POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Public health and climate change: a One Health approach
This POSTnote summarises how the One Health approach can be used to tackle key impacts of climate change and threats to public health. It outlines the key features, challenges and opportunities of implementation. This briefing takes a global perspective on implementing the approach, with areas of focus on UK policy.
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One Health recognises that human, animal and environmental health are closely interlinked. It aims to design and implement policy that engages multiple sectors and disciplines to achieve better health outcomes. The One Health concept is not new, but public health emergencies, such as Zika virus and Covid-19 have renewed policymakers’ interest. These emergencies highlight the interconnectedness and changing relationships between humans, animals and the environment. Evidence has indicated that climate change is contributing to threats to public health. The One Health approach can be used to tackle key impacts of climate change on public health, such as antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic disease and food and water safety and security.
World Health Organisation (WHO) is an international advocate for One Health and emphasises the approach in the ‘Pandemic Preparedness’ international treaty draft. One Health also features in several global commitments, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement on climate change. In June 2023, the UK Biological Security Strategy was released, which emphasises the approach specifically for tackling antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases.
Key components needed to implement One Health are interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration, community engagement, education and awareness, and monitoring and data management. There is some international evidence for the economic benefits of using a One Health approach, for example, between 2009-2015 integrated multisector surveillance of West Nile virus in Italy in animals and humans saved €1 million. Evidence of the economic benefits of an intervention may only be realised when the impacts on all sectors are measured.
Currently, there are challenges with the equity of access to One Health as there can be an imbalance of funding and research resources between higher income countries and lower-middle income countries. In One Health interventions there can be conflict between the needs of different sectors. There can also be difficulties in including the environmental sector due to a lack of assessment and evaluation tools to use during evaluation of interventions.
There is a wealth of literature on the theory of One Health but stakeholders agree that there is a lack of guidance on how to implement One Health in different settings. Stakeholders highlight that interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration can be difficult and guidance is often needed to initiate communication and negotiations. There may be limited objective measurements to monitor and evaluate the outcome of One Health interventions. Measuring and monitoring the outcomes of One Health initiatives can be challenging because outcomes cannot be measured using a single metric, for example environmental benefits can be difficult to quantify.
- A One Health approach recognises that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are closely interlinked. It aims to design and implement policy that engages multiple sectors and disciplines to improve human, animal and environmental health outcomes.
- The approach has been recommended to understand the complex impacts of climate change on public health, including diseases passed between animals and humans, antimicrobial resistance and the safety and security of food and water.
- The UK Government’s Biological Security Strategy (2023) emphasises the use of a One Health approach, specifically for tackling antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases.
- Implementation of a One Health approach requires interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration, community engagement, monitoring and data management, and education.
- There is emerging evidence of the economic benefits of implementing One Health, though multi-sectoral cost-effectiveness can be hard to evaluate.
- Challenges of implementing One Health include power imbalances between lower, middle- and high-income countries, conflicts of interest between sectors, underrepresentation of the environmental sector and limited evaluation mechanisms.
POST is grateful to Hannah Wolmuth-Gordon for researching this briefing, to the Nuffield Foundation for funding her parliamentary fellowship, and to all contributors and reviewers. For further information on this subject, please contact the co-author, Natasha Mutebi.
Members of the POST Board*
Syed Abbas, One Health Poultry Hub
Melanie Austen, Plymouth University
Guillaume Belot, World Health Organization*
Franck Berthe, World Bank
Bernard Bett, International Livestock Research Institute*
Julian Blanc, United Nations Environment Programme
Lisa Boden, University of Edinburgh*
Benjamin Capp, Dalhousie University
Andre Coetzer, Global Alliance for Rabies Control*
Todd Crane, International Livestock Research Institute*
Osman Dar, Chatham House
Eric Fèvre, University of Liverpool and International Livestock Research Institute*
Alessandra Galie, International Livestock Research Institute*
Edward Haynes, Fera Science*
Rafael Laguens, World Veterinary Association
Thomas Mettenleiter, OHHLEP and International Livestock Research Institute
Olaa Mohamed-Ahmed, UK Health Security Agency*
Arshnee Moodley, International Livestock Research Institute*
Shona O’Rourke, Food Standards Agency*
Ranjit Puri, Deloitte
Olivier Restif, University of Cambridge*
Kristina Roesel, International Livestock Research Institute*
Alex Tasker, Cabinet Office*
Lian Thomas, University of Liverpool and International Livestock Research Institute*
Jakob Zinsstag, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
*Denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.
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