One Health Approach
One Health, the concept, acknowledges that disease and illness spread through the inextricable linkages between humans, animals, and their environments. Global health, the discipline, has long acknowledged this critical interplay between domains– but the urgency of reframing global health with an emphasis on One Health has reached a crescendo over the past decade. Especially in the face of globalization, increased international travel, climate change, and overpopulation, living things are forced to live closer and closer together– giving rise to new and emerging infectious diseases of zoonotic origin. Zoonotic describes a disease that was transmitted from humans to animals or animals to humans.
According to the One Health Commission, “nearly 75 percent of all emerging human infectious diseases in the past three decades originated in animals.” Based on the information available and the current research has corroborated, COVID-19 is zoonotic in origin and provides an extreme example of the pandemic potential of novel infectious diseases. For many years leading up to COVID-19, public health professionals, veterinarians, and researchers who study this human, animal, and environment paradigm have lamented the lack of attention paid to this gap in our global health security.
In May 2021, The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) released a report detailing that sentiment. Lawrence Gostin, Faculty Director of the O’Neill Institute wrote in an article the IPPR reported, “Widespread unpreparedness occurred despite years of unheeded warnings on increased zoonosis and the power of globalization to quickly spread novel pathogens.” This relates to earlier points about surveillance and information sharing since a robust knowledge base of naturally circulating animal viruses would have assisted in the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 earlier in the pandemic.