Reunion panel discusses value of ‘One Health’ approach

“One Health” is a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach that aims to achieve optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnectedness between people, animals, plants and their common environment.

In short, it’s the idea that we’re all in this together.

“One Health is a way to remind us all of our place in the whole,” said Cornell Provost Michael Kotlikoff in an introductory video for a panel discussion on the One Health philosophy at Cornell.

The virtual panel, “One Health: Cornell’s Collaborative Approach to Ensuring Human, Animal and Ecosystem Health in the Time of COVID-19,” took place June 6 as part of Cornell’s Reunion weekend.

Lorin Warnick, doctorate ’94, the Austin O. Hooey, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about recent CVM milestones related to One Health, including the opening of the Cornell Wildlife Health Center and establishing the Master’s Program in Public Health (MPH).

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the great need for an interdisciplinary approach,” Warnick said, “that is offered by the public health profession and also the value of a One Health perspective.”

Wildlife and conservation experts such as Steve Osofsky, DVM ’89, Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health and Health Policy and Director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Center, have long known that the way humans interact with the natural world has dramatically increased the risk of a pandemic.

“First we eat or trade the body parts of wild animals,” he said. “Secondly, we capture and mix wild species to release them in markets. And third, we are destroying what is left of the wilderness at a dizzying rate.

The effects of these behaviors can now be seen in the COVID-19 pandemic, as the disease most likely arose from human contact with bats or other wildlife, he said. . “It’s time that markets selling wildlife, especially bats, primates and rodents, were totally unacceptable to humanity,” Osofsky said.

Two-thirds of all emerging human infectious diseases in the past 35 years have originated in animals, which has negatively portrayed disease-carrying animals in the press, said Alex Travis, director of the master’s program in public health and professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health at CVM.

“But it’s really important to understand that nature and animals can also protect us,” he said. For example, in areas where medium-sized carnivores live, rodents carrying ticks that spread Lyme disease behave more cautiously, reducing the spread of ticks to humans.

Indeed, how people communicate about One Health could have unintended negative consequences, said Catherine McComas, Ph.D. ’00, Vice Provost for Pledge and Land Grant Affairs and Professor of Communication at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“I wondered if the One Health messages, if not placed in a broader context of [contributing] human factors…could amplify a tendency to blame wildlife,” she said, noting that people blame mice for the spread of Lyme disease, and bats and pangolins for the coronavirus, which that distracts people from long-term policy solutions.

McComas’ research has shown that the villanization of bats can be countered through communication campaigns that reveal their agricultural advantages (insect eaters) and build compassion by educating about the white nose syndrome that has decimated bat populations. bats. This could lead to increased support for conservation, while examining all drivers of disease.

Gen Meredith, associate director of the master’s program in public health and lecturer in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, said working closely with communities to identify their needs and collaborate on solutions was one of the best ways to overcome barriers to health.

She highlighted student projects that collaborate with community partners and use a whole systems approach. For example, Cornell students helped create and improve a fruit and vegetable subscription program that works with local farmers to make fresh produce available to low-income people with diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

In three years, the program has grown to 150 subscribers and includes cooking classes, recipes and a delivery service. “It’s a great One Health project,” she said.

By supporting relevant interdisciplinary research, influencing change towards environmentally and socially beneficial business practices, and inventing new technologies and sustainable goods, Cornell has used a One Health approach to have real impacts to solve health problems. complex health issues facing the world, said Lodge David, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

“Together, with partners inside and outside of Cornell, we are influencing public opinion, improving practices, helping to deliver more sustainable and healthier products, and guiding public policies that will make the planet a better place. best place for our children and grandchildren,” Lodge said.

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