One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems.
It recognizes that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent.
While health, food, water, energy and environment are all wider topics with sector-specific concerns, the collaboration across sectors and disciplines contributes to protect health, address health challenges such as the emergence of infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and food safety and promote the health and integrity of our ecosystems.
By linking humans, animals and the environment, One Health can help to address the full spectrum of disease control – from prevention to detection, preparedness, response and management – and contribute to global health security.
The approach can be applied at the community, subnational, national, regional and global levels, and relies on shared and effective governance, communication, collaboration and coordination. Having the One Health approach in place makes it easier for people to better understand the co-benefits, risks, trade-offs and opportunities to advance equitable and holistic solutions.
COVID-19 has led to the loss of millions of lives and trillions of dollars from the global economy, an impact that needs to be avoided in the future. The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has underlined the need to strengthen the One Health approach, with a greater emphasis on connections to the environment, as well as promoting a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19, as described in the WHO manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19. Human health is a pillar of global health security that is sustained directly and indirectly through access to clean air and fresh water, safe food and healthy sustainable diets, and the availability of and access to medicines.
As we come together as a community in the aftermath of this global pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration; increase policy coordination and coherence supported by a more systematic use of robust scientific evidence; and promote the development of integrated indicators and safeguards to address upstream drivers of disease, with a focus on prevention. These efforts will not only contribute to the prevention of future pandemics but will help to build more resilient and equitable systems, environments, economies and societies.
In the context of the renewed interest from Member States to strengthen work on One Health and prevention of emerging zoonoses and the work of WHO Governing bodies on One Health, the WHO One Health Initiative team was set up to serve as the Secretariat of One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP), WHO coordination mechanism for its One Health activities and the quadripartite collaboration.
Investing in One Health contributes to WHO’s vision to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. WHO works to integrate the One Health approach into the global health narrative, grounded in strong political leadership, technical expertise and inclusive implementation led and owned by countries.
WHO and partner organizations are working to increase the adoption of the One Health approach in national, regional and international health policies through intersectoral political and strategic leadership; operationalizing responses and scaling up of country support, including research and policy assessment; strengthening country capacities; and monitoring of risks and preparedness for early detection and response to emerging pathogens.
Through combined energies of the Quadripartite organizations (FAO, OIE, UNEP and WHO), a comprehensive One Health Joint Plan of Action is in development, supported and advised by the One Health High-Level Expert Panel. The Plan aims to mainstream and operationalize One Health at the global, regional and national levels; support countries in establishing and achieving national targets and priorities for interventions; mobilize investment; promote a whole of society approach; and enable collaboration, learning and exchange across regions, countries and sectors.