One Health recognizes that the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems are interconnected. It involves applying a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary, and cross-sectoral approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at the animal-human-ecosystems interface.
Regardless of which of the many definitions of One Health is used, the common theme is collaboration across sectors. Collaborating across sectors that have a direct or indirect impact on health involves thinking and working across silos to leverage resources while respecting the autonomy of the various sectors. To improve the effectiveness of the One Health approach, there is a need to establish better communication channels among existing groups and networks, especially between veterinarians and physicians.
There are many examples that show how the health of people is related to the health of animals and the environment. For instance, some diseases can be shared between animals and people. These diseases are known as zoonotic diseases. Examples include:
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.
One Health is not a new concept, but it has become more important in recent years. This is because many factors have changed interactions between people, animals, and our environment. These changes have led to the emergence and reemergence of many diseases.
As the human population continues to increase and expand across our world, the interconnection of people, animals, and our environment becomes more significant and impactful. The importance of One Health is highlighted by many factors in our world today:
- The world’s total population exceeded 7 billion people in 2011, and it continues to climb.
- As our population expands geographically, the contact between human and wild animal habitats increases, introducing the risk of exposure to new viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens.
- Advancing technologies and science-based evidence is increasing the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the interdependency of the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
- It is estimated that at least 75% of emerging and re-emerging diseases are either zoonotic (spread between humans and animals) or vector-borne (carried from infected animals to others through insects).