The "One Health Framework": Looking to the Future

11 September, 2020
Although it has been two decades since this concept first came about, it continues to gain new followers today. To make sure you have all the facts, we'll tell you all about it in this article.

Since the beginning of human life on earth, we’ve often shared our resources with animals, including space and food. However, with the evolution of this relationship has also come the sharing of something else: disease. Today, the aim is to breakdown the existing barrier between human and animal health. Thus, we can ensure that knowledge and practices in one field can help to accelerate progress in the other, and vice versa. This is what’s known as the “One Health” framework.

The concept of “One Health”, which is also known as “Single Medicine”, was first introduced back in the early 2000s. It was developed in recognition of the fact that public health, animal health, and the environment are interdependent. It’s also due to the close link to to the ecosystems in which they coexist.

International support of the “One Health” framework

International organizations involved in health issues – such as the World Health Organization (WHO), FAO, and the OIE-World Organization for Animal Health – support and apply this “One Health” approach in their work.

These organizations see it as a global collaborative approach to understanding the risks faced by international health. 

To do this, they make use of the intergovernmental regulations they publish, and the global health data they collect, as well as their network of international experts. Such experts include veterinarians, physicians, biologists, pharmacists, and environmental scientists.

A puppy getting a check-up at the vet.

These three organizations also publish a common statement that clearly defines their reciprocal responsibilities and objectives. Similarly, they also choose specific diseases they wish to tackle (such as rabies, which causes more than 70,000 human deaths per year), or challenges such as antimicrobial resistance.

Examples of actions carried out within the “One Health” framework

Firstly, the “One Health” framework highlights the international health regulations set out by the WHO. This is an agreement in which WHO member countries work to prevent and respond to serious public health risks that threaten to cross borders.

Secondly, the Codex Alimentarius Mundi, which was prepared by the FAO and the WHO, is a food code which acts as an example for food safety and consumer protection.

The BARF diet.

“One Health”: the importance of international health risk communication

Today, new technologies mean that nations can share information quickly and efficiently. As a result, different world regions are kept informed on health matters via a number of different communication systems. These include:

  • The international INFOSAN network, managed by the FAO and the WHO. This network allows the exchange of food safety information. 
  • WAHIS, the OIE animal health information portal.
  • The TRACES network, which is part of the European Commission’s online system to manage information on animal health.
A dog looking at a laptop.

However, there’s still a long way to go in terms of building a network that connects all countries around the world. This network should provide reliable and understandable information that allows the effective management of international health risks.

Looking to the future

The concept of “One Health” is a call for the health of all creatures, not just human beings.

What’s more, it recognizes that human beings are a small part of an interconnected system, and participate in a complex ecological balance. It also acknowledges that human health is a reflection of animal health and, in turn, the health of the planet.

The best way to deal with this situation is to ensure that human and veterinary health services are based on the best available technologies. It’s also important to ensure that the incentives are tangible. By doing so, experts hope that, when the next serious health threat arises, we’ll have enough resources to deal with it.

The concept of "One Health".

The most recent achievements sponsored by the “One Health” framework include: 

  • A new “One Health” action plan against antimicrobial resistance in the EU.
  • The “One Welfare” concept. An initiative which highlights that animal welfare is directly related to human and environmental well-being.
  • Un mundo, una salud [Internet]. OIE. 2009 [cited 29 January 2020]. Available from: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/esp/Publications_&_Documentation/docs/pdf/bulletin/Bull_2009-2-ESP.pdf
  • El concepto Una Sola Salud [Internet]. OIE. 2013 [cited 29 January 2020]. Available from: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/esp/Publications_%26_Documentation/docs/pdf/bulletin/Bull_2013-1-ESP.pdf
  • Contributing to One World, One Health* A Strategic Framework for Reducing Risks of Infectious Diseases at the Animal–Human–Ecosystems Interface [Internet]. OIE. 2008 [cited 29 January 2020]. Available from: https://www.oie.int/doc/ged/D5720.PDF