One Health: A beacon of hope for the future world

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Jannatul Ferdous Tonny, a fourth-year medical student of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, Bangladesh. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The concept of “One Health” outlines the idea that human health and animal health are interconnected and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they live. One health offers the opportunity to acknowledge shared interests, set common goals, and drive towards teamwork to benefit the world’s overall health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one or more new infectious diseases have emerged each year since the 1970s. The majority of these have been zoonoses. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment. 60% of pathogens that cause human diseases come from domestic animals or wildlife & 75% of emerging human pathogens are of animal origin. Recent examples of new and emerging diseases in animals and humans (Covid-19, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome, avian flu (H5N1), swine flu (H1NI), severe acute respiratory syndrome) show how quickly balance changes and how vulnerable humans, animals and crops are to disease outbreaks.

With the complexity of the diseases and their emergence & spread in a world which is becoming increasingly globalised, it is essential to find effective strategies to control them at their source to reduce their potentially devastating impact on health. This can only occur through a multi-sectoral collaboration; with well-structured and resilient health systems that prioritize prevention. Known as One health, this approach has received growing attention over the past decade among policymakers, practitioners and funders seeking more effective prevention, control and treatment responses in an increasingly populous and globalised world.

However, the problem is, significant gaps remain in the implementation of the One Health approach at subnational administrative levels; there are sustainability concerns, competing priorities and funding deficiencies.

A significant challenge in implementing the One Health approach in developing countries is weak linkage among different ministries and agencies that are responsible for human and animal health and the environment.

An inter-ministerial and multi-agency approach to policymaking, surveillance, outbreak response, prevention and control could define steps towards institutionalizing an effective One Health collaboration within the Government & the partners. The One Health approach can also contribute to food safety and food security and the other national priorities encompassed in Health, Nutrition and Population Sector, which can ultimately lead us to achieve global health agenda.

The running COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating reminder that mitigating the threat of emerging zoonotic outbreaks relies on our collective capacity to work across human health, animal health and environment sectors.

A One Health approach can achieve the best health outcomes for people, animals, and plants in a shared environment. Let’s make our future world safer for us by promoting collaboration across all sectors.

About the author

Jannatul Ferdous Tonny is a fourth-year medical student of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, Bangladesh. She is one of the members of SCORE Supervising Board of IFMSA & also working as the National Research Exchange Officer of BMSS, a NMO of IFMSA. She believes in bringing changes for the furtherance of the future world. Her passion towards medicine makes her commending for better accessibility to healthcare, preventative health, and empowering the public with accurate and reliable medical information. She has a tremendous expertise in facilitating sessions on research advocacy & learning. She is committed to a plan of changing the roots of research education.

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