AIMS 21 September 2017 | Q&A
‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combatting antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).
Why do we need a One Health approach?
Many of the same microbes infect animals and humans, as they share the eco-systems they live in. Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent or eliminate the problem. For instance, rabies in humans is effectively prevented only by targeting the animal source of the virus (for example, by vaccinating dogs).
Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.
Who makes the One Health approach work?
Many professionals with a range of expertise who are active in different sectors, such as public health, animal health, plant health and the environment, should join forces to support One Health approaches.
To effectively detect, respond to, and prevent outbreaks of zoonoses and food safety problems, epidemiological data and laboratory information should be shared across sectors. Government officials, researchers and workers across sectors at the local, national, regional and global levels should implement joint responses to health threats.
WHO works closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to promote multi-sectoral responses to food safety hazards, risks from zoonoses, and other public health threats at the human-animal-ecosystem interface and provide guidance on how to reduce these risks.