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K-State Today

August 9, 2012

A wealth of health: Online course links human, animal, environmental health triad

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

The health of animals, people and the environment are inextricably linked. A new online course at Kansas State University shows just how interrelated this health triad is -- and why the concept of "one health" is gaining ground among health professionals.

Introduction to One Health -- BIOL 697, CS 890 and DMP 895 -- will be offered this fall. Open to undergraduate and graduate students, it ties together health concepts that traditionally would be taught in separate health classes or degree programs. It covers the complex health relationships between humans and animals, humans and the environment, and animals and the environment.

Jodi Freifeld, curriculum coordinator for One Health Kansas and the course instructor, says it's critical for public health leaders to understand these connections in the efforts to control disease, specifically zoonotic diseases that can be transferred between animals and humans.

"Environmental changes may result in unintended consequences, such as emerging zoonotic diseases due to deforestation and encroachment on wildlife habitats," Freifeld said. "These animal diseases may infect humans when there is increased human-animal contact, an unanticipated result of deforestation or developments in areas that were formerly animal habitats. To avoid these unanticipated results, it is important to seek input from experts from different professions when communities make these kinds of decisions."

The course is part of the One Health Kansas project, which works to increase awareness of the one health concept in the state, according to Beth Montelone, associate dean of Kansas State University's College of Arts and Sciences and director of One Health Kansas.

"The Kansas Health Foundation funds the One Health Kansas project to educate professionals and the public about one health," Montelone said. "Students in medical, nursing, veterinary, public health and other disciplines at Kansas State University and elsewhere, and health professionals in the workforce can receive a wider view of their professions and get a solid introduction to one health."

Currently, the university's course is one of the only graduate-level one health courses offered entirely online. Freifeld says more than 25 experts from the university and beyond, including a national leader in the one health movement, are featured in podcastable videos about one health topics and current research.

"Online discussions are designed so students can learn from their peers' varied backgrounds and knowledge," Freifeld said. "Case analyses are used to help students learn how to apply one health concepts to real-life problems."

Robert Larson, professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University, says students from various health backgrounds will come together to view health more broadly and beyond their own fields. Larson says just as medical doctors commonly tend to view health only in terms of human health, veterinarians, agronomists and ecologists also tend to view health in terms of their own discipline -- animals, plants or environment.

"The concept of one health gives students in different disciplines the opportunity to see how their area of interest interacts with the other components of the human-animal-environment triad," Larson said. "It emphasizes the connections and attempts to break down the long-standing separations regarding who or what we typically think about, research and teach in terms of health."

Learn more about the course or enroll at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/courses, or contact the instructor at 785-313-2780 or freifeld@k-state.edu.