UKM And UPM Take The Lead To Tackle Infectious Diseases In Malaysia

By Saiful Bahri Kamaruddin
Pix Ikhwan Hashim

PUTRAJAYA, 2 July 2015 – The National University of Malaysia (UKM) along with 11 other universities in South-East Asia and the United States will work together to combat various infectious diseases spread by many types of mammals.

Their collaboration was formalised as a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under the regional network of the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAHOUN) that was signed here today.

UKM was represented by the Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali and SEAHOUN Chairman Prof Dr. Noor Hassim Ismail.

SEAHOUN is part of the global One Health University Network (OHUM) funded by the American donor United States Agency For International development (USAID), represented by its Pandemic Influenza and other Emerging Threats Unit Head Dr Dennis Carrol.

Prof Noor Hassim, who is from UKM’s Faculty of Medicine, said the One Health concept recognises that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment.

Speaking to the UKM News Portal before the signing, Prof Noor Hasim said the role of SEAOHUN is to improve the health of people, livestock animals and the ecosystem.

He pointed out that countries in the region must work together to deal with the emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.

“More than 75% of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases is caused by zoonotic diseases. To control the zoonotic borne epidemic, health officers need to collaborate with multiple agencies ranging from wild life officers, veterinarian, public health and clinical professionals, health economics, army, politicians and even local communities.  Therefore, health officer need to have multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approach to control and prevent this infectious,” he explained.

He revealed that the next five years will be very busy ones for SEAOHUN, as the  government, academics, and key partners decide on how best to tackle infectious diseases afflicting humans and livestock.

Currently, in Malaysia, only UKM’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Universiti Putera Malaysia’s (UPM) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine are members of SEAOHUN.

UKM and UPM initiated the Malaysia One Health University Network (MyOHUN), in 2012 as a part of the SEAHOUN regional network.

Prof Noor Hassim explained that the network was built to promote the philosophy and spirit of One Health in working together to respond to new and emerging diseases.

“The concept of One Health in Malaysia aims to forge partnerships between academicians, professionals, scientists and communities across sectors with responsibility for health of humans, domestic animals and wildlife. Through this collaboration, cross- sectoral skills and knowledge will be fostered thus enhances the capacity of health and veterinary professionals to respond to emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases through One Health leadership, curriculum development, faculty linkages and exchanges, workshop, staff development and mentoring between institutions,” he added.

The other core universities in SEAOHUN are Tufts University of Boston, The University of Minnesota, the Hanoi School of Public Health, the Hanoi Medical University, the Hanoi University of Agriculture, Chiang Mai University, Mahidol University, Institut Pertanian Bogor, Universitas Indonesia and Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Under a new five-year grant of up to $US50 million, the University of Minnesota and Tufts University will be part of the international partnership of universities to strengthen global workforce development against emerging pandemic threats.

SEAOHUN conducts the so-called ‘One Health Short Course’ collaboratively created and modified by 33 professionals from various disciplines including veterinary science, medicine, public health, ecology, and instructional design, across five countries composing of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States.

It comprises of fifteen modules: seven One Health Core Competency modules and seven One Health technical modules. The modules have been designed to enable instructors to adapt the content to their specific location, learners, and context.