A One Health approach can benefit humans, animals and the environment

What is the One Health approach?

The One Health approach recognizes that the health of the population depends on the interactions between animal and human diseases. In a globalized world, humans and animals interact with more frequency and intimacy. This interaction provides the possibility for the emergence and spread of pathogens (chemicals, pathogens, etc.) that could negatively impact animal health, human health, or both. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to answer these questions.

The influenza virus has existed for thousands of years as a harmless virus in the gut of wild waterfowl, but has recently become a killer of poultry and a pandemic candidate.

I am a veterinarian who has worked for over 30 years on animal diseases. Our institute is the national reference laboratory for around forty animal diseases, some of which have zoonotic potential. I spent a large part of my career on avian flu, in particular, the famous H5N1, a virus of “our own outbreak”. The influenza virus has existed for thousands of years as a harmless virus in the gut of wild waterfowl, but has recently become a killer of poultry and a pandemic candidate.

It is reported that 61% of known pathogens can infect multiple animal species and 75% of all diseases that have emerged over the past two decades are of wild origin. Newly emerging and re-emerging infections are now recognized as a global problem, and 75% of them are potentially zoonotic.

Emerging infectious disease events are not just about pathogens jumping species barriers. They are made up of complex relationships that involve socio-economic and socio-political drivers and their consequences go beyond the impact of the disease itself.

One of the most significant changes in our society has been the “livestock revolution”, whereby the stock of food animals, their productivity and trade grew rapidly to feed the expanding human population. fast and urbanized. This has led professionals involved in both animal and public health to recognize ‘veterinary public health’ (VPH) as a key area for their activities regarding the human-animal interface.

Advancing Veterinary Public Health

Most veterinarians contribute, directly or indirectly, to public health goals and outcomes. The One Health approach recognizes that population health depends on the biological interactions between animal and human diseases in a social and ecological environment.

Humans and animals interact at high frequency in a globalized world. Emerging zoonoses are just one consequence of intensive livestock systems, along with consumption and resistance to antimicrobials; disruption of nutrient cycles; and greenhouse gas emissions.

To combat these problems, a multidisciplinary approach is needed. The future “Sciensano” institute will soon bring together the Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP) and the Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Center (CODA-CERVA) in Belgium. The two institutes will join forces to better understand human and animal health through scientific research aimed at improving the well-being of all.

A transdisciplinary approach

These networks should not be limited to scientific experts, but also be open to policy experts, local knowledge, practitioners, citizens and all relevant stakeholders.

EcoHealth examines changes in biological, physical, social and economic environments and relates these changes to human health. One Health represents a call for health researchers and practitioners at human, animal and environmental interfaces to work together to mitigate the risks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

There are, however, socio-political, economic, ethical and legal challenges. The implementation of the One Health/Ecohealth concepts must therefore benefit from transdisciplinary processes between policy, science and practice. These networks should not be limited to scientific experts, but also be open to policy experts, local knowledge, practitioners, citizens and all relevant stakeholders.

This approach is challenging because traditional “silo” thinking needs to be replaced with broader perspectives on the health continuum. Likewise, we must be careful not to create large One Health/Ecohealth institutions that would lead to building fences rather than creating an opening for collaborations. This can be overcome by focusing on open and collaborative networks like communities of practice, which are less institutionally bound and more flexible and can be open to newcomers, ideas and approaches.

In addition, inter and transdisciplinary teaching should facilitate this collaborative work. Encouragingly, more and more veterinary schools now have HPV-specific educational programs. Hopefully national and international funding agencies will continue to invest in this holistic approach.

A special One Health issue

A special issue of Public Health Archives was dedicated to One Health to help us better understand the links and interactions between human, veterinary, agricultural strategies and climate change.

For this special issue, we have identified four key topics for which public and veterinary health must be considered from a global perspective: emerging infectious diseases; antimicrobial resistance; interaction of human health with agricultural systems; and the importance of wildlife.

In addition, an opinion paper summarizing the conclusions of the OneHealth/EcoHealth workshop organized in Brussels (October 2016) has also been included in this special issue. All these articles have also paid attention to the translation of the results into public (health) policies, actions and possible interventions.

Comments are closed.