Brief Baby Steps of a One Health Project

Riding in a car was the last thing I wanted to do, especially if there was no air-conditioning. Since leaving León, the days have seemed increasingly hotter, and I had just spent 3 hours packed on a bus. Stickiness and sweat-staches are still not things I am comfortable with. However, this step was an important one in the process of finding new communities to work in and for developing a One Health project, so I waited for the Dr. Adela and Dr. Lester to pick me up. Lucky for me, the truck was air-conditioned.

Our last meeting was about four days ago, just after our first visit to a new community about 30 minutes outside of Granada. It seemed like a daunting task, to develop questions in which to ask people about animal welfare, when I had no idea what it was like to live in these communities or what the culture was around animals. I spent a good portion of time while on the beach researching data collection and not finding much except for abstracts and conclusions, however it was enough to get the wheels turning. It may not be what everyone spends time doing on the beach, but to me, Playa Maderas seemed like the perfect office.

The questions we had talked about, and that I had built on a little, was enough to spark conversation in the truck about our next steps. Since I knew nothing about how communities worked in Nicaragua, it made sense to figure out just who we were going to talk to. The rural towns surrounding the cities have a leader, whom is familiar with the families, resources, and problems of the community. The selected person must be a Sandinista according to President Ortega, they must care about the people, and they must not care about getting paid, as often they are not compensated with a stipend but rather discounts. The place we were headed to was unique, because there were three that we had to track down with the help of the leader from the community we had visited last week.

We developed questions that would help us get an idea of the type of community – which Adela and Lester added into conversation wonderfully. Most of the people were farmers of corn and beans, which they sold to the surrounding cities of Masaya, Granada, and Nandaime. A variety of pesticides and herbicides were used presenting environmental concerns, but local water sources such as streams were not utilized for drinking, as they had potable water delivered on a regular basis. There was no health center nearby for the 1,200 people living there, but nurses made regular trips for vaccination and deworming. A primary school provided elementary education and secondary school was taught over the course of two years on Saturdays by visiting professors. Toilets were not common, but rather one latrine shared by three or four families.

Two out of three leaders were present, and were welcoming to the idea of free veterinary care. I didn’t understand everything they said, but one thing that was clear was that there were more than enough dogs and sterilization would be beneficial. The horses were mainly used for transportation and agriculture, and seemed to be well-taken care of, just like the horses in the preceding community. The last person we talked to offered us his centrally-located property to house the clinic on the following Monday, pending approval from the third leader. We said our goodbyes and analyzed the information we were presented with on the dirt road that led back to the main road into Granada.

When I returned to my hotel, I was eager to continue my research of how to efficiently collect data during outreach days. Visiting this community only took about two hours, and I was happy I went because it isn’t often that I learn that much information packed in so little time. Although, packing things tightly isn’t anything new for this trip – the theme of my time here in Nicaragua seems to be stuff as much as you can into the smallest space available. And by keeping this post brief and condensed, I will continue the theme of the trip.

The past week has just barely scratched the surface on information known about these communities and One Health, and due to the fairly recent development of One Health, it will only continue advancing. As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into a One Health collaboration, since it focuses on the inter-connectivity of human, animal, and environmental health. The next group of students and teachers arrives today, and in between arrivals I have some time to continue data collection and organization for the veterinary side of things, since our first visit to this community will also be my first time collecting field data.

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