The One Health approach, which emerged in the 2000s, is essential to a better understanding of global health. However, it faces a major implementation challenge, which the One Sustainable Health Forum is seeking to overcome. Its international working groups will present their recommendations on December 11, 2023.
An article by Madeleine Trentesaux
1- What is the One Health approach?
One Health is an approach that recognizes the interconnections and dependencies between animal, human and global health at local, national and global levels. The term One Health emerged in the mid-2000s, notably following the epidemic events caused by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, the H5N1 virus in 2008 and the H1N1 virus in 2009-2010. These various epidemics demonstrated the limits of global health, and led to the adoption of a new framework for action defined in the Manhattan Principles.
The international community, embodied by the WHO (World Health Organization), the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), the WOAH (World Organization for Animal Health, formerly OIE for Office International des Epizooties) and, more recently, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) seized on this notion in the years 2008-2010, which became a watchword and a driving force for action. These four organizations now form what is known as the Quadripartite Alliance.
Linking One Health and humanitarian aid?
A working group of the One Sustainable Health Forum, whose approach is presented below, has set itself the specific objective of reflecting on the integration of the One Health approach into humanitarian activities taking place in emergency situations, in times of war or conflict. Over forty participants met in November 2023 for a seminar at the University of Geneva. Three main elements emerged from the discussions: listening to communities, establishing innovative financing and creating unusual partnerships. An analysis of this work will be presented in the next issue of Défis Humanitaires.
2- Three examples to illustrate the need for a One Health approach
The recent SARS-Cov-2 epidemic has once again highlighted the interconnections between animal, human and global health. The hypothesis of a zoonotic origin of the Covid-19 disease, the most likely for scientists, describes a species crossing by the virus, passing from animal to human.
Other examples, such as the Chlordecone scandal, highlight how an insecticide used in banana cultivation contaminates the environment and exposes humans to molecules harmful to their health.
Finally, the emergence of antibiotic resistance also illustrates the need for a One Health approach. Increased use of antibiotics in both animal and human health leads to resistance, which is then transmitted to our microbiota, those of animals and the environment.
These three examples highlight the interconnections between animal, human and global health. They underline the need for an approach that recognizes these dependencies and implements interdisciplinary and intersectoral actions to address them.
3- The difficulties of implementing the One Health approach
In an interview with Défis Humanitaires in November 2021, Dr. Rafael Ruiz de Castañeda outlined the difficulties of implementing a One Health approach.
“On a national scale, the difficulty of adopting a One Health approach lies in the fact that we have created and organized our societies in a fragmented way. There is, for example, a ministry for human health, one for agriculture and yet another for the economy. We often work in silos, and changes in behavior and ways of working are long and difficult to integrate.” (Interview extract)
For the latter, director of the One Health unit at the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Medicine, the obstacles lie in our siloed working habits. He therefore called for collaborative mechanisms to enable players to discuss and collaborate in the field.
4- OSH Forum – bringing together One Health players to operationalize the approach
The One Sustainable Health Forum (OSH Forum), founded in October 2020, aims to be a space for connecting One Health players to operationalize the approach. Spearheaded by the Fondation Une Santé Durable pour Tous, created by Benoît Miribel, the OSH Forum, in partnership with the World Health Summit, is launching a collaborative effort to define the global priorities and operational actions needed to achieve sustainable health for all. It calls for a three-pronged program to build inclusive and adaptive healthcare systems, as detailed on its website: promoting global health, investing to adapt to climate change, strengthening social protection systems.
To this end, six international working groups, each comprising academic and operational experts from the fields of animal, human and planetary health, are being launched in July 2021. Working group members have addressed biodiversity, nutrition, the human-environment relationship, healthcare, the financial resources needed for One Health, and ways of involving communities.
Led by a Scientific Advisory Board, the OSH Forum approach is cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary. With more than fifty partners from civil society, it provides a forum for pooling ideas and putting the One Health approach into practice.
5- To be continued: the recommendations of the OSH Forum experts on December 11, 2023
On the occasion of the French Presidency of the European Union during the 1st half of 2022, the members of the OSH Forum have decided to promote recommendations for a Europe of Health integrating the One Health and Global Health priorities. The initiative is co-organizing the “One Health: Preparedness, partnerships, and science to prevent systemic health risks” conference in Barcelona on November 29, 2023, to further strengthen the One Health approach at European level.
At the end of two years’ work, the OSH Forum’s international working groups will present their recommendations for Sustainable Health for All on December 11, 2023. Join us on Défis Humanitaires next month for an analysis of these recommendations and an interview with key members of the process.
- Badau, Estera, 2021, “A One Health perspective on the issue of the antibiotic resistance”, Parasite, Vol. 28, n 16, pp. 1-14.
- Michalon, Jérôme, 2020, “Accounting for One Health: Insights from the Social Sciences”, Parasite, Vol. 27, n 56, pp. 1-10.
After studying anthropology and humanitarian policy at Nanterre University and Sciences Po Paris, Madeleine Trentesaux specialized in health anthropology and the evaluation of local development policies. In spring 2023, she carried out a field study with Fondation Mérieux and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on antimicrobial resistance practices in Lebanon. Madeleine Trentesaux also works on research projects with various healthcare organizations.
Find Madeleine Trentesaux on :
Défis Humanitaires :