local health community.
"All the information we learned was great, but the best part is for me to meet the other local health workers on both the animal and public health side and to learn about all that we have to use in this area," said Najore Ruth, a village health team member and a participant in the training. "I didn't know that there was a lab or that civilians could be treated at the UPDF clinic," she said.
The CAHWs, VHTs, and UPDF medics left the training more knowledgeable, better connected, and more aware of local capabilities. They also left the training with new friendships they promised to build upon, as well as a renewed sense of pride in being part of the public health profession. Many expressed an eagerness to return to their respective villages to educate others and improve the overall health of the area.
"The knowledge the U.S. has provided us will not be wasted," said UPDF Lieutenant Wilberforce Isabirye, a preventative medicine officer. "They have simply planted the seeds and it is up to us as health care professionals to harvest and implement it. This training has benefitted us all a lot."