The 1HEALTH Project of the School of Environmental Science and Management, University of the Philippines Los Baños, held the “One Health Webinar: Field Surveillance and Laboratory Diagnosis of African Swine Fever (ASF), Avian Influenza (AI), and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) via Zoom and Facebook Live last October 24, 2023. The virtual knowledge-sharing and learning exchange forum gathered experts from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI), DA-National Meat Inspection Services (DA-NMIS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), Department of Health – Pharmaceutical Division (DOH-PD), and the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) to present and discuss the protocols in controlling and managing the aforementioned notifiable livestock and poultry threats, known to many as the Big Three As of the country’s food animal industry specifically of the livestock and poultry sector.
Over a hundred representatives from the project’s partner State University and Colleges (SUCs), provincial and municipal Local Government Units (P/MLGUs), provincial veterinary and agricultural offices, regional quarantine bureaus, and the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs) from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao actively participated in the one-day webinar.
The 1HEALTH Project Leader, Dr. Yusuf A. Sucol, opened the program by welcoming the resource speakers and participants on behalf of the SESAM Dean, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, the project’s technical reviewer and advisor. Dr. Sucol also gave an overview of the project and discussed the concept and aim of the webinar, which is to equip the participants with practical knowledge on surveillance and laboratory diagnosis protocols and algorithms being implemented in the Philippines.
The webinar was divided into four segments – ASF, AI, Wildlife Surveillance, and AMR in the animal and human health sector, respectively – which were then followed by an open forum where participants can forward their questions to the concerned resource speakers. The ASF segment was led by Dr. Joanna Marie David, Dr. Janice Garcia, Dr. Rachel Azul, and Dr. Imelda Santos of DA BAI, while the AI segment was handled by Dr. Olivia Pungtilan and Dr. Edna Felipe, also from DA-BAI. For the wildlife surveillance segment, Dr. Rizza Araceli Salinas of DENR BMB steered the discussion. The AMR segment in the context of animal health was led by Dr. Gladys Quiatchon of DA BAI and Ms. Remedios Micu of NMIS, while Dr. Sonia Sia of RITM and Ms. Johanna Mallari-Abella handled the discussion on AMR stewardship and surveillance in the public health sector.
Among the SUCs who attended the webinar, Dr. Elizabeth Molina, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Southern Mindanao (CVM-USM), expressed her gratitude to the project for organizing the webinar and to the resource speakers who diligently addressed queries from the participants. Dr. Molina acknowledged the webinar as an avenue for different sectors to pool in their knowledge and expertise in tackling transboundary animal disease (TADs) and emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) that affect animal, human, and environmental health altogether. She further stressed that such activity is significant for government agencies, academe, LGUs, and the private sector to share dialogues on how to effectively and inclusively implement sustainable solutions to disease surveillance in the country and to form and strengthen partnerships across sectors and disciplines.
In his closing message, Dr. Sucol emphasized that the webinar was just one of a series of capacity building activities of the project and that its overall goal is to promote the One Health concept and advance the project’s operationalization of the One Health approach through these four strategic mechanisms and unifying pathways for various stakeholders working together at the human-animal-environment interface: communication, coordination, collaboration, and capacity building. Foremost, Dr. Sucol said that his team wanted to facilitate a support platform and complementing initiative for the participants to be able to have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding and practical knowledge of the importance of field and laboratory surveillance in preventing and controlling the spread of animal diseases, enhance their capacities, and be able to adapt and respond proactively to avoid or minimize disease impacts and threats on both animal and human health, the environment, livelihoods, and the economy. In addition, Dr. Sucol recognized the need to further highlight the role, programs, policies, action plans, and services of key government agencies, such as the DA, DOH and DENR in One Health animal disease field and laboratory surveillance and in the overall disease outbreak preparedness and response management (i.e., ASF, AI, AMR). Moreover, Dr. Sucol believed that the webinar or such activity will help foster and unify One Health rationalization, harmonization, complementation, and collaboration among participants and target partners/beneficiaries from the different government agencies, institutions, sectors, and public or private organizations involved in One Health advancement.
The Philippine livestock industry grapples with the persistent presence of ASF, AI, and AMR. Recognizing the gravity of these challenges, the 1HEALTH Project, which stands for ‘One Human-Environment-Animal Linkage for Total Health’, advocates for robust surveillance programs and holistic interventions that are guided by evidence-based research and policy development to proactively mitigate food animal disease outbreaks in the Philippines. (Christine Mae B. Santos and Maria Anthea B. Faltado)