Today is One Health Day and we are joined by Prof Richard Kock to discuss the importance of the One Health approach in fostering collaborations between the animal, human and environmental health communities for the improvement of global health.
Prof Richard Kock is a wildlife veterinary ecologist, infectious disease researcher and conservationist. He has worked in the field of wildlife health and disease for more than 30 years with a focus on African and Asian ecosystems, and has been engaged closely with the evolving One Health initiative. He co-chaired the One Health workshop at FEMS 2017. Prof Richard Kock is from the Royal Veterinary College and in 2010 he was awarded the FAO medal in recognition of his work on morbilliviruses and global eradication of the first veterinary pathogen important to food security.
What is the One Health approach?
“One Health is a comprehensive approach to health that focuses on:
- improving health and well-being through the prevention of risks and the mitigation of effects of crises (e.g. emerging diseases) that originate at the interface between humans, animals and their various environments
- promoting multi (cross) sectoral collaborations and a “whole of society” treatment of health hazards, as a systemic change of perspective in the management of risk.
And the definition of One Health that I refer to is the health of animals, people and the environment/ecosystems, and not just people.
The objectives of One Health (taken from Queenan et al. 2017, Roadmap to a One Health agenda 2030):
What are your current research interests and how does your work align with the One Health approach?
“I am the Director of the One Health Masters in Science programme, delivered jointly between the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). I work on initiatives to improve wildlife health capacity in Africa and South Asia. I am interested in major emerging infectious diseases and their drivers, agriculture, food systems and their impact on diseases, biodiversity and environment; and diseases of wildlife associated with human impacts (with a focus on livestock agriculture impacts).
I have research projects on:
- Peste des petits ruminants (PPR virus) – an emerging livestock disease that impacts wildlife
- Mass mortality events – currently of saiga antelopes in Central Asia with a focus on PPR and Pasteurella multocida
- Village poultry in Africa as a healthy food system with low environmental impact and direct benefits to human nutrition and childhood growth and development
- Zoonoses in Africa
- Conceptual development of One Health – via the Network for Evaluation of One Health (NEOH) and in publications.”
How is the One Health approach being implemented globally? And what key lessons have you learnt from your own efforts to incorporate One Health?
Global implementation of One Health:
- “Attempts to bring zoonotic disease interventions under single authorities in health covering both humans and animals e.g. Zoonotic Diseases Unit Kenya; the human animal infections and risk surveillance (HAIRS) unit from Public Health England
- In academia: there are post-graduate programmes and Centres of One Health Research
- In professions: through integrative working practices between disciplines
- In research: with joint funding schemes inclusive of multiple disciplines related to health and joint research teams
Key lessons learned:
- One Health can improve understanding of disease, reduce time to interventions, reduce costs of interventions, shifts the health paradigm towards structural change and preventive health and away from reactive medicine and commercialized health
- Has important policy lessons on environmental and biodiversity conservation and its importance to health
- Raises the profile of aspects of health and disease that are non-technical whilst improving integration and animal and human health sciences and understanding
- In the microbial community already there is considerable integration of laboratory sciences in both animal, humans and environmental aspects of microbes.”
How can researchers engage with the One Health approach?
“Researchers need to see their research in context and not as isolated activities with uncertain benefits beyond a narrow science focus and with potential unintended or unexpected detrimental consequences and externalities. When embarking on research these non-core aspects need to be carefully considered and research teams will benefit from a multidisciplinary composition of staff looking at the various aspects of the process, design and outcomes around a health research question.”
What do you hope for the future of One Health?
“That it becomes mainstream policy in health (in the broadest sense) – impinging on societal development, structural development, resource use and management, conservation, human and animal welfare and environmental conditions and ecosystems function and as a benefit to all living things and resources. It is the first practical expression of a post-humanist philosophy, which recognizes that the current trajectory of human development and human-centricity in health will most likely lead to a collapse in global biological processes and ecosystems with catastrophic cascade effects impacting humans and most species detrimentally. Microbial communities are perhaps the only beneficiaries as loss of biodiversity will lead to an age not dissimilar to the primordial soup. One Health contributes to buffering against a collapse of civilizations and biodiversity.”
To learn more about One Health, get involved in our One Health campaign and explore a collection of articles from leading experts in the field in the One Health Thematic Issue from FEMS Microbiology Ecology and Pathogens and Disease. One of the articles from this Thematic Issue is featured on the OUP blog.