Last updated: 14 Mar 2023

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 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 (WOHA, 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.

The One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLE) – the advisory panel convened by World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (WOHA, formely known as OIE) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – has recently elaborated a new operational definition of One Health.

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and  optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider  environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and inter-dependent.
The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying  levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and  ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe  and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable  development.

Illustration of the One Health approach by the OHHLEP

WHO, FAO, WOHA, and UNEP are working together to mainstream One Health so that they are better prepared to prevent, predict, detect, and respond to global health threats and promote sustainable development.  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.

One Health at the UN Environment Assembly

The deep connections between ecosystem health and human health were on the agenda of the second segment of the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), held in February 2022 in Nairobi. The concluding Ministerial Declaration recognized the risk for future pandemics and other health risks if humanity doesn’t overhaul its patterns of interaction with nature by adopting a holistic approach such as One Health. In this context, a resolution on animal welfare calls on Member States to protect animals, protecting their habitats and meeting their welfare requirements (UNEP/EA5/L10/REV.1). Another resolution on biodiversity and health recognizes the importance of the One Health approach to address the impacts of environmental crises on global health (UNEP/EA5/L11/REV.1). It further calls on Member States to promote the sustainable use, conservation and restoration of biodiversity with a view to preventing current and future health risks, including disease
outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential.

Pandemic Treaty and One Health

The fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB 4) was held from 27 February to 3 March 2023 to draft and negotiate a World Health Organization convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (WHO CA+). WHO Member States  negotiated the “zero draft” prepared by the INB Bureau, which includes the recognition of the One Health Approach. According to civil society organizations that participated in a consultation on the document’s earlier draft this month, the draft pandemic accord needs more emphasis on preventing pandemics at their source.

World Health Day 2022

7 April is World Health Day, a global health awareness day that draws attention to a health topic of concern to the world. Celebrated every year, it also marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948. In 2022, the theme “Our planet, our health” brought attention on the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. Promoting One Health approaches is an important aspects in this regard.

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 (WOHA, n.d.). Controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source is the most effective and economic way of protecting people (WOHA, 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.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is celebrated from 18-24 November every year. This year’s theme, Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together, is a reminder that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a threat to humans, animals, plants and the environment. The theme calls for collaboration across sectors through a One Health approach to to encourage the prudent use of antimicrobials and to strengthen preventive measures addressing AMR.

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.


Past GEN Events

Nature-based Solutions and Health

Geneva Nature-based Solutions Dialogues | 26 April 2021

Emerging Infectious Diseases and Ecosystems Health

GENeva Environment Dialogues | 3 June 2022