One Health is the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment. Because of their expertise, veterinarians play critical roles in the health of animals, humans, and even the environment, but these roles are often overlooked or unrecognized. Nonetheless, veterinary medicine is the only profession that routinely operates at the interface of these three components of One Health.
The concept behind One Health has existed for centuries – from Hippocrates' "On Airs, Waters, and Places" (estimated 400 BC) to the AVMA's webpage you're reading today. Some of the greats who have contributed to One Health include individuals such as Giovanni Lancisi, Louis-Rene Villerme, Rudolf Virchow, William Osler, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, Rachel Carson, former Assistant Surgeon General James Steele, and Calvin Schwabe, just to name a few. Dr. Schwabe captured the term "One Medicine" in his book, Veterinary Medicine and Human Health, and it was in honor of him that the AVMA's One Health Initiative Task Force (OHITF) dedicated its final report.
As the human population continues to increase and expand across our world, the interconnection of people, animals, and our environment becomes more significant and impactful. The importance of One Health is highlighted by many factors in our world today:
- The world's total population exceeded 7 billion people in 2011, and it continues to climb.
- As our population expands geographically, the contact between human and wild animal habitats increases, introducing the risk of exposure to new viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing pathogens.
- Advancing technologies and science-based evidence is increasing the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the interdependency of the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
- The human-animal bond continues to grow throughout societies.
- It is estimated that at least 75% of emerging and re-emerging diseases are either zoonotic (spread between humans and animals) or vector-borne (carried from infected animals to others through insects).
- Vigilant protection of our food and feed supplies from food-borne diseases, contamination, and acts of terrorism is critical for human and animal health.
- Contamination by personal care products and pharmaceuticals has been detected in our waters.