Communities of scientists, practitioners, food producers, and health professionals around the globe are working to better understand the implications of antimicrobial use and resistance. In addition to participating in innovative antimicrobial resistance (AMR) research, the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) wants to play a key role in ensuring that lessons learned through research will impact daily practice and decision-making for a safe and secure food system.
One of the ways they hope to reach public health and veterinary professionals is through in-service workforce education and development.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to train a global workforce that’s able to deal with critical emerging issues in human and animal disease,” says Mary Katherine O’Brien, PhD, researcher for education and outreach at CAHFS.
CAHFS is utilizing multiple partnerships to help with the development of an innovative workforce training program. The most recent is a partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office for the Americans of the World Health Organization (WHO), to develop a program that focuses on food safety and AMR.
The WHO recognizes AMR as a critical threat to global health. The organization is investing in resources that support integrated surveillance of AMR in almost 30 countries around the globe. "It's urgent to tackle antimicrobial resistance, it is a real and present public health problem," says Simone Raszl, PhD, Food Safety Regional Advisor and Focal Point for AMR for Veterinary Public Health at PANAFTOSA, a center within PAHO/WHO. "We need to reduce antimicrobial usage and to know how to use medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals."
A critical next step in the initiative is to develop a concrete plan for the ongoing implementation of surveillance and good practices.
The proposed training will build on another CAHFS education program in Latin America. In 2017, CAHFS launched Programa Regional de Educación Sistemática de Servicios Veterinarios (ProgRESSVet), an online workforce capacity-building program in partnership with the Centro Buenos Aires para la Capacitación de los Servicios Veterinarios. The team now looks to apply what they’ve learned from training veterinary service professionals through ProgRESSVet to a new regional audience of public and animal health workers on the frontlines of the food system.
One driving principle is a systematic approach to training, specifically the integration of technical courses with broader content.
“A series of trainings allows participants to build knowledge, apply it and connect it to other relevant issues in the field,” says O’Brien. “You may develop a really powerful skill through in-service training, but if no one is helping you to understand how to implement that skill into the broader picture of your work, it’s probably not going to be used.”
One key objective of the training is to highlight the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health—known widely in the field as a “One Health” approach.
CAHFS will also leverage an existing partnership with the One Health Workforce project to scale the program up for global audiences in the future. Through the One Health Workforce project, the University of Minnesota has worked with more than 80 partner institutions across Africa and Southeast Asia to build workforce development plans that support zoonotic disease preparedness and AMR national action planning.
“Developing the teachings to be linguistically and culturally applicable is absolutely key to the work,” says O’Brien. “We are fortunate to have so many active partners that can help us understand regional needs and connect us with organizations that can support the programs.”