Improving Public Health Through the One Health Initiative

Dylan Simon

The One Health Initiative, which is supported by scientific, health and environmentally related disciplines, represents the future of infectious disease treatment and prevention. As advocates for science and medical innovation, we must recognize the enormous potential that One Health holds and encourage multi-disciplinary thinking and collaboration across the full spectrum of stakeholders to improve public health and security.

Many zoonotic diseases -- diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans -- have had profound effects on public health. Ongoing scientific research on a West Nile Virus vaccine, increased understanding of chronic Lyme disease and therapeutic treatments for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), seeks to limit the spread of these infections and develop novel ways to combat disease.

Scientific research on zoonotic diseases is part of a larger concept known as One Health: a movement to motivate cooperative and inclusive collaborations between physicians, dentists, nurses, veterinarians, and pharmacists, for a more complete and multi-disciplinary understanding of health. Together, they develop the right diagnostics, infrastructure, education, and treatments, to be used throughout the environmental landscape and across all involved species.

The recent Zika virus outbreak, the Ebola outbreak, previous outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Asia, and H1N1 pandemic influenza outbreaks demonstrate the growing need to take a deeper look into these diseases and identify the best ways to control their spread.

An example of One Health in action is the control of rabies in Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador in the 1990s. Each country implemented mass vaccinations of canines, increased surveillance of rabies across human health and veterinary sectors, and increased education and awareness about the importance of these campaigns. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), animal welfare organizations and public-private partnerships supported this intervention, and its overall effort was amplified. The collaboration between diverse groups of stakeholders with a common goal led to a dramatic decrease of rabies cases. For example, Ecuador experienced a 90% decrease in human rabies cases between 1993 and 2000 and did not have a reported case of canine-caused human rabies from 2002 to 2013.

To support and engage in this conversation, take part in One Health Day, a worldwide action initiative supported by the CDC, on November 3. Events are taking place internationally and on social media with the hashtag #OneHealthDay. More information available here.

Make sure to join us on November 21 for Public Health Thank You Day, celebrating all those involved in protecting our health and well-being. Join us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #PHTYD to show appreciation for those who play such a critical role in keeping our country and the global community healthy.

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