One Health for one planet

Innovation, communication, and the necessity of re-invention.

The world is facing climate change, intensified demand for meat and dairy products, and increased human-animal interaction. The veterinary industry has evolved significantly in the last few decades to play a crucial role in solving these immense challenges.
Improvements in animal disease reduction and increased animal production are dependent on many factors, including farmers' uptake of new technologies and skills.

A Myanmar woman watches over her chickens

Moving toward this new way of farming, requires a shift from traditional methods to new science-based methods of production. However, in many developing countries, farmers are illiterate and unable to understand written outcomes of scientific research.

UQ senior lecturer in Vet Epidemiology Dr Joerg Henning is leading the village chicken component of a $2.3 million 4-year project - Improving livelihoods of small scale livestock producers in the Central DryZone through research on animal production and health in Myanmar - funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and ending in 2017.

One of the major impediments to communicating his research findings and rolling out improvements for locals has been the divide between traditional values and culture of the Myanmar villagers, and a western style evidence-based research.

Dr Henning's approach has been to embed his scientific research into a long-held local tradition - puppetry - and offer up his findings in a way that appeals and is easily understood. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.

Traditional Myanmar puppetry goes as far back as the 15th century and was, and still is used to entertain Myanmar royalty and country folk alike. A traditional puppet show tells stories of Buddha’s life and expresses proper moral conduct and values to the audience.

In collaboration with the puppetry group called Pho Cho Puppet Show, consisting of puppeteers and musicians, Dr Henning developed a ‘modern’ story, highlighting the use of Newcastle disease vaccinations and chick starter, a highly nutritious chicken food fed to the chicks from day one, in order to improve the survival rates of chickens. It was performed in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar and around 30 marionette players and musicians were involved in each performance. This ‘modern’ story was incorporated into a traditional puppet show attracting more than 800 Myanmar villagers. One of the shows was recorded and broadcast several times on Myanmar national television.

The marionette show on methods to improve village chicken production

The puppet shows featured on Myanmar's TV channel, SkyNet, on a popular current affairs program. Dr Henning was interviewed and dubbed into Burmese. Colleague Dr Kyaw Naing Oo was also interviewed for the program.

Myanmar's SkyNet TV channel

One world
Controlling and monitoring emerging zoonoses - diseases communicable from animals to humans - is now a global challenge.
"There's a complex interplay between pathogens, people and policy," said Dr Joerg Henning.

Dr Joerg Henning vaccinating chickens against Newcastle Disease via eye drops in Kyauk Aoe village, Central Dry Zone, Myanmar

The complexity of eco-social systems need to be recognised when designing animal health interventions.

In the past, the social aspects of animal husbandry and cultural livelihoods have not been given enough precedence.

Dr Henning believes that in relation to most infectious diseases in animals and humans it is the behaviour of humans that needs to be modified to reduce the risk of pathogen spread between animal and human populations.

For many cultures across the world, live animal trade is a socio-economic must. The live poultry trade in particular is a valuable system that links producers and consumers, and includes a great variety of 'actors' along the value chain.

Importantly, this same trade plays a key role in infectious disease spread as well.

Research targeting such complex systems requires a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to be able to come up with meaningful inferences about the key mechanisms influencing system dynamics.

Dr Joerg Henning is leading the University of Queensland component of an international collaborative research project Controlling and monitoring emerging zoonoses in the poultry farming and trading system in Bangladesh: an interplay between pathogens, people, policy.

The project is a collaborative undertaking between the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, the Chittagong Veterinary & Animal Science University and the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute.

This partnership will bring together a unique combination of expertise in veterinary epidemiology and modelling, public health, anthropology and social science in order to study avian influenza epidemiology and the live bird trade in Bangladesh, both within poultry and human populations.

A total of $3.6 million has been provided for by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.

The project has been running since 2014 and has been funded until 2018.


Dr Henning tries to reach a duck owning household

Improving duck production to fight malnutrition

Dr Henning's One Health duck project is a valuable resource to Bangladesh communities.

Household duck rearing as a tool to combat malnutrition and poverty among rural communities in Bangladesh, 2016-2017 has been funded to $143,000 and is conducted in collaboration with the Chittagong Veterinary & Animal Science University and the Royal Veterinary College, United Kingdom.

Funding for this project is provided through the Department for International Development, United Kingdom, as part of a research program on Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia.

"Micronutrient deficiencies and stunting rates in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world. Interventions that aim to increase the consumption of nutrient-dense foods could address the underlying causes of malnutrition," Dr Henning.

Village poultry production in Bangladesh is an important, but underutilized practice for both consumption and income generation. In addition, maintaining and increasing poultry production in rural village settings is challenging as diseases can cause substantial losses every year.

The goal of this project is to explore the impact of improved duck management on the consumption of duck meat and eggs, improved dietary diversity in particular by women and children and income generated from duck production.

The One Health EcoHealth 2016 4th International One Health Congress and 6th Biennial Congress of the International Association for Ecology and Health is on between 3 - 7 December 2016