Dr Casey Barton Behravesh
Director, One Health Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA
The health of people is inextricably linked to the health of animals, plants and our shared environment, therefore it’s imperative for professionals in different sectors to work closely together.
Our world is more connected than ever. While this has obvious social, cultural and economic benefits, it also has a more sinister implication: it makes it easier to spread diseases which can quickly turn into a pandemic — as devastatingly highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis.
So what’s the best way to prevent another global infectious disease catastrophe? Dr Barton Behravesh has a simple answer: the world needs to take a One Health approach.
“The health of people, animals, plants and our shared environment is interlinked,” explains Dr Barton Behravesh, who is Director of the One Health Office at the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That’s why we call it ‘One Health’ — because it’s the same health for all. The fact is that there are some health threats that can affect people, animals, plants and our shared environment. So, if multi-disciplinary professionals in different sectors coordinate, collaborate and communicate with each other, the outcome will be a safer, healthier world.”
Examples of the One Health approach in action
Countries around the world have understood this only too well, creating mechanisms that make it easier for professionals in different sectors to collaborate more effectively and regularly. This means human health partners (doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists and laboratorians), animal health partners (veterinarians and paraprofessionals) and environmental health partners (ecologists and wildlife experts) can easily exchange information with each other.
If multi-disciplinary professionals in different sectors coordinate, collaborate and communicate with each other, the outcome will be a safer, healthier world.
Other players in different areas are also getting involved in ingenious ways. For instance, farmers and agricultural workers can be trained to use an app to report early symptoms of animal illness to animal and human health professionals at the local level, thus helping to contain the spread of disease between animals and people.
This type of One Health collaboration is also important for improved animal welfare and stewardship of the environment. It’s already helping to address zoonotic disease (which can spread between animals and humans) in Uzbekistan, and rabies elimination in China.
“Meanwhile, in the US, we’ve been working with our pet industry partners to collaborate to prevent zoonotic diseases spreading between pets and people,” notes Dr Barton Behravesh. “This has made a real difference and kept people — and their pets — safe and healthy. I believe that it’s critical to take a coordinated One Health approach on an international scale if we are to build a healthier world and stop the next pandemic.”