18 July 2016

HEALTH - One Health Initiative: Uniting Human and Animal Medicine

With outbreaks of diseases such as avian flu, swine flu, and Ebola, there has been increased awareness of the risks associated with zoonotic diseases. (Zoonotic diseases are any diseases that can spread from animals to humans.)
Researchers are looking into how these diseases cross species barriers, spread through populations, and are impacted by environmental factors.

New research has made it clear that effective health management requires a holistic and integrated understanding of disease development and spread.

Each of the various disciplines involved – veterinarians, physicians, molecular biologists, ecologists, environmental chemists, and others – are better able to respond to existing and emerging concerns when they collaborate with each other.

The United States Department of Agriculture has taken a “One Health” approach for some time, meaning that they view human, animal, and environmental health as connected. In a recent blog post they state that health issues must “be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.”

As a step towards this communication, cooperation, and collaboration, they have recently launched a centralized web portal page to allow everyone, from stakeholders to the public, to access up to date information on programs, policies, and current issues.

Some of the topics that the USDA believes require a One Health approach are antimicrobial resistance, avian influenza, and influenza in swine.

Each specific topic is addressed in detail on the new site, with overviews, resources, and even links to information about research funding options.

The USDA partners with US Fish and Wildlife, US Food and Drug Administration, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and tribal Nations, as well as working internally with each of its many branches.

The USDA’s One Health portal site is an important step for American integrative health management, and the concept of cross-discipline collaborative health management is gaining traction globally.

The One Health Initiative is a global initiative that also hopes to expand interdisciplinary collaboration for human, animal, and environmental health. Their website has been active since 2008, and although the One Health Initiative is separate from the USDA’s One Health portal, they also work with organizations such as the CDC and the USDA.

Other global initiatives include One Health Sweden, which works to integrate research about zoonotic infections from various disciplines, and the One Health Congress, which first met in February 2011 in Melbourne, Australia and has met every year since.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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