One Health Approach: a step forward to the Global Health Dream

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Maria Pantermaraki, a third-year medical student studying in Medical School of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. 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.


One Health, according to the CDC, is an approach that recognizes the close linkage between people’s and animals’ health and our shared environment. Thus, it deals with mutters such as zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, environmental health threats, even chronic noncommunicable disease and mental health(10). Local, national and global experts from public health, forestry, veterinary and other related sectors cooperate to attain optimal health for all(3)(11).

Interestingly, it was Hippocrates that initially identified the interdependence of public health and clean environment. However, Virchow made the earliest reference to the term “zoonosis” in the 19th century while the first One Health Summit was held in Switzerland in 2012(12).

Nowadays, about 60% of all infections in humans are caused by zoonotic pathogens, many of which potentially transmit Antibiotic Resistance Genes, especially with the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and their eventual release into the food web(2). In addition to human overpopulation and expansion into new geographic areas, accounting for closer contact with animals’ habitats, the continuous movement of people (for migration or tourism), animals and their products through international travel and trade, multiplies the risk of infection. Actually, sometimes, animals might presage potential illness in people early. Lastly, the formidable changes in climate and land use, such as deforestation and intensive farming practices, disrupt natural habitats allowing diseases to pass to animals(10).

We are, after all, already experiencing the zoonotic pandemic of Sars-Cov-2 so the One Health Approach is undoubtedly of the utmost demand. But can it be a hands-on approach? 

During 2014-2016, the CDC conducted One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Tool workshops. Six countries planned follow-up activities(5). Moreover, some governments, like the Government of India, have already implemented One Health initiatives(3). Many have been the studies predicting pandemics of emerging bacteria and viruses (even before COVID-19) and suggesting controlling, among others, SARS-Cov-2, zoonotic tuberculosis, rabies, influenza viruses pandemics, using One Health Approach of biosurveillance of markets and practical implementation of legislation(6)(7)(10)

The global health agenda sets out a vision for the future of health by assessing the current context, challenges and opportunities in the global health landscape and the role of WHO within that spectrum(1). Amongst others, tackling determinants of health and capacity-building endeavours are fundamental priorities and the One Health Approach seems to have already proven its ability to meet those goals. 

Despite its significant practical benefits, barriers such as education, research, surveillance and funding for human and veterinary health, hinder the achievement of a comprehensive One Health approach. Clearly, the future of One Health lies in our hands. Urgently, Healthcare workers and Medical students worldwide, especially, are capable and ought to more clearly define its boundaries, demonstrate its benefits, inform about its importance and declare a wider application of the approach into Medical Practice(4)(8)(9). 

Communication, Coordination, Collaboration: these are the characteristics establishing the foundation of One Health Approach, according to the CDC. In a world determined to enhance its future, while struggling with spontaneous, simultaneous obstacles, these three virtues can and, hopefully, will maintain an open way to health, prosperity and progress.

References

  • Ong A., Kindhauser M.Global health agenda for the twenty-first century. Oxford University                                         Press. Mar 2011        
  • Dafale NA, Srivastava S., Purohit HJ. Zoonosis:an emerging link to antibiotic resistance under “One health approach”. Indian journal of microbiology. 2020
  • Aggarwal D., Ramachandran A. One health approach to address zoonotic diseases. Indian      Journal of Community Medicine Official Publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social     Medicine. 2020                                                                                                             
  • Atlas RM. One Health: Its Origins and Future. 2012; 25 Apr

About the author

Maria Pantermaraki is a third-year medical student studying in Medical School of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She has been elected a Local Officer on Public Health for the term 2020-2021. She is particularly interested in Immunization and its opportunities and has written an article about its history. She advocates in favor of public health equity and believes that the present and the future of effective application of Medicine lies on the grounds of One Health Approach and Holistic Medicine.

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