With human and veterinary medicine integrated into a common approach, participatory epidemiology is a powerful tool in international public health. Many initiatives in Africa and Asia have demonstrated that participatory methods empower communities and encourage teamwork between farmers, veterinarians, nurses, doctors, governments and other specialists. As a result, lives are changed through improved health, livelihood security and cleaner environments.
Stakeholder driven and action-oriented, participatory epidemiology’s greatest strengths are its evidence-based approach to problem identification and formulation of solutions: gathering epidemiological intelligence for disease surveillance, impact assessment and control, disease recovery, prevention of re-infection, project development, environmental monitoring and epidemiological research.
Improving the control of diseases which pose a public health threat, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), requires strengthening our capacities to rapidly detect disease outbreaks and to take appropriate actions to control transmission – to both animals and humans. Responsiveness to diseases which flow between animals and people depends on cooperation between the veterinary, human and environmental health sectors, public services and of course, people who live in close quarters with animals and those who tend livestock. All of these players are partners are integral for early detection of emerging zoonotic infections, as well as for control and prevention of non-emerging threats. Participatory epidemiology provides an ideal forum for these players to interact synergistically, drawing on each other’s strengths to combat disease and improve health.