School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) faculty Dr. Robyn Wilson and Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter are partnering on a major health initiative in Ethiopia that seeks to chart a new course for a healthier future for Ethiopians. This past winter, Drs. Wilson and Bruskotter were invited to join a team that includes faculty, staff and graduate students from the department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and charged with conducting behavioral research and risk communication work to help eliminate rabies, a significant threat to human health in Ethiopia. According to Wilson, “We are taking a mental models approach, which is aimed at improving risk communication for classic health and safety hazards. To do this an expert model of the hazard is created and in-depth interviews are conducted with the target audience to flesh out their understanding of the hazard. This helps us to create a model of their understanding of the hazard, which we then compare to the expert model.” Wilson notes, “This approach helps us to identify the biggest gaps in knowledge and most problematic misperceptions, and then develop communication and outreach efforts that target these gaps and misperceptions.”
Helping to conduct the interviews is a team of OSU graduate students, including Kristina Slagle, a PhD student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources specializing in the Environmental Social Sciences and advised by both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Bruskotter. Kristina synthesized the interviews and presented preliminary results at a workshop on July 18 on the Akaki campus (a branch campus of Addis Ababa University). While there, she also provided a guest lecture on risk perceptions for a course that is part of the first One Health Summer Institute, which is currently underway at two Ethiopian universities - the University of Gondar and Addis Ababa University. Reflecting on the in-depth interviews, Kristina observed, “Our partners, faculty at the University of Gondar, were absolutely critical. They helped us translate and back-translate our instrument, conducted interviews in Amharic, and helped us do some ground-truthing on the few conclusions we've drawn thus far. They took several days out of their busy schedules to help us, which just shows the level of commitment to this relationship in general and this effort to eradicate rabies in Gondar in particular. It is truly inspiring to work with such dedicated individuals, in the summer institute, in the field, and in the workshop.”
Over the longer term the project will evaluate the communication and outreach efforts and any changes in knowledge, perceptions, behaviors - and ideally rabies incidences in Ethiopia.
Read and learn more about the One Health Initiative: