Resources & background reader

Moritz Fegert foraus • 19 January 2022

Disclaimer: this page does not claim exhaustivity -> rather see it as a pinpointer for further digging into the topic. 


-- What is “One Health” ? --

The most recent definition of “One Health” has been elaborated by the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) as “an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent. The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development.”


-- Origins -- 

Preceding approaches to “One Health” (in modern medicine) date back to the 19th century with renowned physicians such as Rudolf Virchow and William Osler linking human and veterinary medicine. Later on, public health veterinarians institutionalised this linkage into public health policy in the United States in the 1940s (notably through the foundation of the Veterinary Public Health division at the Communicable Diseases Center (CDC) in the USA in 1947). Yet, it was in the 1970s that the term “One Medicine” and the fight against zoonotic diseases (diseases that spread between animals and people) through common efforts by human and veterinary public health professionals gained further momentum. Finally, the approach has been complemented by an ecosystem health perspective bringing environmental factors into the equation as they appeared to be closely linked to animal and human health outcomes.

More concretely, “One Health” as a concept first appeared in 2004, when a coalition of global health experts laid its foundations with the so-called “Manhattan principles”, setting the agenda for 15 years of advocacy by several academic and non-profit organizations. The “Manhattan principles” are 12 recommendations calling for more collaboration between actors working on human, animal and environmental health respectively. The end-goal being more effective and forward-looking prevention and combat of epidemic/epizootic diseases and the maintenance of ecosystem integrity. Over the course of the past years, these principles were updated to include additional considerations on pathogen spillover, climate change and antimicrobial resistance (called the “Berlin principles”).


-- International collaboration -- 

At the multilateral level, “One Health” has essentially been introduced via soft norms and non-binding commitments or multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms between international organisations. An early focus of multilateral “One Health” implementation can be found within the fight against highly pathogenic avian influenza. In 2007, the International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in New Delhi recommended the development of a medium-term strategy addressing emerging infectious diseases. Later on, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) formally laid down their collaboration through the FAO/OIE/WHO Tripartite Concept Note in 2010. Finally, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, “One Health” gained additional momentum which was translated by the creation of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) in 2020 with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) joining the multilateral alliance. 


-- Interesting readings --