Vets can lead One Health agenda
Could the ‘one health’ approach hold the solution to feeding a growing population, asks director of global operations in Europe Martin Murphy.

OneHealth is the understanding that people, animals and our planet must all work in balance towards a healthier world.

And it’s an approach we sorely need to face our many global challenges; one in three people aren’t getting the nutrition they need, 20% of animal productivity is lost to morbidity and mortality every year1, and annually we’re using natural resources equivalent to 160% of those we produce.

This is not sustainable, but our industry can lead the change through a one health approach. For me it starts with education. Physicians and veterinarians can learn from each other and formal, structured interaction at undergraduate level, I feel, will foster mutual respect and appreciation.

Increasing efficacy in farming is vital. I presented data showing that between 2002 and 2013, 82% of increased milk production was achieved by increasing the number of cows, while just 3% was by improving efficiency.2

We must try harder – as president of Elanco Jeff Simmons has said many times, continuing to increase the number of cows on the planet is unsustainable.

A core tenet of one health is the interconnectedness of animal and human health, something pet owners recognise on an almost instinctive level.

The ability of the human-animal bond to reduce stress and support people with disabilities is well documented. In fact, a report in 2016 found that companion animals could save the UK’s National Health Service around £2.45bn annually after examining the direct and indirect benefits and costs of companion animals to society, including their influence on human mental and physical health, illness prevention and well-being.3

And with an aging population of loved dogs and cats for veterinarians to care for, we as an animal health industry have a real opportunity to use innovation to make an impact on human and animal health.

IFAH-Europe Secretary General Roxanne Feller, said: “By keeping animals healthy, we can help to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply, protect people from food-borne illnesses and zoonotic disease and enable farmers to produce more food with less natural resource … and less waste, helping to reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment.”

To me, this encapsulates precisely what One Health is striving to achieve.

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1 The Economic Impact of Companion Animals in the UK. www.cabi.org/bookshop/book/9781786391728.
2 FAOSTAT, FAO (accessed 24AUG2016)
3 The Economic Impact of Companion Animals in the UK. www.cabi.org/bookshop/book/9781786391728.

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