Loop Abroad alum Amelia Matczak discusses the concept of One Health and why it’s an essential component in school programs today.
The term “One Health” has started making headlines in recent years with some medical and veterinary schools starting to offer One Health programs as part of their regular curriculum.
Yet, outside of these professions, few people actually know what “One Health” means or why schools are starting to make it such a core piece of their curricula. So, what is One Health and, maybe more importantly, why do we need it?
One Health is the interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to optimal health on a global scale by understanding the influences people, animals, and plant health have on one another.
Essentially, it is the thought process that humans don’t live in isolation from animals and their surrounding environment. The health of humans is highly dependant on the health of all other living things. For many years, veterinarians, human physicians, and scientists have worked separately, but with the One Health approach, people are looking into how each of these disciplines actually contributes to the others, and how they must all work together to improve the health of the world.
A large part of the One Health movement is in response to the increasing number of emerging diseases around the globe. Take, for instance, the H1N1 Influenza virus. The H1N1 virus, or Swine Flu, caused over 200,000 deaths in 2009. Before 2009, this strain of the flu had only ever been documented in pigs. So when the virus mutated and attacked the human immune system, we weren’t prepared.
Due to the fact that the disease was being cultivated in pigs and transmitted to humans, it took swine veterinarians evaluating pig populations, human clinicians treating those people infected, and researchers developing a working vaccine to tackle the worldwide pandemic. Had all of those disciplines worked individually, a resolution to the outbreak would have taken longer and there would have been more people lost to the disease. The implementation of One Health programs like these is the difference between keeping all living things healthy and reducing large outbreaks of disease that span the globe.
Seeing as One Health is becoming such an important part of our global society, it is no surprise that medical and veterinary schools are making One Health programs such a crucial part of their curriculum. Luckily for students interested in One Health initiatives, organizations like Loop Abroad offer courses with integrative One Health programs that allow students to gain exposure to these practices, helping a new generation understand the responsibility one health plays in our planet’s future.