Senators, academics, others embrace one-health approach

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The one-health concept continues to catch on from the halls of Congress to academic circles and beyond.

The concept is that human, animal, and ecosystem health intertwine to make “one health.” The accompanying one-health approach involves collaboration among health professions and relevant associated disciplines to improve health locally and globally.

Dr. Sarah Crain, a doctoral student at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, performs research at the school’s Regenerative Medicine Laboratory. The school belongs to a new one-health alliance working to accelerate translational research. (Photo by Andrew Cunningham/Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University)

In February, a group of U.S. senators sent a letter urging President Obama to pursue a multidisciplinary approach to addressing zoonotic diseases such as Ebola. New efforts in academia include a one-health alliance to accelerate translational research and a plan to establish a One Health Center for Food Safety in Asia. In January, the nonprofit One Health Commission and the One Health Initiative team announced they have begun working together to promote the one-health approach.

Congressional letter

Led by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, seven U.S. senators sent a Feb. 12 letter to President Obama supportive of the one-health approach.

The letter notes that the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Africa was caused by transmission of Ebola virus from animals to humans and that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, zoonotic diseases account for about 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases. According to the letter, “Although One Health is widely recognized to be integral to efforts to combat zoonotic disease, the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines required to address such disease outbreaks that occur at the human-animal interface has yet to materialize in a substantive way.”

The senators urged the president “to develop a National One Health Framework that will outline the steps required to instill a culture of collaboration between human, animal and environmental health agencies.” The senators also encouraged the president to press the United Nations to develop an interagency framework to address the World Health Organization’s information gaps in animal and environmental health.

Efforts in academia

The National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Awards support a national consortium of more than 60 research institutions focusing on human health. A number of the institutions are at a university with a veterinary college, and now the veterinary colleges have created the CTSA One Health Alliance.

The participating veterinary colleges are at Colorado State University, Cornell University, The Ohio State University, Tufts University, University of California-Davis, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The alliance will develop strategies to capitalize on one-health opportunities that accelerate translational research. Priority areas are research on naturally occurring animal disease in a comparative framework, education of veterinary clinician-scientists, and communication and collaboration.

The UC-Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, School of Veterinary Medicine, and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have formed an educational exchange program with Nanjing Agricultural University in Nanjing, China, as the foundation of a 10-year plan to establish the NAU-based One Health Center for Food Safety in Asia.

The vision is for the center to house multidisciplinary faculty working on a wide array of projects related to food and water safety using a one-health approach. As part of the program, the WIFSS hosted a Jan. 20-Feb. 6 one-health conference for NAU undergraduate students interested in graduate programs at UC-Davis.

New collaboration

In a January letter to the AVMA, the One Health Commission and One Health Initiative teams wrote that they had established a relationship of mutual support that they believe “will synergize the shared objectives of the AVMA, OHI and OHC for advancing the One Health approach to global health.”

In 2006, Dr. Roger K. Mahr, then AVMA president, envisioned the One Health Commission. The OHC was chartered in 2009 as a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to educate and create networks “to improve health outcomes and well-being of humans, animals and plants and to promote environmental resilience through a collaborative, global One Health approach.”

The One Health Initiative is a parallel effort to advance the one-health agenda. Since 2006, the OHI team has worked with many one-health programs and proponents. In 2008, the team created the OHI website to offer one-health news, publications, and events. The site attracts about 20,000 visitors monthly from more than 150 countries.

In recent activities, the One Health Commission delivered the international Who’s Who in One Health Webinar in November 2014 with participation by the One Health Initiative team. The free, daylong webinar featured presentations by 15 one-health leaders and attracted more than 1,000 viewers. Recordings are available at the OHC website.

Related JAVMA content:

Spreading the one-health concept (Jan. 15, 2012)

One Health Commission reaches out (Jan. 15, 2013)

One Health Commission changes leadership (March 1, 2014)