Dr. Andrew Bowman's Animal Influenza Ecology and Epidemiology Program (AIEERP) lab staff in the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine was the recipient of the Outstanding Staff Service Award at the College of Veterinary Medicine Staff Appreciation Luncheon this year. Dr. Bowman’s team fully integrates staff and students to develop and deliver effective outreach learning programs targeting youth in Ohio.
This education effort has been led by staff member Dr. Jacqueline Nolting and is supported by Sarah Latuerbach, Sarah Nelson, Josh Lorbach, Libby McGarry, Hannah Cochran and Dillon McBride. While AIEERP is mainly known for influenza A virus surveillance, the students and staff in this lab have been using the surveillance results to educate youth in agriculture about influenza A virus in swine. They have developed educational materials and conducted training sessions at the Ohio 4-H Conference, Showpig All-Star Camp, Ohio State's Junior Swine Day and Swine Health Symposium, OH-PIGS summer show circuit and the World Pork Expo. Their activities at various events were designed to be interactive and appropriate for all age groups of youth, including making biosecurity buckets, assembling sick pig packs, health tower tumble, healthy habits floor Jenga, glo-germ, glitter pig, snot swap game, “Be a veterinarian” activity, etc.)
In 2015, they began an educational program funded by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) - Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CTSE) to provide training to youth in agriculture regarding risks and mitigation of zoonotic diseases; specifically influenza A viruses. The project started with the creation of scenario-based trainings that were conducted in five Ohio counties in association with quality assurance programs. Post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores and the program was deemed successful. The materials have been adapted and tweaked each year since the inception, to be used at the 4-H Young Leadership Conference and Youth Swine Day.
With the continued identification of variant influenza A viruses, it became apparent that educational materials needed to be disseminated more broadly. With this in mind, the team created a Zoonotic Diseases chapter for the Swine Resource Handbook. They collaborated with the Department of Agriculture Communication, Education and Leadership (ACEL) at Ohio State to undertake a social media campaign to create a kid-friendly “Measures to Minimize Influenza in Exhibition Swine” document, entitled “M2M” that is distributed to youth who are interested in this topic. The handout was distributed at all training events attended by the team.
In 2017, they began the “Becoming a Swientist” program that start is geared toward youth involved in swine jackpot shows, as they are exposed most regularly to swine-lineage influenza viruses and are also the experts in their individual local counties. An example of the approach to youth education developed by this team shown here: swientist fair video.mov.
To reach youth at a national level, they host a booth at the World Pork Expo each year in Des Moines, Iowa. This event draws over 3,000 youth exhibitors coming from across America to compete in the most prestigious junior swine show of the summer. The swientist booth has become a place for youth to visit each day of the expo, as we have different hands-on-activities each day. Example daily themes include “Be a Mad Scientist” and “Be a Veterinarian” allowing youth to try on PPE (protective personal equipment) in order to conduct a simplified diagnostic test or visually diagnose sick pigs. All activities are based on the theme of infectious disease control in both pigs and people.
At the state level, they attend an OH-Pigs jackpot show to introduce curriculum using hands-on activities being used at World Pork Expo. Participating youth are encouraged to spend the show season taking selfies as they use healthy habits while caring for and showing pigs. Youth create an online account at go.osu.edu/swientist and upload their selfies with captions, earning points for each picture submitted. At the end of the summer points are tallied and the highest scoring youth in each age division is awarded an Apple iPad at the OH-Pigs annual banquet. In 2017, the most frequently document healthy habit was the disinfection of animal husbandry items in between shows. In 2018, a poster completion has been added to the swientist program, and posters are displayed in the swine barn at the Ohio State fair.
All of these outreach and youth training service activities have been highly effective in raising Ohio youth awareness of swine health and related zoonotic disease concerns at animal exhibitions and county fairs. Congratulations to Dr. Bowman's team on receiving well-deserved recognition for all their hard work!