One Health is a contemporary term describing the collaboration of various scientific disciplines in the pursuit of better health for all: humans, animals, and the ecosystems they are weaved into.
About One Health
One Health is a contemporary term describing the collaboration of various scientific disciplines in the pursuit of better health for all: humans, animals, and ecosystems. It is an emerging area of professional practice arising from the recognition of the growing interconnections and overlap—economic, cultural, and physical—of these constituencies. One Health understands that humans do not exist in isolation, but are part of the larger, total living ecosystem, and that the activities and conditions of each member affect the others.
Although One Health is becoming an increasingly prominent field of study, its roots go back at least two centuries. In the 19th century, Rudolf Virchow, a German physician and pathologist, formally recognized the connection between human and animal health, stating, "Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line, nor should there be. The object is different, but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine." This idea set the stage for subsequent collaborations between human and animal health care practitioners who noted the impact that collective diseases and ecological change have on public health. Of particular note is the early 20th century Canadian physician William Osler. After studying briefly with Virchow, he worked closely with veterinarians and became a practitioner of this collaborative-medicine concept. But it wasn't until American Veterinarian, Calvin Schwabe, coined the term "One Medicine" in his 1984 book Veterinary Medicine and Human Health, and hence, gave a name to the movement. During the 21st century the term "One Medicine" has evolved to the contemporary "One Health" in order to better represent the interweaved health issues of humans, animals, and their ecosystems.
A healthy environment is required to sustain life, and ultimately, the health of our environment rests squarely on our shoulders. By most measures, the condition of many of our ecosystems is changing dramatically. Over time, these changes can alter the way human populations function. One Health seeks to shift the paradigm from the current "individual," or "disease centered," approach to a "system," or "community based," approach. It is a creative way to view human, animal, and ecosystem health as a cooperative endeavor between health practitioners and environmental scientists in a collaborative and synergistic effort.
Coordination of wildlife, environmental, human, and domestic health sectors improves our ability to prevent disease events rather than simply reacting to them. Prevention is always preferable to control because it actively avoids the impact of disease, and some control methods have negative social or environmental results—such as the slaughter of dogs in China to control rabies outbreaks, or Thailand's extermination of migratory waterfowl in an attempt to control avian influenza.
New fields have emerged that link human, animal, and ecological health in an attempt to understand their complex interconnections. These programs may be called Conservation Medicine, Global Geology, Ecological Geography, or Ecosystem Health, but their underlying principles are those of One Health.
In recent years, the One Health concept has steadily gained recognition within the human and animal health sciences. In July 2008, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released the report, Executive Summary of the AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force (OHITF). In collaboration with the American Medical Association (AMA), the initiative provides ground-breaking recommendations and strategic actions to support and expand the One Health concept across both veterinary and human health professions.