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A "One Health" approach will be critical to the survival of British farming

Those searching for solutions to critical issues facing the health of people, animals and the planet should look to collaborate with other professions to effect change, a new report shows.

2 November 2019, at 10:00am

The environment is seen as one of the key pillars of health in the new report which compiles ‘real world’ case studies of when professionals from across the UK veterinary and medical professions, animal welfare and environmental sector have worked together to tackle important issues such as climate change, mental health and wellness and antimicrobial resistance.

The One Health in Action report launched by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) today (1 November), demonstrates the link between the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the planet.

It includes contributions from leading, national organisations such as The Wildlife Trust, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the National Trust, RSPCA, PDSA and the British Dental Association (BDA). Its launch will also mark One Health Day on Sunday 3rd November.

One Health is a cross-disciplinary approach which is already underpinning many global initiatives aimed at addressing key challenges. It recognises that the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the environment are interconnected and that tackling global issues as complex and varied as mental health, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic disease and climate change requires collaborative working from experts coming from varied professional fields.

The ‘nature prescribing’ initiative is one of the first examples of UK One Health in action showcased in the report. Featured in the ‘mental health and wellbeing’ chapter, the case study is supplied by The Wildlife Trusts and details their recent partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and NHS Lancashire Care. The project aims to improve the general wellbeing and mental health of young people in East Lancashire through ‘ecotherapy’, developing their understanding of wildlife and ecosystems and having a positive impact on the local environment. Together, the initiative has supported over 1,000 young people suffering with mental health issues to get out into nature and work on local wildlife projects. Projects include tree surveys, repairing footpaths and learning bush craft skills.

vet holding a needle and syringe vaccinating a piglet

Another example (placed within the Environment and Climate Change chapter), looks at how NHS England, in conjunction with Public Health England and NHS Improvement has set up The Sustainable Development Unit (SDU). Recognising that the health and social care system is England is a large employer and is consequently responsible for significant amounts of carbon emissions, water and air pollution, SDU have worked to implement sustainable development into the way they deliver health and social care. They have committed to ensuring that at least 90 percent of the NHS fleet use low-emission engines by 2028 as well as reducing single use plastics within the system.

The veterinary profession has long recognised and encouraged the concept of One Health. Their wide ranging experience and fields of work makes them well placed to play a key role within the One Health Agenda and one of the reasons that BVA has led on this report showcasing examples of where the concept is working within the UK.

On chairing The UK One Health Coordination Group (UKOHCG) and producing the report, BVA Senior Vice President, Simon Doherty said:

“One Health is an area that the veterinary profession has long been engaged with and I am very proud to present the BVA’s One Health in action report which draws on the combined experience of UK vets, medics and experts from the environmental sector to help showcase One Health to a wider audience.

“There are ongoing global concerns around the availability of food systems, environmental damage, rising rates of mental health issues, antimicrobial resistance, ecosystem health, transboundary diseases and climate change. In order to tackle these, the need for joint working and information sharing is greater than ever.

“Unsurprisingly ‘health’ goes beyond the absence of disease in humans and can include animal health and welfare and a healthy, biodiverse environment. By working together with the medical profession, environmental organisations and others, we can bring all of our areas of expertise into one arena to make a real difference to the world we live in.

“This report is just the beginning. We hope to see awareness to the One Health Agenda grow and for more organisations and individuals to get involved.”