Veterinary epidemiology and public health research

Veterinary epidemiology and public health is concerned with the nature of threats to health in animal and human populations. This includes, for example, research to understand factors that increase the risk of disease and of mechanisms associated with disease transmission or investigation of the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

Some infectious agents, such as salmonella and campylobacter can spread between animals and humans through the food chain. Interventions to control these zoonotic disease threats benefit animal and human health. People also benefit from animals in many other ways, including animals as companions, for sport, work and as providers of food.

A greater understanding of the interactions between people and animals will bring mutual benefits. These diverse research themes are all encompassed by the One Health philosophy and tackling these problems demands multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research.

Animal health surveillance

Animal health surveillance is the collection and analysis of information about the health of animal populations, in order to make decisions and take action. Surveillance information may come from laboratory investigations, including post-mortem examinations of animals that have died and of samples sent for diagnostic testing. However, there are also many other sources of data held by Government or other organisations that can also inform us about animal health.

Interactions with animals and people

Our societal values and culture influences how we feel about animals - whether we share our homes with them, engage with them in sports and leisure, depend on them for assistance, work with them or benefit from a diet enriched with food of animal origin. Appreciating these perceptions is important to enable treatments and control measures to be put in place that meet with public support. Understanding how people who are responsible for animals – including vets – use information to make decisions against a background of these perceptions is an important research area.

Food chain health

Livestock farmers today recognise that they are not only custodians of the animals they keep; they also have responsibilities for our shared environment and for the food chain that extends from their fields into our homes. In Britain, as in much of the economically developed world, there are perhaps 100 jobs that are directly or indirectly concerned with food for every job on the farm itself. Farm animal health underpins the safety and quality of our food and is of intimate interest to us all as consumers.