One health, many solutions

19 May 2015

Ebola, bird flu, HIV, SARS – they’re scary subjects, not just because they result in devastating illness and horrific death, but because they are zoonotic, passed from animals to humans.

University of Queensland researchers hope to help fill this knowledge gap through a new book, One Health: the theory and practice of integrated health approaches.

The book brings together global experts in the fields of veterinary and animal science, epidemiology, environmental science, tropical medicine and public health to explore solutions to these threats using a one-health approach.

UQ School of Public Health (UQSPH) Professor Maxine Whittaker co-edited One Health and wrote a chapter on the role of social sciences in assessing animal-human links.

“This book provides working examples of using ‘one health’ as an approach to addressing major public health challenges,” Professor Whittaker said.

“It complements recent publications that detail the theory and philosophy of ‘one health’ by providing real-life and pragmatic applications to public health challenges around the world.

“It has been developed to support practitioners, researchers and teachers in human and animal health, environmental studies, public policy and other disciplines to adopt a one-health approach in their work and analysis.”

Professor Whittaker said scientists estimated that about 60 per cent of human infectious diseases originated from animals and that 75 per cent of recently emerged infectious diseases were zoonotic.

“The ‘one health’ approach looks at the tools, services, strategies, data and opportunities provided in animal and/or human health systems to find the more cost-effective, accessible and acceptable ways of preventing, treating, controlling or eliminating these health threats,” she said.

UQSPH Associate Professor Simon Reid co-authored a chapter on the development of a national strategy for leptospirosis – a bacterial infection that can lead to meningitis – in Fiji.

He said ‘one health’ approaches were being embraced by public health agencies in countries where zoonotic diseases were a significant burden. 

“One-health approaches offer a new paradigm to overcome the limitations of a ‘business as usual’ approach to public health problems that focus on understanding how the agricultural, public health and environmental sectors can work together,” he said.

UQSPH PhD student Adnan Choudhury authored a chapter about one-health economics.

“The constant pressure to find the most cost-effective solutions to public health issues makes the investigation of a one-health approach a necessity,” Mr Choudhury said.

“Chapters in this book identify ways practitioners have used resources in human and animal health and other sectors to find effective, efficient and affordable solutions.”

Zoonotic diseases are the theme of One Health – with discussions of diseases of wildlife, farm animals, domestic pets and humans – and topics around sanitation, economics, food security and vaccination programs are also covered.

The work of these UQ scientists builds upon strategic start-up funds provided by UQ to build expertise, training and research in the emerging field of one health.

Associate Professor Reid and Professor Whittaker will present a five-day, intensive course, One Health: diseases at the human-animal interface, at The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health from 13 to 17 July 2015.

MEDIAProfessor Maxine Whittaker, skype: maxine.whittaker1, +61 7 3365 5395,; Associate Professor Simon Reid, +61 405 557 594, +61 7 336 55290,