By Jennifer Cole, Royal Holloway, University of London
In recent months, there has been increasing academic and public discourse over the continued damage modern lifestyles are inflicting on our planet. The term ‘planetary health’ has emerged as a catch-all for addressing issues as diverse as climate change, plastic pollution, antibiotic resistance, increasing meat consumption and poorly-planned urban expansion as well as a call to action to address the challenges of the Anthropocene – the ‘Age of Man’ – which recognises that the challenges the Earth currently faces are, largely, inflicted by humans. There has never been a more pressing need to ensure the scientific community has a common platform from which to research, understand and influence action on the environmental damage inflicted by the modern lifestyles enjoyed in the developed countries of the Global North.
It’s estimated that between a third and two thirds of pet cats are overweight, depending on the assessment method used. Cats suffer from obesity and diabetes mellitus in ways that are very similar to the obesity and type 2 diabetes found in humans. But can these similarities tell us anything useful about how to tackle these problems in cats or in humans?
“Health for all” has been the guiding vision of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for more than seven decades, underpinning the principle that “all people should be able to realize their right to the highest possible level of health”. This of course includes both health and welfare, terms that are intrinsically connected.
One Health is about connectedness: "the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, plants and our environment”.
FutureLearn courses are easy to follow and well-paced: you get one unit per week. I speak from experience as because of my interest in evidence-based medicine, in October 2015, I took "Informed Health Consumer: Making Sense of Evidence".
I hope you can make use of this One Health course.
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health (#OneHealth) Day on November 3rd 2016
"It is difficult to rate the importance of the different soil functions, since all are vital to our well-being to some extent. However, the function of supporting food and agriculture worldwide is fundamental for the preservation and advancement of human life on this planet." – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO).
The multiple roles of soil often go unnoticed. During time spent carrying out research for this blog I came across the following quote which I feel really captures the relevance of soil health for the One Health concept:
‘The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible’.
This was actually said seven decades ago by Lady Eva Balfour, one of the first women to study agriculture at an English University, who went on to found the Soil Association in 1946. Yet it seems that on many levels we are still to realise the connectedness between health in soils, plants, animals and people.
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016
The term ‘One health’ was created to emphasise the fact that health of humans and animals were inter-linked and that the control of zoonotic diseases is best achieved by breaking down the barriers between human and veterinary medicine, developing an holistic approach. The disaster of BSE and the emergence of a new human disease, variant-CJD, and the risk of another pandemic of avian influenza, strengthened the case for One-health, and it has been adopted by the WHO, OIE, and many other relevant organizations.
Within the area of One-health, interest has been growing on the modern phenomenon of companion animals. In many parts of the world, particularly in developed countries, pets – mainly dogs and cats, are kept as companions, and are treated as one of the family. They are pampered and treated to expensive veterinary treatments when they become ill, whereas in earlier times, a sick pet would be destroyed and replaced. This attitude to animals is particularly well established in the UK, a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 12 million (46%) households incorporating about 65 million companion animals, and where it is not unusual to see a sign on the door of a pub saying “No children, dogs welcomed”.
The beneficial health effects that animals can have on people has been recognised with such schemes as riding for the disabled and therapy dogs that are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. The term ‘human animal bond’ was coined to describe this mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both.
One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day on November 3rd 2016
While ‘One Health’ is a well-established concept, a new term ‘One Welfare’ is also emerging, extending the One Health theme beyond physical health and recognising that animal welfare and human wellbeing are intrinsically connected. In an article in the Veterinary Record, Rebeca García Pinillos and other One Welfare advocates introduce this concept for debate, with an aim to “improve animal welfare and human wellbeing worldwide.”
A One Welfare approach will help to empower the animal welfare field to address the connections between science and policy more effectively in various areas of human society, including environmental science and sustainability, the authors say. “It could also help promote key global objectives such as supporting food security, reducing human suffering (e.g., abuse of vulnerable people) and improving productivity within the farming sector through a better understanding of the value of high welfare standards.”
While One Health initiatives have tended to focus on threats to human and animal health, particularly zoonoses, there is a growing body of research into the mental and physical health benefits of the human-animal bond. In addition, because poor animal welfare can often act as an indicator of poor human welfare (and vice versa), there is a need to understand the psychosocial impacts of human-animal interactions.