The One Health Framework – JSTOR Daily

While much of human society has been confined or under strict social measures since the global spread of COVID-19 in 2020, animals and the environment have continued to move relatively unscathed. However, the pandemic has caused many scientists and policy makers to rethink health care across the animal kingdom and how humans are connected to the wider world of other living organisms.

A recent article in Health and Human Rights, by Laurie Sellars, Kimberly Bernotas and Jeff Sebo, details the One Health policy framework, which states that animals, people and the environment should all have equal rights to health care. Since the three are linked, it makes sense to promote healthy systems in order to have healthy residents.

At the start of the pandemic, there was much speculation around the origins of COVID, including the zoonotic transfer of the disease from bats to humans. This conversation demonstrated how the exploitation of animals, whether for trade or habitat destruction, can lead to disease outbreaks and the spread of disease.

The One Health policy framework aims to address this, supporting health measures for plants, animals and the environment around them. Furthermore, the authors argue that by better understanding the interdependence and dependence of organisms, a better society can mitigate the current pandemic and potentially prevent future epidemics.

The right to human health was adopted in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by the United Nations in 1966, codifying “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. “.

However, many researchers have argued against the assumption that only humans have a right to health care. The authors write:[s]Species are nothing more than abstract taxonomic categories that scientists use to explain particular facts about evolution, cognition, and behavior.

For example, One Health can demonstrate how human practices such as factory farming, deforestation and the wildlife trade impact humans, animals and the environment, and thus illuminate the need for solutions to these issues. .

There are, however, limitations to the One Health framework.

Often policies focus on direct impacts on humans, such as antibiotics in meat, without looking at the big picture. While antibiotics in factory farming can have negative effects, the waste produced by farms, as well as deforestation, also have a negative impact on humans and animals. The authors write: “Unless we are willing not only to reform, but also to reduce or replace our use of animals for food and income, there is a limit to the progress we can make for human health. .

Additionally, for a One Health approach to be successful, humans should make their education a priority, argue Sellars et al: “Humans should stop punishing non-human animals for human-caused problems.[…]Before humans can help nonhumans achieve the “highest possible level of physical and mental health,” we must first help them achieve at least a minimal level of physical and mental health. »


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By: Laurie Sellars, Kimberly Bernotas and Jeff Sebo

Health and Human Rights, vol. 23, no. 2 (DECEMBER 2021), p. 35-48

The President and Fellows of Harvard College on behalf of the Harvard School of Public Health/François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

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