The 4th Global Health Security Agenda High-Level Ministerial Meeting

 The One Health Approach

The One Health concept recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and of the environment. The goal of One Health is to encourage the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines - working locally, nationally, and globally - to achieve the best health for people, animals, and our environment.[i]

One Health is not a new concept. It has become more important in recent years because interactions between people, animals and the environment have taken new dimensions. The expansion of human and animal populations, the changes in climate and land use, and the global increase in international travel and trade provide greater opportunities and risks for disease spread.[ii]

Factors Changes
Human populations are growing and expanding into new geographic areas. As a result, more people live in close contact with wild and domestic animals. Close contact provides more opportunities for disease to pass between animals and people.
The earth has experienced changes in climate and land use, such as deforestation and intensive farming practices.

Disruptions in environmental conditions and habitats provide new opportunities for disease to pass to animals.                                                          

International travel and trade have increased. As a result, diseases can spread quickly across the globe.

Approximately 75% of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are Zoonotic or vector borne -diseases (affecting or passing through animals); and 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. Examples of Zoonotic diseases include rabies, Salmonella infections, Zika, Ebola, West Nile fever, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), rickettsioses, plague and many others.

Animals also share our susceptibility to some diseases and environmental hazards. Because of this, they can serve as early warning signs of potential human illness. For example, birds often die of West Nile virus before people get sick with West Nile virus fever.

Zoonotic diseases can also cause high consequence epidemics in animal as well as human populations. For example, the same Ebola viruses that caused the 2014-15 epidemic in West Africa have been affecting non-human primates since the late 1990s and continue to do so. Repeated outbreaks among apes have caused major population declines in chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas with up to one third of the world’s chimpanzee and gorilla populations estimated to have been decimated by Ebola in the last 40 years.[i]

A central tenet of One Health is that diseases evolve, are modulated and appear in a highly dynamic environment where a multitude of human (social, cultural, political, technological) and non-human (biological, geographical and environmental) factors intersect and interact. The type, intensity, and course of these interactions eventually determine the emergence and magnitude of outbreaks and their effects. For example, influenza viruses in pigs or birds can occasionally infect people, and human influenza viruses can infect swine. In contrast, it has become increasingly clear that Ebola viruses equally affect human and non-human primates while bats or other as yet unidentified species can act as reservoirs.

Successful public health interventions through the One Health Approach thus require the cooperation of human, animal, and environmental health communities at international, national, and state levels. For example, in 2006, the threat of a pandemic due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza A H5N1 virus led to federal interagency and global coordination of prevention and response activities. In 2012, in the United States, several cases of variant influenza were detected in people, the majority of whom had contact with pigs at exhibitions. In 2016, large die-offs of wild and domestic birds due to H5N8 along the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda were investigated and diagnosed locally thanks to international cooperation including the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. In the US, the CDC and the Department of Agriculture collaborate on a number of well-established and important Zoonotic disease surveillance programs including bovine spongiform encephalopathy, trichinellosis, enteric Zoonosis, brucellosis, bovine tuberculosis, and influenza.ii

In sum, One Health and the Global Health Security Agenda must go hand in hand because global health security can only be achieved if all factors contributing to health and disease spread are addressed.  

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[1] Le Gouar PJ, Vallet D, David L, et al. How Ebola Impacts Genetics of Western Lowland Gorilla Populations. PLoS One. 2009; 4(12): e8375. PMCID: PMC2791222

 [i] Le Gouar PJ, Vallet D, David L, et al. How Ebola Impacts Genetics of Western Lowland Gorilla Populations. PLoS One. 2009; 4(12): e8375. PMCID: PMC2791222






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