Since the beginning of human existence on earth, we have often shared our resources with animals, including our home and our food. But with the development of this relationship, we have also come to share something else: diseases. Today, the goal is to break down the existing barrier between human and animal health. Thus, we can ensure that knowledge and practice in one area can help accelerate progress in the other, and vice versa. This is what is called “One Health”.
The term “One Health”, which lacks an accepted Swedish translation, was first introduced in the early 2000s. It came from a recognition of the fact that public health, animal health and the environment are interdependent. It is also due to the close link to the ecosystems in which they coexist.
International support for the “One Health” framework
International organizations involved in health issues – such as the World Health Organization (WHO), FAO and the OIE – World Organization for Animal Health – support and apply this “One Health” strategy in their work.
These organizations see it as a global, cooperative method of understanding the risks that public health faces at an international level.
To do this, they use intergovernmental rules and advice that they publish as well as the global health data that they collect. They also work with their network of international experts. Such experts include veterinarians, doctors, biologists, chemists and environmental scientists.
These three organizations also publish a joint statement that clearly defines their mutual responsibilities and goals. Similarly, they also choose specific diseases they want to deal with (such as rabies, which causes more than 70,000 deaths per year) or challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance.
Examples of measures implemented within the framework of “One Health”
- Firstly, “One Health” highlights the international health regulations established by the WHO. This is an agreement in which WHO member countries work to prevent and respond to serious public health risks that threaten to cross borders.
- Second is the Codex Alimentarius Mundi (Latin for the “Book on Food”), developed by the FAO and WHO, with rules on food that serve as an example of food safety and consumer protection.
“One Health”: the importance of international communication on health risks
Today, new technology means that countries can share information quickly and efficiently. As a result, different regions of the world can be kept informed about health issues through a number of different communication systems. These include:
- The international INFOSAN network, managed by the FAO and WHO. This network enables the exchange of information on food safety.
- WAHIS, OIE’s animal health information portal.
- The TRACES network, which is part of the European Commission’s online system for managing animal health information.
However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to building a network that connects all countries around the world. This network should provide reliable and easily accessible information that enables effective management of international health risks.
A vision for the future
The term “One Health” is a call to look after the health of all beings, not just humans.
In addition, it recognizes that humans are a small part of an interconnected system and participate in a complex ecological balance. It also recognizes that human health is a reflection of animal health and, in turn, the health of the planet.
The best way to deal with this situation is to ensure that human health care and veterinary health services are based on best available techniques and practices. It is also important to ensure that the incentives are concrete. By doing so, experts hope that we will have enough resources to deal with the situation when the next serious threat to public health arises.
The latest initiatives sponsored by the “One Health” framework include:
- A new action plan “One Health” against antimicrobial resistance in the EU.
- The concept “One Welfare”. An initiative that emphasizes that animal welfare is directly related to human and environmental well-being.