Increased public awareness is critical in supporting and implementing transformations needed to strengthen the framework against animal disease risks. The lack of cohesive national advocacy for public health issues generally creates a much more difficult environment in which to increase attention and investment in the framework for preventing, detecting, and diagnosing animal diseases.
The recent outbreaks of FMD, SARS, AI, and BSE are all reminders of the threats such diseases pose to the U.S. food supply, global economy, public health, and confidence in the safety of the food supply. The entire food and fiber system—including farm inputs, processing, manufacturing, exporting, and related services—is one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy and accounts for output of over $2 trillion dollars, generating $1.24 trillion in added value, and 12.3 percent of total gross domestic product in 2001 (USDA, 2003). Nearly 17 percent of all U.S. workers are employed by the food and fiber system (USDA, 2003). Producers, companion animal owners, and others on the front line have a direct personal and private interest in detecting, diagnosing, and preventing animal diseases to avoid losses associated with reduced productivity, animal mortality, or potential effects on personal health and welfare. Although these losses can be significant, adverse social, economic, and human health impacts associated with animal diseases extend beyond producers or household animal owners.
Increased investment in educating the public about animal health will help to reduce disease and transmission; enhance public and animal health; ensure a secure, economical, and viable food supply; and improve trade and competitiveness. These educational efforts should include information about diseases of food-animals, wildlife, and companion animals.