The Challenges of Implementing One Health

Research Scholar, Program on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University


One Health is a simple yet powerful concept: human, animal, and environmental health are inextricably linked. The goal of One Health is to integrate efforts in medicine, veterinary medicine, public health, agriculture, and environmental health (One Health Initiative, 2012). A One Health approach would prevent disease, reduce costs, improve food safety and security, and save lives. For example, potential disease outbreaks would be identified early in animals, before emerging and spreading into human populations. One Health requires disparate professions, working in diverse institutions that have distinct missions, priorities, and funding, to work together. Increasing communication and collaboration across disciplines might seem straightforward, but has proven difficult to achieve. Due to space limitations, this paper will focus on human and animal health, not environmental health. If One Health is to be achieved, the following systemic challenges must be addressed: institutions, funding, education, and jobs. Most nations do not have institutions whose primary missions are animal disease surveillance, control, and prevention. The creation of One Health organizations at the international, national, regional, and local levels, with integrated missions to improve human, animal, and environmental health, would improve global health including the prevention and control of infectious diseases. Currently, human health is vastly better funded compared with animal health (some countries have minimal or no veterinary capacity). This needs to be addressed by creating more schools of veterinary medicine, both domestically and globally. Few qualified veterinarians are pursuing careers in livestock and wildlife health, probably because limited jobs are available. Successfully implementing One Health also requires a global network of qualified individuals working locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to share information, conduct disease surveillance in human and animal populations, monitor the environment, improve food safety and security, and communicate effectively to the public.