United in One Health

Olivier Loose
7 min readJul 26, 2020
United in One Health (featured image).
(Source images: pixabay and adapted from mndh)

The concept of One Health ultimately sets its agenda on transcending the apparent borders between mankind, the animal kingdom, and the ecosystem to implement a cross-sectoral approach to prevent and manage health risks.

Taken each pillar individually, cooperation is not uncommon. For instance, trees share resources and send warning signals with the help of belowground fungal networks; meerkats collaborate by way of an elaborate vocal communication system to give their companions a heads up about lurking predators; and even people are able to lend their fellow human beings a hand, as demonstrated by the Living Cities collaborative.

But what we, humans, do not excel in is living sustainably with both our natural environment and our animal peers. For one, climate change is a telling example. The invention of the automated slaughter line for the processing of chicken meat is another expressive illustration.

And it should be self-evident by now that our interconnected nature is not a trivial fact: The SARS-CoV-2 virus is the latest powerful reminder of how fragile and important the relationship between ecosystem, animals, and humans actually is.

What I wish to do in this article is laying bare how the three components of One Health — animal, human, and environment — impact one another based on the discussion of the case study of Japanese encephalitis.

Multidisciplinary Kitchen

Concretely, putting an all-encompassing philosophy of health into practice means finding ways for veterinarians, physicians, environmental and wildlife health practitioners, and social scientists and health workers to collaborate and align their professional compasses.

Other than human collaboration, it also means tackling global health issues by coalescing working methodologies and insights from the three One Health subdivisions into one integrated approach.

Why such a concerted undertaking across a plethora of work fields can prove useful is best epitomized by the words of veterinarian Adam Little: “Compartmentalization of knowledge inhibits progress. In essence, this means that only by collaborative efforts can we properly analyze and address the complex, multi-faceted health problems that society faces today”.

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Olivier Loose

Science writer at A Circle Is Round (https://acircleisround.com) • Writing preparation courses and exercise packages in the field of the physical sciences •