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10 Dec 2021

Unified definition of One Health adopted by global animal, environment and health organisations

Under advice from the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to a newly formed definition of One Health.

Launched earlier in May this year, the OHHLEP was formed with 26 selected key international experts to provide policy relevant scientific assessment on the emergence of health crises arising from the human-animal-ecosystem interface and guidance on the development of a long-term strategic One Health approach to reducing the risk of zoonotic pandemics.

The newly agreed One Health definition states:

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems.

It recognises the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and inter-dependent.

The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development.

Image credit: One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP)
Image credit: One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP)

A unified definition will provide clearer translation of One Health across various sectors which are addressing health challenges, such as the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance and emerging infectious diseases.

For the Doherty Institute led COMBAT-AMR project, working to combat antimicrobial resistance in Pacific Island Countries, the newly formed definition will provide a unified approach to One Health across animal and human health sectors.

“It’s a very positive step forward,” says Dr Joanna McKenzie, One Health Lead of the COMBAT-AMR project.

“Having a definition endorsed by the FAO, OIE, UNEP and WHO strongly supports our work with partners and collaborators in Pacific Island Countries to implement effective and sustainable One Health approaches to mitigate antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans within their ecosystems.”  

In addition to the agreed One Health definition, the four global organisations are working under the advice of the OHHLEP to develop a Global Plan of Action for One Health, aiming to operationalise a whole of society One Health approach at global, regional and national levels.

Read the full statement via the World Health Organization website.