‘One Health’ is not a stand-alone subject that can be taught as a single entity within the medical or veterinary courses, rather it is a ‘concept’ which requires the collaboration of veterinary medicine, human medicine, epidemiology, biomedicine and other sciences related to human and animal health. Although ‘one health’ is broadly about the ‘public health’; this is a broad platform which also includes socio-economics, biodiversity, environment, land use, intensive agriculture and climate change. All of these areas impart on the health and wellbeing of people and animals. One health requires a cross disciplinary approach and needs strong partnerships and collaborations between health, veterinary and scientific professionals those working in related fields.
The idea of “One Health” was first proposed in 19th century by William Osler and Rudolf Virchow and a revolution in this concept was brought about by the Dr. Calvin W. Schwabe, the father of Veterinary Epidemiology.
The one health concept is uniquely designed to address the contemporary health issues by combing the efforts of human and animal health specialists, wildlife biologists and ecologists to better understand how the interactions among people, animals and management of natural resources affect the occurrence of disease and health outcomes. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has been at the forefront in globalizing the one health concept in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Some scientists consider one medicine, comparative medicine, translational medicine, zoobiquity and evolutionary medicine to be synonymous with One Health, but one health is a wider concept and could be used as an encompassing term to all the other concepts.
The concept of ‘Health’ in ‘One Health’
Health can be defined on at least three different levels
The individual level- Animal health or Human health
The group/ population level- Public health/ Herd health
The ecosystem level- Ecosystem health
The health at the individual level is a true concept of health and well defined (not well in case of animals, e.g. mental health) and the health at other levels are more a tool for the surveillance of processes or states among aggregated individuals. Choosing the definition of health in the context of one health is a normative issue as different definitions of health covers different aspects of life. The tri-juctional human-animal-environment interaction forms the essence of one health concept.
The five ‘C’s for implementation of one health include
Consensus among stakeholders
Collaboration among professionals
Co-operation among interdisciplinary groups
Co-ordination among partner agencies
Commitment by donors, partners, organizations and government.
Continuing education delivered through a number of formats such as lectures, panel discussions, field trips and veterinary laboratories. One health is not a new discipline; it is a new way of thinking. We have to identify the core competencies and build veterinary education around there.
Educational challenges for One Health
Understanding emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases
Food safety, food hygiene and the food security (often the speed of transportation is faster than the incubation period of the disease- this can result in the covert spread of potential epidemics)
Fundamental biomedical research
The impact of genomics and epigenetics
Biodiversity- the delicate balance is disturbed due to changes in land use and habitat destruction
Laboratory animal research
Climate change and its impact on human and animal health
How to ensure that one health concept is included throughout the curriculum
Clinical education in either human medicine or veterinary medicine is science-led and evidence-based. The objective should be to ensure that one health agenda is incorporated into overall curriculum wherever opportunity arises. The perspective of analyzing any particular event must change and it should encompass all the related aspects so that it collectively and collaboratively falls within the one health spectrum. Some of the key requirements for maintaining the opportunities in education in one health include-
Co-location of veterinary and medical institutions
Development of interrelated degrees
Policy makers must understand the importance of trans and interdisciplinary research and teaching in one health
Practical consequences for research
It should be stressed that one health is not a research topic on its own, but a truly multi and inter-disciplinary approach for which a though knowledge and understanding on basic disciplines will be necessary. Further, ‘one health’ approach doesn’t mean that all possible aspects of certain disease have to be included in each and every scientific study. Such an approach will rather be complicated. A more practical approach implies that, the researchers should be well aware of situation and ‘nidus’ of the study.
Human beings can’t exist in isolation, but are a part of large living environment and are regarded to be interrelated to the inhabiting ecosystem. The one health approach continues to be a highly investigated concept. There is a need to increase research and education on zoonoses, food safety, climate and agriculture to improve the understanding of one health concept.
Rudolf Virchow has aptly said, “Between animal and human medicine, there is no dividing line, nor there should be. The object is different, but the experience constitutes the basis of all medicine.”
Ph.D. Scholars, Division of Veterinary Public Health, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly- 243122