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By Dr Francis Kolo

One Health is the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2011), there is an increasing societal need for public health professionals with the competencies, knowledge, and skills to address the multi -dimensional globally emerging health problems. These stakeholders include; Veterinarians, Medical doctors, Pharmacists, Microbiologists, Ecologists, Agronomists, Social scientists among others.

It is important to gain knowledge, skills and competencies regarding efficient solutions to the multifaceted global challenges to human, animal and environmental health, through trans-disciplinary research, education and collaboration between relevant institutions and stakeholders, One Health is key in achieving these aims.

Calvin Schwabe, (1984) reintroduced ’one medicine’ as the close interaction of people and animals regarding nutrition, livelihood, and health. The health of animals and humans has a linkage, and as such they share pathogens which ultimately cause shared diseases, this is known as zoonosis.

Zoonosis is an important aspect of One Health among other concerns such as emerging diseases, emerging health related problems, environmental health and comparative medicine. The Manhattan Principle of 2004 “recognizes the essential link between human, domestic animal and wildlife health and the threat disease poses to people, their food supplies and economies, and the biodiversity essential to maintaining the healthy environments and functioning ecosystems we all require”. It is known that about 60% of 1,415 known human pathogens are zoonotic, and about 70% of all emerging diseases are zoonoses. Some of these diseases may include anthrax, ebola, influenza, tuberculosis and most importantly Neglected Tropical Diseases such as brucellosis, rabies among others, affecting primarily poor communities.

The drivers for One Health that will help facilitate a clear road map for this phenomenon and to achieve its goals for optimal health for people, animals and environment are based on social drivers, economic drivers and environmental drivers. Deforestation and human wildlife contact is on increase, and wildlife population is on the decline as their habitat decreases, and as such humans are exposed to zoonoses as a result of contact with these wildlife. The environmental conditions for some pathogens are changed and consequently they are able to be contracted by humans and animals as they make contact with the changed ecosystem.

As a matter of urgency, we cannot afford not adopt a One Health approach, especially if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2015-2030. The achievement SDG goals like poverty eradication, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation can only be materialized when a multidisciplinary approach is put in place, encouraged and practiced, only then can we achieve optimal health for people, animals and the environment.