Environmental Factor, June 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS Participates in New One Health Initiative
By Eddy Ball
Long before news about the H1N1 "swine flu" virus concerned people around the world, leaders in the animal health community were already organizing to better understand and deal with the growing health threat posed by multi-host pathogens. On May 1, two NIEHS leaders - Associate Director Allen Dearry, Ph.D., and Rear Admiral Bill Stokes, D.V.M., director of National Toxicology Program (NTP) inter-agency programs on alternative methods (http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/pubhealth/evalatm/index.html) - joined colleagues from area universities and organizations at a One Health Roundtable at the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park (RTP).
One Health (http://www.avma.org/onehealth/) is an initiative conceived in 2006 by then American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President Roger Mahr, D.V.M. (http://www.isualum.org/en/awards/distinguished_awards_celebration/distinguished_alumni_award/roger_mahr_2009/) , to lead a collaborative effort involving multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally. An example of cases where One Health collaborations have been especially effective is in combating zoonotic diseases - ones transferred from animals to humans, such as H1N1, avian influenza and West Nile virus. These pathogens cause approximately 60 percent of all recognized human disease and 70 percent or more of newly emerging infectious diseases.
According to One Health leaders, climate change and a growing demand for food from animal sources are exacerbating the impact of the environment on the health of people and animals. Potential increases in emerging and re-emerging zoonotic infections could challenge the capacity of existing comparative health expertise and public health resources.
Stokes, a career officer in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, is a distinguished member of the AVMA and a member of the One Health Joint Steering Committee. He also served on the AVMA's One Health Initiative Task Force that published itson the new program last year. Dearry, who focuses on environmental public health, is part of the Institute's leadership team assigned to the field of global environmental health.
Along with Dearry and Stokes, participants at the RTP roundtable included representatives of the Hamner Institutes, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health, Duke University School of Medicine, and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Participants shared information about their expertise in areas relevant to the human health implications of emerging multi-host pathogens and identified training and infrastructure needs. Stokes and Dearry described the work of NIEHS researchers in the areas of water- and vector-borne disease and harmful algal blooms, as well as NIEHS involvement in research on cancer, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases and the environment. They explained that NIEHS supports One Health as a part of the Institute's focus on disease prevention.
The One Health Roundtable in RTP was one of several organizational meetings convened nationwide to involve governmental, educational and research organizations in a concerted effort for accomplishing four major goals:
- Develop, implement and sustain an integrated national strategy for improved public health based on the principles of One Health
- Create national and international awareness within the health science professions, the broad scientific community, government institutions, the political leadership and the general public of the power of One Health to improve the health of people, animals and the environment
- Illustrate the value of implementing One Health through specific demonstration models and projects
- Extend One Health to the international community to achieve tangible improvements in health worldwide
One Health gained an important ally early in the planning process when the American Medical Association (AMA) partnered with the AVMA on the One Health concept. The One Health Joint Steering Committee now has nearly twenty participating member organizations, including the NIEHS and NTP, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Park Service, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and Association of American Medical Colleges. One Health received a $100,000 program implementation grant from the Rockefeller Foundation earlier this year.
The One Health Vision
To promote and improve the health of humans, animals and our environment, individually and col-lectively, by encouraging and ensuring the acceptance and adoption of One Health and its associated activities.
Definition of "One Health"
One Health is the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines-working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.
The Scope of "One Health"
The scope of One Health is impressive, broad, and growing.