Why is the UK One Health Co-ordination group important?

Posted on November 04, 2019 by Helen Ballantyne

What’s not to like about One Health?

One health can save time, save money, and most importantly contribute to meaningful positive health outcomes for patients, regardless of the species standing in front of the professional. It’s the topic that everyone is talking about: it’s impossible to pick any veterinary professional publication and not find a reference to this emerging discipline. Take a walk through the aisles of the local newsagents and I guarantee there will be at least one headline, sitting pretty among the glossy magazines extolling the health benefits of animals and of being outside, trumpeting the interdependent triad that is One Health; humans, animals, and the environment. 

The UK One Health Co-ordination Group

Through the work of the Vet Futures and Veterinary Nursing futures reports, a mandate has emerged for the representative bodies of the veterinary profession to ensure One Health is a core element of their work. Vets are seeking a louder voice at the table of global issues such as antibiotic resistance and zoonotic disease as they see more and more potential to collaborate. Veterinary nurses generally perceive their One Health role as more local, offering support to specific vulnerable client groups to facilitate caring and healthy pet ownership.

The UKOHCG was formed as a direct result of this mandate. Meeting twice a year, its remit supports cross collaborative work between the three elements of One Health. It provides a foundation for One Health, a starting board for projects and a reference point to enable learning through borrowed experience and shared outcomes. Attendees are wide ranging in their areas of interest, passion, and profession. Human centred doctors, nurses, and dentists, sit alongside representatives from conservation and ecological societies, with Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses spanning the species completing the triple combination that is One Health.

Social prescribing

Social prescribing, the idea that people can derive health benefits from activities beyond medications, such as outdoor exercise, spending time in natural environments, or volunteering with animals is a topic that often emerges during UKOHCG meetings. It’s a fantastic example of the potential such a meeting offers. So, the human nursing sector, looking to expand their social prescribing remit, is seeking lists of potential areas, centres, and activities where patients might be signposted to. Alongside that, they are looking for guidance on what to say to people who are talking about getting a pet. Knowing and understanding that taking on a pet is a serious decision, the representative is looking for the best website to direct their patients to, so they can read robust, evidence-based information on what they need to consider when thinking about getting a pet.

The UKOHCG meeting, solves both of those queries. The environmental representatives are able to provide a list of locations, the veterinary team members in the room are able to provide links to the relevant websites that can provide high quality information on getting a new pet. Job done. 

Conversations are key

In a world dominated by social media, face to face meetings like this one still have their place. Conversations that start off on one subject can quickly evolve into sharing of practice, mutual connections, and extended networks.

Such meetings also provide inevitable moments of amusement. When Simon, our current chair sees fit to divide us into working groups, his method reminds me of how my husband distinguishes people based purely on the football team they support. In this meeting we are distinguished by species, 'you’re human' says Simon, pointing to the human health professionals, receiving raised eyebrows in response. His veterinary colleagues are referred to as 'animal', and environmental representatives are known as 'flora and fauna'. We move obediently into our equitable groups, three groups of representatives, each including the three essential elements to make the triad, the triangle that is One Health.

Find out more

To learn more about One Health, download the BVA One Health in Action report or check out this blog.

We’d also love to hear about your examples of One Health in Action. Let us know about projects you are involved in, or any that you think will inspire others by emailing policy@bva.co.uk or by tagging @BritishVets in your #OneHealthInAction social media posts.

Helen Ballantyne

Written by Helen Ballantyne

Registered Veterinary Nurse

After graduating with a degree in Pharmacology in 2002, Helen qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2005. She worked as a locum nurse nationally and internationally and spent five years on the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) council. In 2013, she further qualified as a human-centred nurse and is now a Transplant Nurse Specialist.

Helen remains a Registered Veterinary Nurse and has developed a strong interest in the principles of One Health, supporting collaborative practice between the medical and veterinary professions.