One Health: how we are all interconnected
Remember those kindergarten skills we learned about how working together led to improved outcomes for all? While sometimes it feels society does not encourage these ideals, these fundamental skills are vitally crucial in world health, which inherently mandates a collaborative approach. Health is currently at the forefront of many of our minds. As such, we must discuss effective approaches to health at both an individual and group level and how we can best all come together to solve health needs collectively. Enter the useful concept of “One Health.” January is both the start of a new year with resolutions, new ideas, and ambitions, as well as One Health Awareness month. It is apropos to celebrate this term and start thinking about how to incorporate this approach into all of our lives, both locally and globally.
What is One Health?
“One Health” is the adopted term to represent the effort amongst health professionals to address health from a united front. The idea of the interconnectedness of the health of the living world has long been noted. “One Medicine” was used in the 20th century to describe these connections, with the current term “One Health” becoming adopted in the early 2000s.
At its most basic level, One Health refers to a triad (see below) of health: that of environmental health, animal health, and human health. It involves appreciating what we might learn from other professions and how all health is integrally interconnected.
Fun fact: The author created the logo for the International Student One Health Alliance while in veterinary school.
For example, humans and other animals suffer from many of the same diseases. Veterinarian and physician collaboration on disease study has led to countless advances in both human and veterinary health and medicine. Certainly, an understanding of One Health has proven integral in creating effective strategies to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. Environmental health is intimately linked in every regard to human and animal health, from clean and accessible water to natural disasters to agricultural system impact. Truly, enacting effective change to a health problem mandates the close communication and combined efforts of professionals in environmental sciences and veterinary and human medicine.
Ponder some examples that are close to home:
1. Understanding the importance of dental health. 1) Encouraging a child to brush their teeth might be made easier if they brush their teeth while their dog gets their teeth brushed. Conversely, asking an older child to take an active part in the responsibility of their dog’s teeth brushing can help improve compliance and teach responsibility. 2) Understanding dental pain when we suffer from it can help us understand our pet’s dental pain and empower us to reach out to a veterinarian.
2. Lyme disease. 1) Environmental changes have changed tick habitat and prevalence. 2) It affects humans as well as other mammals and can therefore be studied across multiple species.
Thinking larger, outside of the traditional triad, One Health asks that people from all professional backgrounds be considered essential contributors to collective world health. Consider type II diabetes prevention. Outside of traditional health professionals, this requires effective marketing personnel to distribute educational resources, graphic designers and other artists to create these, social scientists to ensure marketing materials are most effective at reaching at-risk populations, economists to assist with financing these campaigns, and the list goes on. Truly, One Health alters the approach to most effectively tackle inherently complex and multidimensional aspects that make up health.
I urge you all to remember the fulfillment brought to work beside peers in kindergarten, and the more complete and creative product subsequently designed. If and when we apply this to health via One Health, we reach a more holistic and comprehensive picture of global health that truly benefits all.
Want to learn more or become involved?
One Health Commission has a plethora of One Health resources.
One Health Lessons was created by veterinarian and educator Dr. Deborah Thomson to bring One Health education to children and classrooms worldwide.
Zoobiquity is a book turned into conferences and further collaborative efforts based upon the connectedness of human and animal health and medicine.
The author is hoping to plan a local One Health event. Please contact her directly if interested in learning more: firstname.lastname@example.org