Why we need a One Health approach
'One Health' is the idea that human, animal and environmental wellbeing are connected.
COVID-19 is the greatest demonstration in modern history of how these three domains interact. The pandemic has fuelled calls for a One Health approach to tackling global health issues. Often these calls focus on protecting human health using ‘command and control’ approaches to prevent infections spilling over from animals to people. The context and complexity of One Health issues are frequently ignored including the interdependent social, economic and environmental benefits.
Taking a systems or ‘big picture’ view of One Health can help us better understand who the custodians of One Health are (in addition to the beneficiaries), the barriers and opportunities different stakeholders face in delivering public health outcomes, plus the potential for more sustainable economic development and environmental protection that One Health can help achieve.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus might have originated in bats, but stopping the next pandemic is more complex than trying to ban wildlife markets. We need to understand how farming and other land use encroaches on wild environments, how this can be reduced while supporting rural communities, how livelihoods are connected to different food supply chains, and what drives these demands. One Health shows us how to achieve multiple outcomes—more sustainable farming, biodiversity and conservation, food security—simultaneously.
Following the emergence of COVID-19, Nossal Institute’s One Health Unit have been contracted by the Asian Development Bank to deliver a knowledge technical assistance project, Scaling Up One Health Approaches in the Greater Mekong Subregion. We are developing cross-sectoral One Health business and economic case studies to help advocate more effectively for One Health investments. We are continuing our work improving livelihood security of small-scale livestock farmers in South and Southeast Asia; researching how to adapt human health service delivery approaches to the animal health sector to improve One Health outcomes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; and developing One Health Economics educational resources.
Our work ensures multiple stakeholders’ stewardship of health and wellbeing is acknowledged. As well as helping reduce the likelihood and impact of future pandemics, One Health’s cross-sectoral benefits are more effectively realised.