Over the last few years, there has been a global effort to bring all health professionals together to improve health worldwide.  It’s called “One Health” and rather than try to paraphrase the mission, I think it’s best to take the words directly from the One Health Initiative site:

“…human health (including mental health via the human-animal bond phenomenon), animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, One Health seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, other scientific health and environmental professionals and by promoting strengths in leadership and management to achieve these goals.”

Those who have been following this blog may suspect that there are many links to the Concept of Corporeal Ecology which I introduced late last year.  In truth, Corporeal Ecology is based in the values of One Health with a minute difference: corporeal ecology is dependent on each and every one taking responsibility for learning how they interact with their environment and how to best maintain the environment within.

Earlier today, I had the chance to sit down with a number of academic and government leaders in health and was amazed how One Health has become their goal.  Many of the individuals I met believed that this initiative and its mission represent the future of health worldwide.

There was so much engagement and passion that even I was taken aback.

Yet there was one major hurdle that kept coming up.  While the researchers, experts and policy makers were gung ho for moving forward, many just were not sure how to engage non-believers in One Health, the public, and politicians.  Or, if you wish, pretty much everyone.

This was all too familiar and I felt it was worth taking a chance.  And so, I brought up the concept of the APP.

Again, if you have followed the blog, you know about the Academic-Public-Parliament model and how the goal is to bring academic knowledge to the public in the hopes that they become educated and engaged to contact their local politician and work to affect change on a grassroots basis.

I honestly didn’t think that my effort was going to work.  I figured it would receive the polite “Thank You” and then never be mentioned again.

Oh was I wrong…

It wasn’t that they liked the idea.  Quite the contrary.  The model was analyzed, hacked and diced into pieces.  The APP was too small and did not include the contributions of people who could really make a difference in developing a message.  As a result, there was a certainty that no one would buy into it.

Crisis communication mode anyone?

Yet there was no crisis; the same people who took me down then started to work the idea back up.  We discussed the gaps and how to fill them, we shared our experiences in the different worlds of research, policy development, social media, and of course public engagement.  Over the course of a few hours, the vision changed as did the name.  The final outcome was a strategy that took my concerns with the One Health model and put them to rest.

We called it:  “One Voice.”

To ensure that One Voice is not mistaken for the popular NBC Show, The Voice, I’d like to take a bit of time to discuss the idea a little more.

First, the mission of “One Voice” is simple:

To develop clear, consolidated and concise messages on health to ensure that individuals, families and communities are aware, educated, and most of all engaged to take better responsibility for their overall health.  

It may seem long but it’s meant to be as inclusive as possible.  Because quite honestly, One Voice needs to be sure to avoid any and all of the problems associated with a recent event which was pretty much the anti-One Voice:  the H1N1 vaccine debacle.

Let me explain:

  1. Unclear messages led to a lack of proper awareness.  While H1N1 was more lethal to certain individuals, most people didn’t believe they needed to take it. That was until a 13 year old died, apparently from the H1N1 flu.  Within a day, the apparent lack of interest turned into incredibly long lines at clinics and vaccination sites.
  2. The lack of a consolidated message leads to poor education, in this case, over who should and shouldn’t be vaccinated, which was known to the experts but wasn’t conveyed with certainty to the public, led to increased frustration and ire.
  3. Messages that are not concise are easy to attack.  There was no doubt that the anti-vaccine movement who had a much more concise message opposing the vaccine.  It turned into a field day for them as they attacked the safety of the vaccine and those who promoted it (such as myself)

At the end of it all, the public review (or post-mortem) of the outbreak sounded more like a rebuke.  Some tried to defend the actions while others, like myself, considered it to be a great ‘dry run‘ for when a more dangerous and lethal virus happens to come around.  But ask anyone about their H1N1 experience and there will be more negative than positive.  

One Voice will work to prevent this from happening by including not only the academics, but also other important people in the message development process. They include:

  • policymakers
  • industry
  • non-governmental organizations
  • experts in social and traditional media
  • politicians

The message would be based on evidence as before but now it would include social marketing, advertising, language trends, social mores and best of all, political backing.  In essence, each and every person at the table would be a potential spokesperson or ambassador and would believe in the message and its affect on the public towards better health.  

In a word:  brilliant.

In the afterglow of the meeting, there were more than a few people interested in working bring One Voice to reality and I hope that soon, we’ll be starting to develop a framework and perhaps even a pilot project.

For now, I hope that you find this model to be more to your liking than the APP and that perhaps you might be interested in following its progress.

And if you want to come up with your own version of One Voice, let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help.