USDA grants $500,000 to University of Illinois Center for One Health

USDA grants $500,000 to University of Illinois Center for One Health

Funding used to help build veterinary college's dual degree program
Sep 21, 2010
By staff
Champaign, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will dole out an additional $500,000 in grants over the next several years to the Center for One Health Illinois at the University of Illinois (UI). The monetary award will allow the center “to pursue its mission of fostering collaborations and the free flow of information among those in the fields of medicine, public health, the environment and agriculture,” the university reports.

The $500,000 follows an earlier $250,000 award to fund externships for the school's dual-degree DVM and Masters in Public Health students at UI's College of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Public Health. The funding has supported more site visits and participation in outbreak investigations across the country.

But a growing awareness of the risks of zoonotic diseases is driving greater recognition of the need to improve disease reporting capabilities, says John Herrmann, a professor of clinical veterinary medicine who directs the DVM/MPH program at UI.

"The state agriculture department and the state health department are only a few blocks from each other in Springfield," Herrmann says. "But we still don't have an integrated surveillance system for sharing information."

Herrmann led the effort to create the Center for One Health Illinois, which is tackling this gap in surveillance by recruiting experts to build a system for sharing environmental and health data.

In a world of increasing environmental pressures and burgeoning agricultural needs, Herrmann says, human communities can no longer afford to segregate their understanding of these influences on human health. "Many of the determinants and contributing factors to human health are environmental in nature, including how our food is produced," Herrmann says. "So the safety of food and other consumer products is really important, as is the sustainability of those production systems. Emerging diseases, whether infectious or non-infectious, are also often associated with changes in our natural or built environment. We need to look at all these things, how they're all interrelated." UI's center has three areas of engagement: educating a new cadre of cross-trained public-health practitioners, working with public health agencies to improve disease surveillance and fostering collaborative research, the university reports.