The health of people, animals, plants and their environments are closely connected.
Think of zoonoses, plant pests, or other vector-borne diseases. Examples in human health are the well-known avian influenza and SARS epidemics, the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa; the global spread of Zika virus; and the alarming invasion of the American fall armyworm in Africa, which threatens food production. Understanding the factors that cause such outbreaks and how they interact is crucial to safeguard the health of people, animals and plants everywhere on the planet. An example: Antibiotic resistance is not a simple problem for which there is a simple solution. It is a complex conundrum that involves livestock farming, healthcare and consumer use but is also further complicated by the fact that bacteria are not hampered by borders in our globalised world. A Global One Health approach is needed to tackle this issue.
Global One Health
Controlling the risks of disease outbreaks and reducing endemic infectious diseases are crucial to food security, public health, climate change and biodiversity. We at WUR use the phrase ‘A Global One Health’, as it reflects the interconnectedness and global nature of health care for humans, animals, plants and the environment. Many health risks can be controlled through effective interventions addressing an adequate, safe and varied food supply, hygiene, medicines, vaccines, vector control, behavioural change strategies, crop protection or animal welfare.
A sustainable and shared approach requires an integrated analysis of health concerns and infectious diseases, with contributions from various knowledge domains. Through a system approach, we can provide an essential contribution to improving the health of people, animals and plants.
It is not enough to deal with single issues for single diseases, considering today’s highly interactive global linkages. Infectious diseases but also dietary and other health risks form a world-wide threat to human and animal, and environmental health. Prevention and the control of infectious diseases outbreaks is an important societal challenge. Diseases influence each other and have common drivers. Dealing with one issue has consequences for other issues, and we need to consider the interaction between for example human and animal diseases, the environment and human diseases, domestic animal and wildlife diseases, social changes and disease burden, economic development and diseases, and trade and diseases.
Another grand challenge is posed by antibiotic resistance. Prevention of resistance and development of novel therapeutics and treatment strategies is of world-wide importance. As the causes and possible solutions also include components of healthy human lifestyles, farming and healthy wildlife and ecosystem, a One Health approach is required to solve these major societal challenges.
The concept of Global One Health (GOH) emphasizes the interdependence between human health, the health of animals, plants and sustainable ecosystems from a global perspective. True prosperity and security will only be reached if we weigh all possible effects of interventions on the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment, while taking ecosystem sustainability into account. The Global One Health approach uses multiple disciplines to seek transnational solutions for improving the health of humans, animals and plants, and ultimately, the sustainability of the ecosystems of planet earth. Central hereby is that the Global One Health approach does not primarily aim at cure of diseases but merely at the prevention of diseases and the promotion of health.
The two-week training programme focuses on the different angles of Global One including the role of ecology and evolution, plant health, animal health, human health and food and nutrition security, epidemiology, economics. Different entry points for GOH action, policy and planning will be highlighted. This course has been developed by Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation and several Centres of Excellence within Wageningen University and Research, notably:
- Resource Ecology, Department of Environmental Sciences;
- Business Economics and Health and Society; Department of Social Sciences;
- Nutrition, Public Health and Sustainability, Department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences;
- Virology, Wageningen Bio veterinary Research;
- Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology, Department of Animal Sciences.