When the word health is used, a variety of adjectives come to mind. Animal, human, mental, physical, emotional, and financial are a few at the top of my list. (I will admit the financial health is definitely lacking.) Most people in the veterinary and medical community have heard about “one health.” The One Health Initiative is a movement to forge collaboration between disciplines, and the mission statement reads: One Health (formerly called One Medicine) is dedicated to improving the lives of all species—human and animal—through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental science.
When people hear “one health,” they immediately think zoonoses, in which infection and disease spread from one species (animal) to another (human). This is a critical component of one health, considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others, state that 70% of emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. However, there is a lot more to the concept of one health.
As you know by now (if you are keeping up on my blogs), I am at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on a 10-week externship. The FAO spends every day working with one health. Most of the work I have been doing has been focusing on how an animal disease will affect people and animals if introduced to a developing country. Although the disease doesn’t infect people per se, it still can be devastating.
First, producers will lose animals, which affects both their emotional and mental health, as we can all imagine. They will also lose money, because they cannot sell their product. Those are the most obvious results of a disease, but there is a lot more to the equation. Often, producers feed their community, and the inability to provide a source of protein takes a toll on the town or village — nutrition suffers. If the disease outbreak is substantial, people might have to look to another town or village for resources, which can lead to further disease spread. This snowball effect can lead to import and export trade implications.
Experts from many disciplines have a role to play in one health. This is just another aspect of trying to find the best equilibrium between healthy people, healthy animals, and a healthy planet.