Health in the Backyard

In rural Viet Nam the relationships between farmers and their animals are close, with pigs and poultry often kept in vicinity of the houses. The recent history of serious zoonotic outbreaks of novel pathogens such as SARS, H5N1 and Nipah virus has raised awareness of the health risk of such close contact with animals.

Health in the Backyard is an interactive media project using digital story telling methods to explore the attitudes and perceptions of risk of communities involved in animal husbandry. The Health in the Backyard project supports the activities of the OUCRU research project on zoonotic diseases (Vietnam Initiative on Zoonotic Infections or VIZIONS) by engaging with rural communities involved in animal farming practices, and to improve communication between stakeholders and scientists. Through this project we have partnered with Dong Thap Department for Animal Health and worked with small hold farmers, slaughterhouse workers and people involved with the rats for meat trade.

Working with Fact and Fiction Films (FFF), community members were taught how to use simple digital cameras which they took home. Each created and narrated a short photo story of situations and events that pose a risk to the health of themselves, their families and their animals.

The finished films were screened for group review sessions, allowing individuals to discuss and share concerns and good practice. The group identified key areas of interest which informed the curriculum of 2 one-day training workshops for provincial animal health officers and local farmers (about 65 participants in each workshop). Topics covered included:

  • Vaccine schedule for pigs and poultry
  • Transmission of diseases between humans and animals
  • Good practices in farming (biogas, hygiene, home produced feed etc)
  • Pig and poultry diseases
  • Environmental issues in farming


Speakers came from OUCRU; University of Agriculture and Forestry; Institute of Environment and Resources HCMC; Dong Thap Community College and the Department of Animal Health Dong Thap province.

The films and views shared through the Health in the Backyard project are informing scientists and health workers of perceptions and practices of the people they work with, which scientific research doesn’t reveal. It is also informing the writing of non-technical educational material on veterinary diseases and zoonotic health risks to be distributed as part of the Public Engagement section of VIZIONS project.