NGOHP Fellows Tackle the Link Between Wildlife and Pandemics in First of the Juan Health Conversations Webinar Series

Heeding the call to promote the One Health approach in addressing illegal wildlife trade and biodiversity loss as drivers of infectious disease emergence, the Next Generation One Health Philippines (NGOHP) has launched Juan Health Conversations, a three-part webinar series which aims to introduce One Health to Filipinos. NGOHP is one of the flagship projects of the Planetary and Global Health Program (PGHP) of the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine – William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM), which is supported by the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade.

The first episode of the Juan Health Conversations series explores the upstream drivers of zoonotic disease and how we can prevent future pandemics.

The first episode of the webinar series was held last April 22, 2023, entitled “Exploring the Link Between Wildlife and Pandemics”. Through a panel session featuring five fellows from NGOHP, the discussions touched on human-wildlife interactions, such as human-wildlife conflict, the mechanisms of zoonotic disease transmission, and how anthropogenic activities can increase the risk of spillover events. It also explored how future risks can be mitigated through improvement of surveillance systems, bolstering the resilience of our healthcare systems, and improving enforcement of wildlife protection laws. The panelists for this session  were:

  • Al John Cabanas, who received his Master of Science in Wildlife Studies with a minor in Animal -Science from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He currently works as an instructor for the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Department of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Southern Luzon State University. He also works as a researcher focusing on camera trapping and studying human-wildlife conflict.
  • Jamaica Caras, who earned her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. She works as a senior science research specialist at the Microbial Ecology of Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems Laboratory at the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines – Diliman. She has handled multiple projects relating to microbiology and research on cetacean health in accordance to the principles of One Health.
  • Von Dela Torre, who earned his Master of Science in Biology degree from the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology. He is currently an instructor teaching Biology at the Department of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies at the College of Science and Mathematics, University of the Philippines – Mindanao. He has handled multiple projects related to biodiversity assessment in Mindanao.
  • Carah Lo, who has a Master of Science Degree in Wildlife Studies with a minor in veterinary science from the University of Philippines – Los Banos and received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute. She is currently a lecturer at the De La Salle University – Manila and also works as a hospitalist in several institutions.
  • Macy Manalo, who is a licensed veterinarian and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of the Philippines Los Banos. She recently completed her Master’s in Zoonoses and One Health from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and is currently an assistant professor teaching Veterinary Public Health at the Department of Veterinary and Paraclinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of the Philippines – Los Banos.

The panelists shared their insights on important questions surrounding wildlife and pandemics presented by the hosts and the participants.

The importance of interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration in addressing One Health issues was also emphasized during the session. “The recent pandemic [has shown that] collaboration across disciplines is very important,” said Dr. Macy Manalo. “One Health [is a holistic] approach that encourages everyone to work together [in finding solutions].”

“[We need to] get involved with organizations that are actively protecting wildlife,” added Al John Cabanas. “We have to be responsible and sustainable [in our actions], so that future generations can also [experience the world in the way that we  are experiencing it today].”

Juan Health Conversations will hold the next episode on June 5, 2023 entitled “Community Participation in Conservation and Sustainability.” It will be followed by the third episode on August 28, 2023 which will tackle One Health in Policy and Governance. For more information, you may visit the NGOHP website or our Facebook page.

The recording of the first episode can be found here.