Global One Health: The Role of Veterinarians

global one health veterinary

Veterinarians play a pivotal role in safeguarding the well-being of animals, humans, and the environment. The One Health concept recognizes how these components are connected and emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration to address complex global health challenges.

As animal health stewards, veterinarians play an integral role in driving and advancing the One Health concept. Here we highlight how veterinarians worldwide support global One Health efforts.

What is One Health in relation to Veterinary Medicine?

One Health is an approach that acknowledges how humans, animals, and ecosystems are intricately linked and that the health of each is dependent upon the others. Zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance are good examples of this connection, which globally impacts people and animals.

One Health emphasizes a holistic approach to collaboratively solving complex public health issues, recognizing that the responsibility doesn’t fall on one group, region, or nation.

One Health Pillars in Veterinary Medicine

One Health is an overarching concept supported by many groups, such as the One Health Initiative and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Some of the ideas emphasized by One Health include:

  • Collaboration — Collaboration among veterinarians, physicians, ecologists, environmental scientists, and public health officials can help solve complex problems. By combining multiple disciplines’ expertise, holistic solutions are developed that consider various perspectives.
  • Prevention — Preventive measures in human and animal medicine, including vaccination programs, education initiatives, and proactive surveillance can reduce disease spread and keep our food supply safer.
  • Environmental stewardship — Protecting the environment is crucial to our future. Advocating for sustainable practices and reducing pollution requires a multidisciplinary and global approach to ensure a healthy environment and minimize the impact of climate change.

global veterinary health veterinarians

Veterinarians and One Health

Veterinarians play an important role in One Health by striving to keep animals healthy, which helps ensure the food supply’s safety and reduces disease spread from animals to humans. Some specific areas in which veterinarians around the globe contribute to One Health include:

  • Disease surveillance — Veterinarians are on the front lines of zoonotic disease surveillance, reporting outbreaks and unusual cases in animals that could impact human health.
  • Antibiotic stewardship — Veterinarians understand how antibiotic resistance develops in people, pets, and food animals, and take steps to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.
  • Education — Veterinarians educate their clients, colleagues, and communities about One Health, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Research — Veterinarians involved with research can directly contribute to One Health by studying disease transmission, emerging pathogens, and treatments. Veterinarians can set an example by actively collaborating and sharing knowledge with other medical professionals.
  • Policy — Veterinary organizations with lobbying power can advocate for One Health-friendly policies, focusing on infrastructure, veterinary care access, and environmental regulations at local and large-scale levels.

How does One Health thinking vary among veterinarians globally?

The specific ways in which veterinarians contribute to One Health may depend on their country’s or area’s challenges and priorities. Factors that can influence how veterinarians contribute to or think about One Health include:

  • Cultural differences — Cultural attitudes can shape the approach to One Health and veterinarians’ perceived role. For example, in some countries, animals are valued for economic contribution, while in others, they hold cultural or religious significance or are seen primarily as companions.
  • Socio-economic factors — Access to health care and veterinary services impacts zoonotic disease prevalence and can shift One Health priorities.
  • Healthcare infrastructure — Healthcare infrastructure can influence veterinarians’ ability to contribute to One Health initiatives. Veterinarians have access to diagnostic tools, surveillance systems, and public health agencies in the United States and other developed nations, allowing for comprehensive disease monitoring. In contrast, developing countries may lack these resources, and veterinarians may have difficulty implementing positive change.
  • Disease patterns — Different regions face unique health concerns based on population density, climate, wildlife, and agricultural practices. Veterinarians in rural areas focus on how livestock health can impact food security, while those in urban areas may focus on preventing zoonotic diseases.
  • Environmental challenges — Pollution, deforestation, and climate change are global environmental concerns, but their impact varies. Veterinarians help monitor wildlife health and vector-borne diseases in areas faced with these challenges.
  • Government policy — Veterinarians in different parts of the world face various government policies that impact how they practice veterinary medicine and contribute to global One Health. Some countries have robust interagency collaboration while others may suffer from fragmentation and competing priorities.

Although universal, One Health’s principles depend on local contexts and priorities. Veterinarians play a crucial role in adapting One Health approaches to address challenges most pressing to their communities. By working collaboratively across disciplines and borders, veterinarians can contribute to a more integrated and holistic approach to improving the health and well-being of humans, animals, and the environment.

As animal health advocates, veterinarians are uniquely positioned to advance One Health. By embracing interdisciplinary collaboration, promoting preventive measures, and helping create evidence-based policies, veterinarians contribute to a sustainable future at an individual and organizational level. With One Health, every action we take contributes to a safer and healthier planet.

Are you ready to contribute to global One Health efforts by becoming a veterinarian or working as a veterinarian in a new location? The Vet Service have roles around the world including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and more. Contact The Vet Service for help finding your next position or for assistance with relocation efforts.