Strengthening epidemiology training in Asia Pacific with fieldwork and eLearning opportunities

Boosting veterinary epidemiology across the Asia Pacific by enabling field veterinarians to detect and respond to zootonic disease outbreaks promptly.

Associate Professor Navneet Dhand from the Sydney School of Veterinary Science has been awarded a $5 million grant to implement the second phase of the Asia Pacific Consortium of Veterinary Epidemiology (APCOVE) project. The University of Sydney-led initiative aims to strengthen veterinary epidemiology and One Health capacity across the Asia Pacific region.

Announced by the Honourable Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, the grant is funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The Asia Pacific region is vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases due to rapid urbanisation, land-use change, and encroachment of wild habitats.

Associate Professor Navneet Dhand, Director of APCOVE

Associate Professor Navneet Dhand, Director of APCOVE

“Most emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning, they spread from animals to humans,” explained Associate Professor Dhand, director of APCOVE and a member of the research leadership team of the Sydney Infectious Diseases Institute.

“Therefore, to protect human populations, it is crucial to monitor these pathogens and diseases upstream in domestic animals and wildlife before they transfer to the human population.”

Associate Professor Dhand will lead a team of veterinary epidemiologists from all eight veterinary schools in Australia and New Zealand along with partners from eight target countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Collaborative training for a more resilient workforce

Building on the foundations and partnerships established during the first phase of APCOVE, the funding will enhance the animal health workforce’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to animal disease outbreaks.

The project underscores the importance of addressing the risk of zoonotic diseases, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and avian influenza (H5N1).  APCOVE 2 will further reduce the risk of disease incursion in Australia, thereby safeguarding Australia’s livestock industries.

Field epidemiology training will be provided in Laos, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Training will be supplemented with eLearning resources for field veterinarians, One Health training, simulation exercises, and epidemiology teacher training.

Professor Jacqui Norris

Professor Jacqui Norris

Head of School and Dean, Professor Jacqui Norris, said, “This project aims to further strengthen the capacity of Veterinary Services in the region to tackle emerging infectious diseases.

I am glad that a key focus of the project is on enhancing One Health capacity, recognising that the health of humans, animals, and the environment is interconnected.

The Sydney School of Veterinary Science is proud to lead this collaborative initiative involving all veterinary schools in Australia and New Zealand. We have a long history of supporting the development of veterinary epidemiology capacity in the Asia-Pacific region.”

By enhancing these capabilities, Associate Professor Dhand and his team hope to create a more resilient animal health workforce in the Asia Pacific, ultimately contributing to the prevention of future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

*Acknowledgement: This project will involve the collaborative efforts of The University of Sydney with Consortium Partners; The University of Queensland, The University of Melbourne, The University of Adelaide, Charles Sturt University, Murdoch University, James Cook University, Massey University of New Zealand.

/University Release. View in full here.