One Health – From Human to Animal to Environmental Health – It’s All Connected!

“One Health” is a term that seems to be cropping up frequently in veterinary literature and social media these days – but what exactly is it? The American Veterinary Medical Society (AVMA) on their website defines it as:

“One Health is the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment. Together, the three make up the One Health triad, and the health of each is inextricably connected to the others in the triad. Understanding and addressing the health issues created at this intersection is the foundation for the concept of One Health.”

Veterinarians play a crucial role in the concept of One Health because they are uniquely positioned to interact with all three areas.  In other words they are the only profession that routinely deals with and addresses issues that potentially affect all of the various components.  Traditionally, veterinarians have always played a key role in the prevention and management of diseases with zoonotic (spread between humans and animals) potential such as rabies and many other viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases as well as playing a crucial role in maintaining the safety of our food supply – but the One Health initiative takes it even further. It is not actually a new concept.  Throughout history there have been many who have recognized the importance of the interplay and connections between human, animal and environmental health (including Hippocrates in his book “On Airs, Waters and Places” to Louis Pasteur and many others) but there are several factors which make it particularly relevant today.  The AVMA website (www.avma.org) lists some of these as:

  • The world’s total population exceeded 7 billion people in 2011, and it continues to climb.
  • As our population expands geographically, the contact between human and wild animal habitats increases, introducing the risk of exposure to new viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens.
  • Advancing technologies and science-based evidence is increasing the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the interdependency of the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
  • The human-animal bond continues to grow throughout societies.
  • It is estimated that at least 75% of emerging and re-emerging diseases are either zoonotic (spread between humans and animals) or vector-borne (carried from infected animals to others through insects).
  • Vigilant protection of our food and feed supplies from food-borne diseases, contamination, and acts of terrorism is critical for human and animal health.
  • Contamination by personal care products and pharmaceuticals has been detected in our waters.

For more information and further resources on the One Health initiative please click the following link to the AVMA website.


Another interesting article that explores this concept further can be found in the Canadian Veterinary Journal (Feb 2011) and is titled, Zooeyia: An essential component of “One Health”.  It is interesting because it introduces the term “Zooeyia” which it coined from the Greek root words for animal (zoion) and health (Hygeia was the ancient Greek goddess of health, the same source as “hygiene”). Zooeyia is the positive inverse of zoonosis (from the same “zoion” and “nosos,” or disease).  It also focuses on the increasingly recognized human health benefits of interacting with pets and the importance of the human animal bond to many peoples well-being.  The article can be found at the following link.


So, remember the terms “One Health” and “Zooeyia” you are likely to be hearing more and more about them in the future!

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