Ethical Promises and Pitfalls of OneHealth

Public Health Ethics 9 (1):1-4 (2016)
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Emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, Hendra, SARS, West Nile, Hepatitis E and avian influenza have led to a renewed recognition of how diseases in human beings, wildlife and livestock are interlinked. The changing prevalence and spread of such infections are largely determined by human activities and changes in environment and climate—where the latter are often also caused by human activities. Since the beginning of the 21st century, these insights have been brought together under the heading of OneHealth—a concept that calls for interdisciplinary collaboration between various sciences as well as professional practices to promote and protect the health of human and non-human animals and the natural environment. Just as insights from public health have led to a broadened focus for health policy and medical care, from treating individual patients to protecting and promoting population health, OneHealth calls for an even broader perspective, including a concern for the environment and animals, and for social-cultural factors that affect human, animal and environmental health. OneHealth not only covers collaborative work to understand and control zoonotic diseases, but also other ways in which interactions between animals, plants and humans may positively or negatively impact on each other’s health. Thus, studies in veterinary medicine and environmental sciences may lead to new insights in human medicine, and vice versa. Acknowledgment of the links between environmental, animal and social health is of course not a novel insight. Hippocrates already pointed to the importance of a clean environment as a requirement for good health; the early public health movements emphasized hygienic living conditions including good-quality housing, sewage systems and clean air and water; and the founders of modern medicine such as William Osler and Rudolf Virchow promoted …



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