One Health Initiative: People, Animals, Environment

June 25, 2013
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The One Health Initiative is a movement towards collaboration of physicians, veterinarians and environmentally related disciplines.  Numerous medical and veterinary organizations have joined this movement, as have hundreds of individual physicians and veterinarians.Image

The mission statement is as follows:

The One Health Initiative is a movement towards collaboration of physicians, veterinarians and environmentally related disciplines.  Numerous medical and veterinary organizations have joined this movement, as have hundreds of individual physicians and veterinarians.Image

The mission statement is as follows:

“Recognizing that human health (including mental health via the human-animal bond phenomenon), animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, One Health seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, other scientific health and environmental professionals and by promoting strengths in leadership and management to achieve these goals.”  

How to achieve this?

  • Joint educational efforts between human medical and veterinary medical schools
  • Joint communication efforts in journals and at conferences.
  • Joint efforts in clinical care and assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cross-species diseases.
  • Joint cross-species disease surveillance
  • Joint  efforts at understanding cross-species disease transmission.
  • Joint efforts in development and evaluation of new vaccines and treatments for prevention and control of cross-species diseases.
  • Joint efforts to inform and educate the public

Human health and animal health are inextricably linked.  Cross-species diseases are all too common and by studying how these diseases develop in animals for example can teach both veterinarians and physicians a lot about how they progress in humans.  By no means do we mean in laboratory animals here; the One Health movement is interested in studying and treating diseases in livestock or household pets.

The OneHealth for Clinicians paper explains the benefits of using a One Health Approach when taking care of a human/animal community.  Animals can pose a risk of infectious disease.  Examining, diagnosing and treating pets for infectious disease can reduce the risk of transmission to humans.  They also frequently cause allergies.  Consultation with a veterinarian may help find solutions to the allergy problem that does not include getting rid of the pet.  People develop deep bonds with their pets which can have great therapeutic value.  People may change their behavior for the better for the sake of the pet. Animals can also act as sentinels for disease providing an early warning of environmental risk.

Many schools and organizations have adopted a One Health approach.  The Yale Human-Animal Medicine Project explores the clinical connections between human and animal medicine and is doing research in such areas as The Occupational Health of Animal Workers, The Canary Database (the use of animals as sentinels for human health hazards), and participation in  the  USAID Predict Project of building and early warning system for emerging zoonotic diseases.

An excellent book that talks about connections between animals and humans has received the Best Book of the Year award from Discover magazine is Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, MD and Kathryn Bowers.  Atul Gawande, MD, says of the book,

Zoobiquity is full of fascinating stories of intersection between human and nonhuman medicine—fish that faint; dinosaur cancers; human treatments that cure dogs of melanoma; lessons from adolescent elephant behavior that explain human teenagers. I was beguiled.”

 The book is really excellent and a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the human/animal connection.  

From the Zoobiquity website:

Zoobiquity presents comparative medicine as a new translational science, bringing knowledge from veterinary and evolutionary medicine to the human bedside. It considers the evolutionary origins and comparative biology of human medical concerns with chapters on the animal origins of sudden cardiac death, addiction, OCD, erectile dysfunction, STDs, and many other common human concerns.”

As an example of animal/human disease comparison, watch this video on “Do Animals Get Breast Cancer?”

 

image: child/shutterstock 

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