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Destination: Ethiopia

April 03, 2014

In Ethiopia, cervical cancer kills thousands of women each year, and stray rabid dogs routinely endanger the human population. Ohio State has partnered with academic institutions and service agencies in Ethiopia to tackle these issues and others with the bold goal of improving global health.

Ethiopia has invested heavily in its education infrastructure, increasing the number of the nation’s universities from three to 31 in 10 years. The nation has the will - and even the money - to fix health problems, but not enough trained people to do it.

That's where Ohio State comes in.

Over the past two years, the university and the African nation have partnered to create sustainable collaborations in teaching, research and outreach. The work officially began with a multidisciplinary institute last summer based at two Ethiopian institutions: Addis Ababa University and the University of Gondar.

Much of the coordination has been spearheaded by Wondwossen Gebreyes, professor of veterinary preventive medicine and director of global health programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Ethiopia has pumped a lot of resources into its educational system, but this has created a knowledge gap because there are not enough professionals with the proper teaching skills in key sciences to simultaneously increase the availability of health care practitioners,” says Gebreyes, who received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Addis Ababa University.

“Ohio State will not be there forever – we intend to build their capacity to train future trainers.”

Three issues have topped the agenda to date: improved screening and treatment for cervical cancer; a needs assessment and feasibility test of rabies prevention and control methods; and improvements in food security and safety, from farm to table.

The partnership reflects Ohio State’s emphasis on global health and outreach and embraces the principles of “One Health,” a strategy to more fully understand and address the links between animal health, human health and the environment. It also represents the first time Ohio State's seven health sciences colleges – dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, optometry and veterinary medicine – have teamed for an international project of this scope.

Gebreyes has visited policymakers in Washington, D.C., to spread the word about the global effort and the assortment of issues being addressed – which is expanding to include maternal and child health, emerging diseases and even hospital management and marketing. A delegation from Addis Ababa University will arrive in mid-April.

Ohio State is one of few institutions in the country poised to carry out this kind of mission, says Lonnie King, executive dean of health sciences colleges and dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, who is a key national proponent of “One Health.”

“When we say ‘One Health,’ we really mean it. We live it and breathe it every day,” King says. “Were it not for Ohio State’s rich history and depth and breadth in the health sciences, this kind of global partnership couldn’t happen.”