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What Does “One Health” Mean in a Changing World?

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“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle

Throughout much of 2020, as a worldwide pandemic has drastically changed our lives, most of us have been focused on the health of our fellow human beings. It has been easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, in which the health of humans, animals, plants and our shared environment are inextricably linked.

A transdisciplinary approach to global wellness, known as One Health, emphasizes these connections with a goal of achieving better health for all living things and the surroundings they share. The concept is not new, of course, but it has gained new attention in recent years with changing interactions among people, animals, vegetation, and the air and water that sustain them.

 

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic perfectly illustrates how the movement of people and animals through international travel and trade can spread diseases quickly across the globe. The origin of this novel coronavirus has been traced to a market where animals were sold for human consumption, and as the illness has spread, the resulting changes in human behavior have caused clear differences in our environments.

In this episode of UNTAMED, Wildlife Center of Virginia veterinary and rehabilitation staff, along with public health officials, explain the concept of One Health and explore the challenges we face as we work together for the optimal health of all.

“We now know,” said Ed Clark, president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, “that it is impossible to separate considerations of the environment from human health considerations and from considerations of animal health. It’s all one health.”

While One Health relies on the global collaboration of many scientific professionals—epidemiologists, zoologists, ecologists and more—it also relies on the help of everyday people who are concerned about wellness and balance in the world. Your local animal control officers, park rangers and farmers all play a role in One Health—and so can you.

You can start with a look around your own home and yard, and think about some small actions that might have a pretty big impact. Here are a few ideas.

What You Can Do!

  • Vaccinate pets and livestock according to veterinarian recommendations, and keep human vaccinations up to date.
  • Eliminate habitats that welcome potential disease carriers, like standing water that invites mosquitoes.
  • Check your yard for invasive plant species (Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy, etc.) that can spread rapidly and harm the more helpful native plants.
  • Reduce use of pesticides and herbicides. You might be killing more than just weeds and mosquitoes with your current methods.
  • Reduce waste, especially single-use plastic containers and plastic bags.