A One Health profession

Posted on November 03, 2017 by Simon Doherty

One Health 2017 poster"One Health recognises the synergies between animal health, public health and environmental specialists and applies them at local, national and global level to contribute to the constant simultaneous improvement of public health and animal health worldwide.” Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health)

The veterinary profession has long led the way in recognising and encouraging the concept of One Health. At BVA's annual Members’ Day a couple of years ago, Professor Tom Soloman, Director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, was astounded by the show of hands when he asked who had heard of One Health. He admitted that he wouldn’t have received that level of knowledge in a roomful of medics.

Through the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects, jointly led by RCVS and BVA/BVNA and launched in 2015 and 2016, respectively, UK veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses identified that their day-to-day work in practice frequently incorporates One Health approaches. A great example of this is the recent re-igniting of the issue of passive smoking in companion animals, led by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) alongside the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Medical and veterinary nursing colleagues took to the media-stage to discuss an important human and animal health issue relating to the domestic environment.

AMR is perhaps the biggest global One Health challenge that we face and last year BVA, in partnership with the British Medical Association (BMA), Public Health England and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate a poster for veterinary practices and GPs’ waiting rooms to improve antibiotic awareness. Please do download a copy and pin it up!

International One Health interactions

Today (3 November) we celebrate International One Health Day, which launched last year as an annual event to engage individuals and organisations from different sectors in One Health interactions.

At European and global levels there are One Health platforms that largely exist to develop policy and draw up research priorities around issues such as zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and that attempt to coordinate the surveillance, control or eradication of various transboundary diseases. Indeed, BVA Officers and other BVA members are often asked to participate in such groups, discussing specific diseases such as rabies, tuberculosis or trichinellosis.

In the UK, many of our universities and research institutes are at the height of scientific excellence in One Health matters, participating in multidisciplinary consortia such as the University of Surrey’s MED-VET-NET which explores aspects of zoonotic diseases. I delivered a keynote at the MED-VET-NET 2017 Conference in Guildford at the end of June on ‘Innovation in combating zoonotic disease threats’.

At the University of Bristol there is the AMR Force, which is made up of various groups including the medical school and veterinary school, that aims to influence behaviours around antibiotic prescribing. While at the world-renowned independent policy institute Chatham House there have been numerous One Health colloquia with speakers from the Royal Veterinary College, University of Cambridge and others.

Making One Health working a priority

Establishing a UK-wide One Health Coordination Group was identified by Vet Futures. This group, while still currently in infancy, is intended to complement other One Health policy-making and research prioritisation activities (mentioned above) by showcasing and championing ‘real-life’ examples of One Health in practice in the UK. Such as the initiative to reduce risk of dog bite injuries to people, where a maxillofacial surgeon is working with local vet practices in Fife to identify risk factors and do a bit of knowledge transfer with dog owners through their vets.

The One Health Coordination Group brings together representatives from BVA and BVA specialist divisions including the Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) as well as BVNA, BMA, RCN, and the Wildlife Trusts. Moving forwards, other stakeholders may be invited to attend when there is discussion around specific areas of interest and the meetings will provide opportunities to share networks and contacts.

And earlier this month, I attended the Vet Futures Student Ambassador Day, designed to offer training and support to veterinary students from across the UK to champion Vet Futures within their vet schools. Amongst other priority areas, the students pin-pointed One Health as a focus to develop ‘ambitions’ around.

A One Health profession

From exercising with our animals to ensuring our prescribing practices are as tight as they should be in the fight against AMR or contributing to one of the many One Health discussions or consortiums taking place, we all have our part to play this One Health Day – and throughout the year.

Simon Doherty

Written by Simon Doherty

BVA President

Simon Doherty is President of BVA. He is a past-president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and of the Northern Ireland Branch of BVA. Simon is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast and is a certified aquaculture vet. He is a trustee of livestock development charity, Send a Cow, and of the Animal Welfare Foundation. Simon Doherty became President of BVA in September 2018.