Published: 02 Jun 2021

The recent pandemic has reminded us of the deep connections between health and the environment. Adopting a One Health approach is critical not only to prevent outbreaks in zoonotic diseases, but also other urgent environmental issues including food safety and antimicrobial resistance. This page aims at listing the latest information, research, data and/or press releases issued by our partners in Geneva and other institutions around the world.

One Health Approach

One Health is an approach to designing and implementing programs, policies, legislation, and research in which multiple sectors work together to achieve better public health outcomes (WHO, 2017). It is rooted in the recognition that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist (OIE, n.d.). The complex nature of the interactions between people, animals and plants renders this collaborative, multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach critical to addressing future health risks and challenges.

More information on the One Health approach is available from the main international organizations working on the topic: World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and United Nations Environmnent Programme (UNEP).

Other institutions also provide useful resources to understand the One Health approach and its value for improving health.

International Cooperation

Collaboration is a central component of the One Health approach as it transcends thematic boundaries and calls for comprehensive responses on health issues. International institutions, in International Geneva and beyond, have established collaborative programs to achieve the common goal of protecting health. This section provides information on these efforts.

Zoonoses and emerging diseases

Zoonoses – diseases or infections that are naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans (WHO, 2020) – are one of the health risks where the deep interconnections of human, animal and environmental health are most visible. Around 60% of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic and 75% of emerging infectious diseases (including Ebola, HIV, influenza, COVID-19) have an animal origin (OIE, n.d.). Controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source is the most effective and economic way of protecting people (OIE, n.d.).

Food Safety

Food is another crucial theme to which the One Health approach can bring meaningful contributions. While food quality is a crucial component of human health, food production is highly reliable on animal and plant health. Moreover, many important zoonoses relate in some way to animals in the food production chain. Food is indeed an important vehicle for zoonotic pathogens, creating a deep bond between animal health on human health. The One Health approach is thus important for ensuring food safety. This section provides relevant resources in that area.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective (WHO, 2017). AMR is a global health concern as AMR infections cause 700’000 deaths each year and may become the leading cause of deaths globally by 2050  (UK O’Neill’s Commission, 2016). Although AMR occurs naturally, it is facilitated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human health, food-animal production and agriculture, along with poor management of waste from households, farms, factories and healthcare settings (UNEP, n.d.). AMR depends greatly on the interaction between humans, animals and the environment, hence, adopting a One Health approach is critical for developing appropriate responses. This section presents the latest progress on addressing AMR through a One Health approach.

Biodiversity and Conservation

All human health ultimately depends on ecosystem services that are made possible by biodiversity and the products derived from them. Indeed, functioning ecosystems provide us with food and fresh water, aids in regulating climate, floods and disease, and provides recreational benefits (CBD, 2020). Investigating the complex interlinkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human health is thus essential to comprehensively address risks to human health. This section provides information on the application of the One Health approach in the field of biodiversity and conservation.

Climate Change

Global warming poses a growing threat to human health, as it impacts many vital elements of our lives such as air quality, access to drinking water, food security and the safety of our homes. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress (WHO, 2018). Climate mitigation and adaptation is thus essential to decreasing health risks for both our generation and future generations. More information on health and climate change is provided in this section.

Learning