Ulf Magnusson: “Disease prevention does not win elections for decision makers”

Porträtt Ulf Magnusson

Ulf Magnusson, licensed Swedish veterinarian, Diplomate of the European College of Animal Reproduction and Professor of Animal Reproduction at the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

SLU is a member of SIGHT’s University network. What’s the connection between the network and your work with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development?

“At SLU we’re ambitious both in regard to The 2030 Agenda and to international collaboration. We take sustainability goals very seriously, so naturally we want to play our part,” answers Ulf Magnusson.

The work carried out at SLU has a lot to do with human health.

“The health aspect involves food security, ensuring that people do not starve and that they have access to good-quality food. Good nutrition is linked to how food is produced and distributed, issues in which we take a great interest.

Another major area of interest to SLU is zoonoses, infectious diseases spreading between animals and humans. And there is also the twin challenge posed by the over-use of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance.

When looking at the issues of animal health, the 2030 Agenda  and global health we see many parallels. Ulf Magnusson describes one valuable result of collaboration facilitated by SIGHT.

“Göran Tomson (co-founder of SIGHT), other academics within the university network and I collaborated on an interdisciplinary paper published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ). The title was, ‘Stronger efforts to safeguard the nutrition of school aged children.’ “

Further examples of SLU’s involvement in the university network include two SLU scientists to the SIGHT Fellows programme. Also, one of Ulf Magnusson’s previous doctoral students, Johanna Lindahl, won a SIGHT Award of 100, 000 SEK for her research into resistance to antibiotics, zoonotic diseases and food security.

“Contact with the world of global health comes naturally to us at SLU, particularly in regard to Agenda 2030’s sustainability goals.”

What does SLU contribute to the network?

“I think we can provide a broad perspective. We also have a strong track record of collaboration with middle and low-income countries and have long experience of organising and supporting this type of collaboration in SLU Global.”

“We need more collaboration and exchanges of information when it comes, for example, to raising the alarm in cases such as bird flu and SARS CoV-2, where contact between animals and people create significant threats to health. Disease prevention does not win elections for decision-makers, so it’s vital that our network contributes its expertise to the debate and emphases the importance of prevention.” 

… and what does SLU want out of the network?

“It sounds like a cliché – but contacts, new forms of collaboration and partnerships. Our university finds these attractive.”

Currently, what are the biggest questions for the university from the UN 203 Agenda perspective?

“Initially some of us were worried that we wouldn’t be able to carry out research freely if finance was solely connected to sustainable development goals. But it’s important in our teaching to help students at all levels to think in terms of 2030 Agenda, for the whole world considers these goals crucial.”

“Research needs solutions that make it easier and quicker for us to reach our goals. For example, when looking at SDG 5, gender equality, we can also think about efficiency. So, if women in certain settings are the ones responsible for animal husbandry, support to improve food production should be directed at them, not to men.”

What does the global health network mean to your students and scientists?

“Multi-sector collaboration focusing on 2030 Agenda helps students and scientists frame new areas for research.”

“SIGHT, a scientific body with global ambitions and a multi-sector global network, can create the pre-conditions for these types of overarching analyses, publications or syntheses, which can have a global reach,“ says Ulf Magnusson.

“They can form the basis for courses and programmes at doctoral level and for experts in high, mid-range and low income countries. Everyone involved in the network will profit by it.

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