Here at NIAMRRE we take a strong stand on taking a One Health perspective on antimicrobial resistance. This stance provides numerous opportunities to discuss what One Health means to us and what having such a perspective means for efforts in the antimicrobial resistance space. Certainly a number of different groups have worked to better define and describe One Health, but that discussion often is complex, long and nuanced. Recently the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) released a comprehensive definition from their perspective (https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1010537 ) and that definition has subsequently been adopted by the quadripartite (WHO, FAO, WOAH and UNEP). As with many such efforts, the definition is several paragraphs long, but also includes some specific call-outs for key underlying principles. As we close out 2022, I thought it would be worth looking at some of those principles to remind ourselves of the values and principles that we seek to support. The definition and principles are copied here:
One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent.
The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines, and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for healthy food, water, energy, and air, taking action on climate change and contributing to sustainable development.
Key underlying principles including
- equity between sectors and disciplines;
- sociopolitical and multicultural parity (the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities) and inclusion and engagement of communities and marginalized voices;
- socioecological equilibrium that seeks a harmonious balance between human–animal–environment interaction and acknowledging the importance of biodiversity, access to sufficient natural space and resources, and the intrinsic value of all living things within the ecosystem;
- stewardship and the responsibility of humans to change behavior and adopt sustainable solutions that recognize the importance of animal welfare and the integrity of the whole ecosystem, thus securing the well-being of current and future generations; and
- transdisciplinarity and multisectoral collaboration, which includes all relevant disciplines, both modern and traditional forms of knowledge and a broad representative array of perspectives.
There are many nuggets of perspective and insight provided in this definition. This week I would like to simply focus on the first sentence of the definition and point out some words/phrases and really speak to me in that sentence. First, the term “integrated” I think is important. I suggest that these are not simply specialist from different sectors occasionally touching base on what they are doing, but instead that they are fully working together to seek a common goal and purpose. As a USDA NIFA funded researcher and grant reviewer working with “integrated” grants it quickly becomes apparent when the research, education, and extension components of the grants were written independently and then just pasted together. This is true for One Health as well, true integration requires working together throughout and not just at the end of a project. Secondly, I would like to point out the term “unifying”. To me this emphasizes that we are working to seek common understanding, shared values and perhaps most importantly respect for each other. This can sometimes be a challenge to put into practice. I think related to this is it also important to recognize that the key underlying principles further outlines “equity” between the sectors and equilibrium to “sustainably balance and optimize” the health of each of the sectors.
As the year closes, please join me in reflecting on these concepts and principles. They are deeply engrained in what we do at NIAMRRE and this is a great time of year to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how are we doing. Perhaps in a future blog I will dive into some more of this definition, but in the meantime happy holidays to everyone.