Embracing One Health for humans, animals and the environment

Embracing One Health for humans, animals and the environment

Photo Credit: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

The One Health concept calls for a worldwide approach to expanding interdisciplinary collaboration and communication on all aspects of health for humans, animals and the environment. This approach has tremendous implications for human health because an estimated sixty-one percent of human infectious diseases originate from animals. At the same time, there is a growing sense of urgency to advance One Health collaborations before more ground is lost in the fight for a healthy planet.

As a leader in human development, particularly global health and nutrition, FHI 360 brings deep experience and expertise to promoting the One Health approach. A significant health challenge is the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, which develops among bacterial pathogens that infect both animals and humans and can lead to the zoonotic transmission of disease, such as diarrheal illness caused by Salmonella and E. coli. The routine use of antibiotics in animal feed to prevent disease and promote growth is an important contributing factor. FHI 360 is working to prevent AMR in Nepal and Vietnam by improving the surveillance and detection of antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals and by using evidence to inform prevention interventions there.

Using a systematic design process for changing food and eating habits, FHI 360’s Alive & Thrive project is affecting policy change and implementing large-scale social and behavior change and systems strengthening in multiple countries in Southeast Asia and East and West Africa. The project focuses on promoting exclusive breastfeeding for six months and then continued breastfeeding for two or more years. Alive & Thrive activities improve dietary diversity for babies and women by promoting the consumption of locally available, affordable fruits and vegetables and discouraging the consumption of unhealthy packaged foods and bottled sugary drinks.

Water, sanitation and hygiene — known collectively as WASH — is another important One Health area in which FHI 360 has significant expertise. FHI 360 has played a leadership role integrating WASH into an array of sectors, particularly nutrition, education, HIV prevention, neonatal and child health, and health systems strengthening. FHI 360 has developed country programming and global guidance through partnerships with the U.S. Agency for International Development, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Integrated Humanitarian Assistance to Yemen project, for example, introduced new methods of waste water and solid waste disposal and rehabilitated health center sinks, toilets and bathing facilities in areas where the incidence of cholera is high.

In some parts of Africa and Asia, expanded mosquito and vector breeding and habitat ranges have resulted in increased rates of vector-borne infectious diseases, including malaria and dengue fever, as well as rises in neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), such as onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). FHI 360 works to eliminate NTDs and reduce preventable deaths through the development of sustainable treatment programs for long-term control of NTDs. These efforts are complemented by working with local partners to strengthen government technical and operational capacities and by increasing advocacy efforts in areas such as resource mobilization, systems strengthening and cross-sectoral collaboration.

Going forward, it is important to view human health programs and research studies through a One Health lens. One Health entails expanding collaboration, breaking down silos and eliminating barriers to information exchange. To help do that, the Triangle Global Health Consortium chose One Health as the theme for its 2019 annual conference. The conference provided a venue for hundreds of researchers, environmental scientists and practitioners working on human health to meet counterparts involved in animal research and food production. In 2017, The Lancet launched a new journal on Planetary Health, a closely related concept, for scholarly work that crosses multiple domains that are too often siloed. A large part of promoting One Health will be supporting these efforts and educating ourselves about the state of the science and the wide diversity of possible interactions – and outcomes — among human, animal and environmental health.

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