How One Health is forging a better future

dvm360dvm360 January 2022
Volume 53
Issue 1

This international movement is making strides in elevating disease prevention, surveillance, monitoring, control, and mitigation. Here is how.

olezzo /

olezzo /

Although One Health has been around for some time, only recently has it been gaining momentum in medical fields and the public eye. This global movement has become a mainstay in educating the public on zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety and food security, vector-borne diseases (VBDs), environmental contamination, and other health threats shared by people, animals, and the environment.1

As a collaborative, multisectoral, transdisciplinary approach, One Health works at the local, regional, national, and global levels to achieve suitable health outcomes and further understand the link between humans, animals, plants, and our environment.1 Now more than ever, the unity between human and veterinary medicine is vital to ensure adequate disease prevention and management.

One Health concept vs approach

In an interview with dvm360®, Deborah Thomson, DVM, offered 2 ways One Health can be defined: the One Health concept and the One Health approach.2

“The One Health concept is really the interconnection between our health and the health of the environment, animals, and plants,” Thomson said.

Thomson also noted that the One Health approach is teamwork among people of different backgrounds, strengths, and disciplines. “We come together and we can prevent and solve complicated health problems,” she added.

Additionally, movements such as the One Health Initiative aim to bridge the gaps among human medical fields, animal health fields, and environmentally related disciplines,3 thus advancing health care for future generations. Preventing the spread of disease and infection is 1 way the movement aims to advance global health.

Vector-borne vs zoonotic diseases

Understanding the variations among these communicable diseases is vital to mitigating and controlling the spread. Typically, a VBD is a disease that results from an infection transmitted to humans and other animals by blood-feeding arthropods (ie, mosquitos, fleas, and ticks) and include dengue fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and malaria.4 Conversely, a zoonotic disease can be transmitted from animals to people. Examples of zoonotic diseases are rabies, brucellosis, salmonellosis and listeriosis.4

One Health role in combating VBDs

According to Thomson, having more veterinarians, human physicians, and environmental scientists creating open dialogue among themselves is a good place to start combating VBDs. She broke down a few ways this concept and approach can help.5

“Now if we talk about vector-borne diseases and see it as not just the patient that comes right in front of us but as that environmental component, thinking about the family the patient lives with, then we [must] have a conversation with the family to tailor the message to that specific family. So if there are immunocompromised folks in the household, it is really important to know, say, if there is a chance of a tick-borne disease coming anywhere near that house,” Thomson explained.

“Now taking into account of the One Health approach…can you imagine how much easier it would be to treat a human with an [VBD] if a physician was constantly speaking with a veterinarian who [may be] seeing an influx in tick-borne diseases with their dog patients?” Thomson continued, adding that building these relationships among human, animal, and environmental scientists can help tackle, prevent, and manage the spread of these diseases.

Additionally, research has noted that a paradigm shift to the One Health concept is key to winning the global fight and preventing the emergence and spread of VBDs to new geographic locations.6 Although challenging, tackling VBDs on a global scale can enhance collaborative surveillance involving medical, veterinary, and environmental professionals, thus preventing and controlling new pathogens from afflicting humans and animals alike.


  1. One Health Basics. CDC. November 5, 2018. Accessed December 6, 2021.
  2. McCafferty C. So, what exactly is One Health? dvm360. November 24, 2021. Accessed December 6, 2021.
  3. One Health Initiative will unite human and veterinary medicine. One Health Initiative. July 1, 2021. Accessed December 6, 2021.
  4. Acute communicable disease control. County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Accessed December 6, 2021.,%2C%20Lyme%20disease%2C%20and%20malaria
  5. McCafferty C, Burke J. How can one health combat vector borne diseases? dvm360. October 26, 2021. Accessed December 6, 2021.
  6. Faburay B. The case for a ‘one health’ approach to combating vector-borne diseases. Infect Ecol Epidemiol. 2015;5:28132. doi:10.3402/iee.v5.28132
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