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Epidemics are no longer really localised; global travel leaves people and animals everywhere at risk whenever uncontrolled infectious diseases strike a region.
The problem is exacerbated by the daunting gap between advanced technology for detecting outbreaks and the capability of developing countries to apply this data to effective action and policy.
The key is better public engagement, says Jakob Zinsstag in this Science editorial. A recent (24–26 January) animal health conference in Hinxton, United Kingdom, indicated that public involvement improves the interaction between international scientists and local and national authorities, making for far more effective disease control measures.
The Regional East African Community Health Policy Initiative of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, has used public dialogue to establish better research priorities and interventions. In Chad, public engagement led to a policy providing social services to nomadic herders, including advice on animal health.
Animal health research must respond to society’s needs and lead to solutions that can be delivered quickly, Zinsstag concludes. To beat infectious disease, science needs to engage more with society.