One health approach for achieving global health agenda

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Maha Khan, An Asian, currently doing MBBS from Rashid Latif Medical College, affiliated with the University of Health and Science, Pakistan. 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.

From television reports, newspaper headlines to online articles and research papers, a term which we most frequently encounter along with Covid-19 and vaccination is “one health”.

What really is One Health and what is its background? One health is a collaborative, multisectorial and transdisciplinary approach to understanding the link between humans, animals and their shared environment, with aims of achieving optimum health.

As we talk about our global health agenda which simply is to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to the infections as early as possible with the purpose of lowering the probability of outbreaks, such that we have witnessed in the past decade: Bird flu, MERS, SARS, Ebola virus and now covid-19.

Restricting the threat is extremely crucial as to prevent an outbreak converting into an epidemic or worse a pandemic; with epidemics and pandemics arise issues like social, economical and psychological which take away years of development and progress. If we speak of covid it could add as many as 150 million extreme poor by 2021.1

One health seems like a promising approach in helping us achieving our global health agendas, the clear idea of including the zoonotic and environmental aspects while studying human diseases has encouraged us to study and observe the disease through different angles which has led to in-depth knowledge about many diseases. Epidemiologists, pathologists, environmental health officers come together to share their knowledge and devise a plan to subdue the disease’s effects.  75% of the new or emerging diseases and 60% of the known infectious disease are zoonotic in origin2. Think about it for a second, knowledge of different aspects of disease means better approach in preventing the spread of disease which will offer more stability to the health system. It won’t be wrong to compare one health approach with the eternal youth fountain, as proper implementation of one health could result in optimal health and longer lifespan for the mankind.

Let’s take the example of West Nile virus, a vector borne disease. Mosquitoes inject the virus into the human blood or other mammals like horses and that of birds.

Studying about the breeding grounds, the favorable climate for mosquitoes and virus spread, the migratory pattern of birds, the signs they show when infected which include: loss of coordination, tremors, lethargy, staying near the ground and fluffing; them dying a few days after being infected can help us in early detection of disease which can work as an alert system and early warning of an outbreak.

Observing the signs and symptoms of the disease in humans will encourage us to manufacture medicines dedicated to relive the symptoms and treat the patients.

With proper funding and focus, health approach can prove to be Achilles’ heel for our health system.


  1. Covid could add as many as 150 million extreme poor by 2021, press release 07-10-20, World Bank.
  2. UN and ILRI report, zoonotic disease and how to break the chain of transmission.

About the author

Maha Khan, An Asian, currently doing MBBS from Rashid Latif Medical College, affiliated with the University of Health and Science, Pakistan. She wants to be a future surgeon and try her level best to eliminate the disparity faced by the female surgeons when it comes to career opportunities for male and female surgeons.

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