Vets central to the One Health agenda

01 November 2019

A new report (published today, 1 November) highlights that vets have an integral part to play in the One Health agenda, which brings together experts from human and animal medicine alongside environmental organisations to tackle pressing global issues.

With contributions from leading national organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), Royal College of Nursing (RCN), National Trust, PDSA and the British Dental Association (BDA), the British Veterinary Association has launched a first of its kind, One Health in action report to mark One Health Day on 3 November.

A wide range of expertise combined with varying roles from clinical practice to government and research means that vets often go beyond animal health and welfare, advising on human, public and environmental health. However, in order to put the One Health agenda into action, they cannot work alone.

The One Health concept recognises that the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the environment are interconnected and that tackling global issues as varied as mental health and wellbeing, antimicrobial resistance and climate change can be achieved with a collaborative approach from organisations and individuals working across each of these areas.

The report, born of the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects provides a series of case studies of how the concept can and has been applied to ‘real world’ situations for the benefit of human, animal and environmental health. It has been broken down into six major themes:

  • Mental health and Wellbeing
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
  • Zoonoses (Disease that can be transferred between animals and humans)
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Environmental and climate change
  • Injuries
 

Each section includes three case studies provided by contributors from a variety of professional organisations. One example within the mental health and wellbeing chapter is a case study supplied by The Wildlife Trust on the MyPlace partnership between Lancashire Wildlife Trust and NHS Lancashire Care. The initiative is based around the idea of ‘nature prescribing’ and has supported over 1,000 young people suffering with mental health issues to get out into nature and work on local wildlife projects. Projects include tree surveys, repairing footpaths and learning bush craft skills. The outcomes of this project include improved wellbeing and mental health for the young people involved and a positive impact on the local environment.

Another case study, provided by the PDSA and Salford City Council, looks at how by forming a partnership which included the NHS Health Check programme (a world-leading screening programme aimed at tackling preventable death and disability), the three organisations were able to drive engagement and interest from animal owners in their own health by offering free dog microchipping and pet MOTs. The project resulted in an increased uptake in GP check-ups and reported positive lifestyle changes in its evaluation.

The One Health in action report includes a foreword from BVA Senior Vice President, Simon Doherty. On chairing The UK One Health Coordination Group (UKOHCG) and producing the report, he said:

“One Health is something that is close to my heart and an area that I have been involved in for a long time. I am very proud to present the BVA’s One Health in action report which draws on the combined experience of members of the UKOHCG and several other key stakeholders to help showcase One Health to a wider audience.

“There are ongoing global concerns around the availability of food systems, environmental damage, rising rates of mental health issues, antimicrobial resistance, ecosystem health, transboundary diseases and climate change. In order to tackle these, the need for joint working and information sharing is greater than ever.

“Unsurprisingly ‘health’ goes beyond the absence of disease in humans and can include animal health and welfare and a healthy, biodiverse environment. By working together with medics, environmental organisations and others, we can bring all of our areas of expertise into one arena to make a real difference to the world we live in.

“This report is just the beginning. We hope to see awareness to the One Health Agenda grow and for more organisations and individuals to get involved.”

The veterinary profession has long recognised and encouraged the concept of One Health, however in a recent Voice of the Veterinary profession survey, results showed that only 11% of vets understood that it linked humans, animals and the environment. The data suggests that there is still work to do in order to raise awareness of the concept within the profession.

BVA Media Office