Commentary  Commentaire Public policy and veterinary medicine N. Ole Nielsen, Bonnie Buntain, Barry Stemshorn, Brian Evans


ublic policy for human, animal, and ecosystem health has a profound influence on veterinary medicine. The primary role of veterinarians employed by government is to help formulate, deliver, enforce, and evaluate programs pertinent to public policy; an activity the profession calls public practice. However, all veterinarians in the private sector and academia are at times engaged in activities that contribute to and shape public policies. Given the seminal importance of public policy it is worrisome that the veterinary profession does not give more focused attention to this domain. A strong case can be made that there is a need for more veterinary expertise and perspective in policy making at multiple levels and in both Government and non-Government settings. Fortunately our Canadian profession could muster a sufficient resource of public, private, and academic practitioners to effectively deal with this issue. Health policy is amenable to study, research, and enhancement in the same way as other medically related disciplines that have emerged in professional practice and academia. Healthrelated public policy is akin to clinical medicine in that it draws on many disciplines in its formulation and application. Policy merits the same degree of specific attention accorded to other discrete fields of practice through professional organizations and educational curricula. At present no veterinary professional organization espouses expertise in public policy as a basis for existence. Who better than an organization of veterinarians in public service to fill this void? At this point in the evolution of veterinary medicine there is widespread support for the concept Department of Pathobiology, University of Guelph, 11-51127 Range Road 255, Spruce Grove, Alberta T7Y 1A8 (Nielsen); Department of Public and Ecosystem Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary (Buntain); Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, 124 rue Champêtre, Gatineau, Québec J9H 6W4 (Stemshorn); Former Executive Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer of Canada (Retired), Canadian Food Inspection Agency; 48 Merner Avenue, Nepean, Ontario K2J 3Z3 (Evans). Dr. Evans’ current address is Deputy Director General for Animal Health, Veterinary Public Health and International Standards, Head of Scientific and Technical Department, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 12 rue de Prony, Paris 75017, France. E-mail: [email protected] Use of this article is limited to a single copy for personal study. Anyone interested in obtaining reprints should contact the CVMA office ([email protected]) for additional copies or permission to use this material elsewhere. CVJ / VOL 55 / APRIL 2014

of One-Health in dealing with inter-connected issues and phenomena in promoting human, animal, and ecosystem health. Since health includes the capacity for achieving reasonable human goals, its parameters are ultimately reflected in public policies of the day. Hence the full benefits of One-Health will ultimately depend on influencing public policy. Therefore it is timely for the profession to make a concerted effort to put more emphasis on acquiring expertise directly related to policy.

How might the veterinary profession focus on health-related policy? A large number of very successful professional veterinary organizations have been established with the expressed purpose of advancing a practice field or a discrete discipline of their members. It would make sense for public service practitioners to take the lead in forming a comparable organization to enhance expertise in policy as a practice activity and to facilitate focused continuing education in this field. More generally it could take responsibility for promoting all continuing education for its members since most subjects of interest will have a policy context. The establishment of such an association, given its national and international importance, logically could occur under the aegis of the CVMA. While individuals in academia may focus on aspects of public policy they have no ongoing direct public practice responsibilities comparable to academic clinicians and their patients. Therefore it would be logical for academia to collaborate with an organization of public practitioners in guiding and supporting education and research dealing with public policy. It can be expected that academia would welcome this development since it would be consistent with how it functions vis-à-vis present veterinary specialty colleges, boards, and professional organizations. Veterinary schools will welcome opportunities to enhance horizontal thinking and problem solving skills that are inherent to veterinary education and are in fact foundational in good policy analysis and development. One is tempted to believe that every veterinary faculty could be strengthened by a chair in health policy.

How would expertise in the policy field be developed? Case based professional education? Expertise in health policy will be enhanced over time by the study of actual cases in the same way as occurs by this process in clinical medicine and business administration. Public policy is akin to these domains in that all have to consider and integrate 389


knowledge from various natural and social sciences and the humanities in a plan of action for the particular circumstances at hand. Over time this builds professional acumen and experience for the development of more formal structured knowledge. An early step would be to establish an ongoing system for preparing cases for use in appropriate educational programs. The preparation and analysis of cases would have value far beyond pure pedagogy by being useful in policy analysis, a form of “clinical” research. Case presentations also provide an opportunity to involve representatives of various constituencies involved in a case at hand and thereby to foster a better understanding of various perspectives on policy issues. The building of a comprehensive library of real-world case studies can be accelerated if it involves all the relevant veterinary constituencies in Canada and beyond. In short, the proposed approach is essentially a fusion of the models of the medical “rounds” and the business school case study methods applied to public policy. A similar approach has been launched in Canada by a call for proposals from a public health agency intent on developing expertise in policy related to cancer prevention (1).

Formal education programs At this time it would be reasonable to emphasize continuing education that would reach a broad audience of veterinarians in public service and thereby secure a beneficial impact as soon as possible. The best way of doing this is by preparing and offering a coherent modular series of programs that cover the subject matter in a curriculum planned to enhance particular areas of competence relating to public policy. This approach allows participants to continue in their work or practice.


The proposed association of veterinarians in public service should take the lead in facilitating the preparation of such programs by recommending and approving subject matter in collaboration with agencies prepared to offer the desired programs. Successful completion of a defined program that met the association’s standards could be denoted by a certificate accorded its imprimatur of being “recognized.” In recent years veterinary academia has been aggressive in developing post graduate degree programs of interest to individuals in, or aspiring to, public service. One can assume these programs will be receptive to opportunities to enhance such programs in respect to policy.

Conclusion Canadian veterinarians engaged in public practice or policyrelated interests should collectively take the lead in strengthening the profession’s capabilities in public policy under the aegis of the CVMA. Canada is blessed with a talented cadre of leaders in the early, mid, and late stages of careers in veterinary public practice, who could make it happen.

Acknowledgment The senior author expresses appreciation to Dr. Duane Landals for advice and encouragement in the preparation of this article.

Reference 1. Request for proposals for healthy public policy case study development. Available from: uploads/HPP_CaseStudies_RFP_FINAL.pdf Last accessed February 5, 2014.

CVJ / VOL 55 / APRIL 2014

Public policy and veterinary medicine.

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