The One Health Jigsaw

Dominic Mellor, Director EPIC

Prof. Dominic Mellor will be speaking at the IBMS Congress on the 24th of September. Ahead of his talk, he has written this blog, originally shared on the IBMS Congress website.

More and more people are talking about 'One Health'. Important international and national organisations make declarations about One Health and write strategies that depend on this approach... yet we keep having to explain what this means.

Put simply, One Health is about recognising that many health issues don't respect the 'boundaries' between humans, animals and their shared environment. Therefore, many of these issues may be more effectively addressed by conjoint working between a range of professions spanning humans, animals and their shared environment, than by working within 'traditional' disciplines or 'well-established specialisms'.

One Health can be thought of as being a bit like a jigsaw, with the different 'pieces' being what might be considered 'traditional' disciplines, such as, for example, human medicine, environmental microbiology, veterinary medicine and so on.

People working within these 'pieces' become increasingly specialised as technology advances and knowledge grows; their focus tends to be narrower... and this is important to realise all the benefits that can arise from the advances in technology and knowledge. Nevertheless, for One Health to realise its promise, it's necessary that the 'pieces' of the jigsaw fit together, and that none are missing.

In developed countries, One Health is arguably best developed as a concept in research. Most obviously, this is exemplified by research that investigates zoonoses (infections that are transmissible between people and animals), and the sets of conditions under which they are more or less common. But One Health research extends well beyond infectious diseases into things like the benefits of pet ownership on physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Outside of research however, it's less easy to find good and sustained examples of One Health in practice.

In my talk at Congress, I'll be speaking about One Health at the operational level, and what it needs from our profession, as well as the benefits of the different approaches we can take.

Views expressed are those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of the EPIC project or funders.

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