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November 2, 2022

November 3 is One Health Day. One Health is the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.

Diseases can cause declines or local extinction of wildlife, reductions in eco­system services, negative human health outcomes, and high costs. They can also occur across multiple jurisdictions and implicate agencies with distinct authorities and diverse priorities. Thus, deciding whether and how to manage multi-jurisdictional diseases requires agencies to work together to overcome problems associated with complex governance, scientific uncertainty, and competing objectives. Structured Decision Making (SDM) provides a frame­work and tools to overcome these types of problems and increase opportuni­ties for collaborative disease management strategies.

Image: White-Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Structured decision making may be helpful to evaluate a diversity of complex disease management decisions including diseases of white-tailed deer, such as chronic wasting disease and SARS-CoV-2. Credit: John J. Mosesso/USGS.

What is Structured Decision Making?

Structured Decision Making is an approach for deliberate and transparent analysis of natural resource management decisions. Structured Decision Making encompasses a simple set of concepts and helpful steps that explicitly integrate science and policy, to:

  • Make decisions based on clearly articulated fundamental objectives and practical alternatives
  • Incorporate scientific predictions
  • Deal explicitly with uncertainty
  • Respond transparently to societal values

How Can Structured Decision Making Aid One Health decisions?

Structured Decision Making improves disease management decisions by structuring conversations about complex decisions, helping others understand how and why decisions are made, and identifying opportunities for increased collaboration and partnerships. Structured Decision Making is particularly useful for determining whether and how to intervene when there is a disease management decision that involves multiple One Health sectors because this approach explicitly considers the interactions of costs and benefits across a suite of decision alternatives.

Disease Decision Analysis and Research at USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey has Structured Decision Making capabilities embedded across science cen­ters and Cooperative Research Units. The Disease Decision Analysis and Research team is a multi-disciplinary team based out of the Eastern Ecological Science Center whose strengths are in ecology, decision sciences, quantitative modeling, social sci­ences, and natural resource management. For decision making, the team frames disease deci­sion problems, organizes knowledge, evaluates the relative performance of treatments, iden­tifies critical scientific uncertainties, and clar­ifies the importance of reducing uncertainties. The team also helps inform efficient and effective survey design and resource allocations. For science support, the Disease Decision Analysis and Research team design and imple­ment applied studies to better understand disease system ecology and transmission dynamics, inform risk-based assessments, and identify effective disease management interventions.

One Health connections
One Health is the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.  More at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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