What Is One Health & Why Is It Important?

January is One Health Awareness Month, a concept near and dear to the hearts of veterinary professionals. Learn about One Health and how you can apply it.

Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS

Updated January 04, 2023 • Published January 04, 2023

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What Is One Health & Why Is It Important?

January is One Health Awareness Month, and while we at Pawp are taking this month to honor the initiative publicly, the pillars of One Health are something we strive to put into practice every day.

One Health is a concept that focuses on the importance of a unified, collaborative, multi-sectoral and disciplinary approach in seeing the connections of human health, animal health, and environmental health, recognizing that one cannot exist without the other.

The significance of this approach is recognized by major health organizations such as the CDC, WHO, and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). There is another concept called One Welfare, which is a more holistic and inclusive concept that is very similar to One Health, but includes both the health and wellbeing of humans, animals, and the environment. 

Pawp & One Health

Pawp's overarching mission is access to care and education for pets. Pets that live in close contact with humans—and oftentimes even the same bed—are a vector for diseases that can affect human health. Telehealth service provides pet parents with easy access to licensed professional expertise and help, allowing them to become more aware of health issues that may arise or impact both the pets and the people in the household or community. Examples include:

  • Fleas and ticks. Fleas and ticks are common parasitic infections that many pets carry when they are not given monthly preventatives. Fleas and ticks can also attach to people and cause a myriad of health issues, and in particular, those who are immune-compromised are at increased risk from exposure. This is an example of One Health and why our approach to providing access to information is one way of aligning with the One Health concept. 

  • Rabies. Rabies is an another example that significantly impacts both human and animal health. Recently, there was tragic case of a young child falling victim to a rabies infection. Prevention is always better than cure, and this is why we will always advocate for an up to date rabies vaccine. Wildlife such as raccoons and opossums also carry rabies, and this has a tremendous impact that goes beyond domestic pets and people. 

One Health also emphasizes the importance of wellbeing, and in our industry in particular, veterinary wellbeing is a hot topic of discussion. Compassion fatigue and burnout causes many of us to leave the profession, causing further limited access to care and unnecessary suffering of the very animals we wanted to provide care for.

At Pawp, we focus on providing virtual care for pet parents and offset some of the burden experienced by veterinary professionals in a clinical setting. We also strive to create a mindful work environment where our professionals can feel that they are supported and provided space to take time off whenever they need. The wellbeing of the health care professionals that care for patients are directly tied to the mortality of the patients, and this has been well-documented in the human healthcare space. The same certainly goes in the veterinary space as well. 

By providing a remotely accessible service, we can offset carbon emissions by preventing pet parents from unnecessarily using their car to drive an hour away to an animal hospital when the situation can potentially be resolved at home—a very mild case of diarrhea for example.  

One Health & Veterinary Sustainability Goals

The United Nations created a blueprint of 17 goals that we as a global society can follow to achieve a more equitable and sustainable world for all—humans, animals, and the environment. Many of their goals are aligned directly with the work we do as veterinary professionals and often overlaps with the One Health approach.

Within the veterinary space, a non-profit organization called Vet Sustain based in the UK created six Sustainability Goals that veterinary professionals can focus on:

1. Diverse and abundant wildlife

2. Net zero warming

3. A no-waste society

4. A good life for all animals

5. Health and happiness

6. Enough clean water for all

If we as a society can adopt these principles, the wellbeing of humans, animals, and the environment will be in a much better place. We invite you to celebrate One Health with us this month and join us in recognizing the deep connection between our shared environment.

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