”ONE-HEALTH” to Guarantee Your Own Health!

”Your own health is important but do address One-Health also” – says Dr. Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam, Disease-Biologist & Dean of Research from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, Chennai, India. Globally, November 3rd is observed as One Health Day, an awareness campaign that celebrates and brings attention to the need for a One Health approach to address shared health threats at the ‘human-animal-environment’ interface.

History of One-Health: One Health is a new phrase, but the concept can be traced back to ancient times. The recognition that environmental factors can impact human health was quoted by the Greek physician Hippocrates in his text as "On Airs, Waters, and Places". Most likely he was the pioneer to promote the concept that public health depends on a clean environment. When Ebola hemorrhagic fever became an outbreak in 2003, "One Health" was mentioned in the Washington Post with a statement - "Human or livestock or wildlife health can't be discussed in isolation anymore. There is just one health. And the solutions require everyone working together on all the different levels”. During the years 2007-2008, collective ‘One-Health’ resolutions passed by American Medical Association (AMA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and American Public Health Association (APHA), paved way for the creation of One Health Commission (OHC). Soon after this, the initiative become an International affair and the importance of One Health is promoted by scientists in many countries and supported by prominent organizations including the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and World Organization for Animal Health.

ONE HEALTH means a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. A One Health approach encourages collaborative efforts of many experts (like disease biologists, laboratorians, physicians, veterinarians, environmentalists, ecologists and health policy makers) working across human, animal, and environmental health to improve the health of people and animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, USA) operates National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and its One Health Office work closely with other countries to build strong partnerships with human, animal, and environmental health organizations. Experts from the One Health Office lead One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Workshops so that countries can focus limited resources on their top zoonotic diseases of greatest national concern. Zoonotic diseases commonly prioritized include viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola virus and Rift Valley fever, zoonotic influenza viruses, rabies, and anthrax.

One Health concept is very much important for countries like India – says Dr. Balasubramanyam. As of today, there are great concerns regarding the outbreak of vector-borne diseases and the season for such vector-borne diseases peaks in monsoon months. And there is antimicrobial resistance everywhere. The One Health Approach becomes all the more pertinent in India with burgeoning issues surrounding several aspects –regulations around use of antibiotics in humans and the entire food chain, poor control of zoonotic diseases, food safety etc.

Environmental Contaminants – a priority One Health Issue: The application of the “One Health” concept in relation to non-communicable chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes is much more pertinent as the etiology and pathology are linked to exposure to multiple stresses, including toxic stress, and new lifestyles. Under the One health concept, there is a cause for concern on ‘Environmental Contaminants’ like biosphenol-A (BPA) as they pose threat to humans, animals and environment. “While several studies caution on BPA as endocrine disruptor or metabolic disruptor, one of our pilot studies report elevated levels of BPA linked to insulin resistance, inflammation and accelerated ageing in patients with type 2 diabetes” – says Dr. Balasubramanyam.

We need One Health Workforce & One Health Scientists: Europe has launched ‘One Health European Joint Programme (EJP)’ – with a landmark partnership between 38 acclaimed food, veterinary and medical laboratories and institutes and across Europe and the Med-Vet-Net Association, which is an exemplar of the ‘One Health’ consortium. South-East Asian countries are already visionary in establishing the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN) which is creating One Health Workforce curriculum training to encourage active and sustained collaboration between veterinarians and public health professionals. India should catch up in One-Health Science & Technology advancements. Traditionally, ecological and veterinary sciences remain largely segregated from human health research. Funding agencies of Government of India should encourage collaborative work across the disciplines of human, veterinary, environmental and ecological health so as to promote One Health Scientists to develop innovative solutions to complex and inter-related human, animal, and environmental health threats.


Balasubramanyam photo Dr.M.Balasubramanyam, PhD., MNASc., FAPASc is Dean of Research Studies & Senior Scientist at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) in Chennai, India. Dr. Balasubramanyam's specialization is in Disease Biology; Molecular pathogenesis of diabetes and its vascular complications including diabetic retinopathy; Vascular Biology and signaling studies on VSMC; Clinical significance and subclinical relevance of cellular and molecular alterations in metabolic diseases; Mechanisms of accelerated senescence (ageing) and telomere biology; Insulin signaling & Proteomics; Epigenetics; RNAi and miRNA, gut microbiome aspects of diabetes, Unraveling mechanisms of hyperglycemic memory, Calcium & Redox signaling, Proinflammation, Oxidative stress, ER stress, AGE pathway and biomarker(s) identification; Role of Endocrine Disruptors in diabetes; Bioprospecting herbal molecules; Non-invasive point-of-care (POC) clinical measures and medical devices.

References (click to show/hide)

  1. http://www.onehealthinitiative.com/
  2. https://onehealthplatform.com/
  3. https://www.onehealthcommission.org/en/events/one_health_day/

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