White House should encourage “One Health” integration at domestic, global levels

White House should encourage “One Health” integration at domestic, global levelsAlthough the concept of “One Health” is increasingly accepted around the world as the interface between human, animal and environmental health, the agencies responsible for monitoring and preventing zoonotic disease outbreaks have yet to fully integrate, exposing gaps in the government’s response. Now, several senators and the AVMA are calling on the White House to look into how to better integrate the agencies responsible for One Health initiatives within the domestic and international arena.

On Feb. 12, seven U.S. senators sent a letter to President Obama expressing their frustration with the speed in which the federal government is implementing One Health collaboration across the domestic and international public health sphere. They wrote:

“Although One Health is widely recognized to be integral to efforts to combat zoonotic disease, the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines required to address such disease outbreaks that occur at the human-animal interface has yet to materialize in a substantive way.”

Referencing the swift action that the president took in establishing a council of advisors to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the senators urged the White House to develop a National One Health Framework that will “instill a culture of collaboration” between the human, animal and environmental health agencies. The senators write:

“A culture change is needed within our domestic and international public health agencies to heed these warnings [such as with the recent Ebola virus outbreak] and prevent diseases from entering human populations.”

The senators also encouraged the president to work with the United Nations in developing an interagency framework that will address the World Health Organization’s animal and environmental health information gaps.

Following the senators’ letter, AVMA President Dr. Ted Cohn sent a letter to the White House on March 12, advocating for a multidisciplinary, multisectoral approach in addressing current and future zoonotic diseases. Cohn writes:

“Our role as veterinarians is not only to keep animals healthy, but also to work hand-in-hand with local, national, and global public health and environmental experts. Such interaction enables us to ask the right questions and to conduct the most appropriate research, so that together, we can most successfully advance the science and technology on this vital issue. By increasing the awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the interdependency of the health of humans and animals, and the environment, our nation’s leaders can begin to take proactive steps to better protect Americans from zoonotic diseases and other biological threats, support our agricultural economy, and preserve the environment for generations to come.”

For more information on AVMA’s One Health activities, please see our website here.

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