"One Health" Research to Benefit from Emphasis on Communication

Posted on: June 14, 2013

One HealthA quick search on Wikipedia will define "One Health" as "the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines-working locally, nationally and globally - to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment." While the concept has been around since Hippocrates connected human health to a clean environment, with today's international passenger travel and trade of crops and animal food products, the importance of a "One Health" approach is moving to the forefront.

Infectious diseases such as malaria, chicken pox, measles, Avian and Swine Influenza, as well as HIV/AIDs are just a few examples of human diseases originally derived from animals and compounded by changes in climate that make those types of diseases more common.

CAS Associate Dean for Research Maria Lapinski and her collaborator Julie Funk from Veterinary Medicine began exploring the concept of One Health and its transdisciplinary emphasis. They were quick to recognize that critical components for advancing this holistic approach include the need for a common language among researchers, and research on effective communication technologies and techniques.

Lapinski and Funk applied for and received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to forge a research agenda on the use of emergent communication formats and platforms in addressing important One Health research questions. Lapinski notes, "the evolution in communication technologies have made the possibilities for information exchange, networking and data integration limitless. Using new and emerging communication technologies to promote health behavior change and facilitate decision making is fast becoming the norm among health practitioners."

"Grassroots communication efforts to deal with major crises have stimulated technological innovation, but in the science of health communication, there are still many unanswered questions. We need to determine how and if new communication technologies can be used effectively for promoting behavior change or facilitating health decisions," adds Lapinski.

The NIH grant is funding symposia strategically designed by innovators in collaboration and open-educational content using emerging communications technology. The symposia bring together social science researchers (specifically those who study health and risk communication, agricultural economics and technology-mediated communication) with bench scientists in human, animal and environmental health. Researchers will work closely with the newly formed translational scholar program. The scholar program will be comprised of student researchers embedded into faculty teams to learn about research and facilitate translation of project processes and outcomes.

The College of Communication Arts & Sciences is an obvious place to house these efforts because of the central role of human communication processes at the core of the issues addressed in the symposia. The college is home to a cadre of experts in social networking and social media, health and environmental risk communication, interpersonal communication, visualization of complex systems and the use of technology for collaboration.

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