A New Zealand university has received World Bank funding to develop an on-line project to fight animal-borne diseases that can transmit to humans, such as bird flu and rabies, in South Asia.
The World Bank has given the Massey University 5 million NZ dollars (3.9 million U.S. dollars) to fight zoonotic diseases through the development of joint disease investigations and "One Health Hubs" to link with other specialists across South Asia.
The project is part of an education program to strengthen Asian public health and veterinary capacity to fight zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza, rabies, brucellosis and anthrax, said a statement from the university.
The just completed first phase of program saw 67 health professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal trained in epidemiology concepts as part of the university's Master of Veterinary Medicine (Biosecurity) and Master of Public Health (Biosecurity) degrees.
The development of One Health Hubs would help the graduates link with their professional colleagues in the South Asia region to combat real-world problems in joint investigations.
One Health Hub project manager Dr. Peter Jolly said in the statement that the One Health Hub network had trained specialists in each country who would lead projects focused on important zoonotic diseases in their countries.
"Through building intellectual capacity in the region, control of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases, such as avian influenza, can be undertaken using an integrated approach that involves both veterinary and public health specialists," said Jolly.
An online meeting point HubNet was being devised to provide a forum and the resources needed to carry out the projects.
"HubNet gives participants an operational framework," said Jolly. "The online forum will provide them the space to interact with one another and also give them access to an e-library, disease database, communications and reporting tools, and a learning management system."
Once hub members began work on a project they could efficiently identify sampling or experimental work that needed to be carried out and be mentored through to its completion.
"We want these projects to influence policy and have a real impact," said Jolly.
The World Bank grant would help cover One Health Hub activities to the end of 2013, when the hub participants should have the experience necessary to maintain the collaborative environment provided by HubNet with less reliance on the Massey University, said project director Dr. Eric Neumann.
"The idea is to create enough value in the HubNet environment that the early participants are motivated to adopt it as their own, " said Neumann in the statement.