Health forum to discuss relationship between animal, human health

GVL / Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye

Drew Schertzer

There is a link between human and animal health in water, food and more. In fact, human and animal medicines intersect in many ways. The Midwest Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research Center (MIPERC) is hosting a team of panelists to explain these connections. 

The Health Forum of West Michigan event, “One Health: The Intersection of Animal and Human Health,” will take place Friday, Dec. 1, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Grand Valley State University’s DeVos Center in the Loosemore Auditorium.

“The topic is very important because understanding the links between human, animal and environmental health will allow us to develop programs in prevention,” said Diane Dykstra, coordinator for the event and project coordinator for the GVSU Office of the Vice Provost for Health, via email. “It is important that physicians, veterinarians, health and environmental professionals take an interdisciplinary approach in addressing the complex issues that can arise.” 

Dykstra predicts that roughly 150 to 300 people will be at the One Health event. She also explained the link between environmental health and “zoonotic diseases,” which can be shared by humans and animals. She said diseases like malaria, avian influenza and rabies can stem from farming practices, or food and water safety. 

“It’s important that we study the relationship of disease transmission between animals and humans and the impact the environment may have on these interactions,” said Jean Nagelkerk, GVSU vice provost for health. “The more we understand about potential disease transmission, we can better monitor health concerns and develop public health programs to address them.”

Nagelkerk said ongoing efforts to identify and monitor infectious organisms must be made. These organisms can interact with humans, animals and the environment, creating public health threats that could jeopardize the health of large populations, according to Nagelkerk. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health of humans is directly linked to the health of animals and the environment. They believe the best approach to confront diseases is a collaborative effort on a multidisciplinary level. The human population, as well as global trading, has increased factors that bring humans into closer contact with animals, which could promote the faster, easier spread of zoonotic diseases. 

At the health forum, a panel of several professionals will discuss the impact of food and water quality. The talk will be moderated by Mark Hall, medical director for the Kent County Health Department. The speakers will present on their areas of expertise for about an hour and a half. This will be followed by a short Q&A segment. 

The panelists will include Shannon Briggs, toxicologist for the State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Mary Grace Stobierski, state public health veterinarian; Andrew Jameson, physician of infectious diseases at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s; and Michael VanderKlok, bovine tuberculosis eradication manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The team will begin its discussion after short remarks by Nagelkerk. 

“Health Forum of West Michigan seeks to bring critical health-related topics to our audience to provide a venue for open discussion,” Dykstra said.

Dykstra thinks that bringing a diverse audience together for these conversations could not only  help promote awareness but could also help foster partnerships, which could, in turn, create future solutions to different issues. 

The Office of the Vice Provost for Health and MIPERC promote interprofessional work through many disciplines. Health Forum of West Michigan is one of many programs they host, the purpose of which is to discuss relevant public health issues. 

The One Health event is free to attend. To find out more information about the event, visit