Today, November 3rd is One Health Day and its goal “is to build the cultural will necessary for a sea change in how planetary health challenges are assessed and addressed and how professionals exchange information across disciplines.” In the spirit of this call, I want to link One Health to the Sustainable Development Goals since it is not possible to talk about planetary health without considering this connection. Indeed, sustainability is a necessary condition for the survival of humans, animals, plants, and the environment and, therefore, for their health.
In the beginning, the idea of One Health, older than the SDGs, had a narrower focus: studying the areas of overlap between the health of animals and humans. However, over time, this idea expanded to include the health of the environment, of the plants, the importance of interdisciplinarity, of listening to local communities, and much more as it was recently summarized in the new definition of One Health. The conclusion “[…] and contributing to sustainable development.” clearly highlights the connection with the SDGs.
Both OH and the SDGs adopt a systems thinking approach trying to move beyond small, focused correlations and instead looking at the overall picture and at how multiple parts affect each other in both direct and indirect ways. For this reason, I want to delve deeper into the web of connections existing between these two topics: the web that also provides the foundation for the concept of Circular Health.
The most obvious connections derive from those SDGs that address health in their different subjects: people (SDG3), domestic animals (SDG2), wild animals, plants, and the environment (SDG14 and SDG15). At the same time, the official OH definition mentions explicitly other topics covered by several SDGs: clean water (SDG6) and energy (SDG7), safe and nutritious food (SDG2 again), and climate change (SDG13). The same definition stresses the importance of multilevel agreements that resonates soundly with the goal of international cooperation for, among others, scientific research (SDG17). Moreover, one of the goals of the One Health approach is described as promoting well-being, something strongly associated with the idea of freedom from poverty (SDG1).
Moving beyond the textual definition of OH, the new graphic representation of the One Health definition includes references to the urban environment (SDG11) and inclusivity, equity, and access (SDG10, SDG5) as necessary to achieve One Health. Finally, when looking at the big issues tackled by OH such as antimicrobial resistance, climate change, and infectious diseases and vaccinations, besides being the same as many of the SDGs’ issues, they all share the need for technological innovations and behavioral changes. The former requires both, new discoveries (SDG9) and a better-trained workforce (SDG8) while the latter require people to learn and participate more in the sustainable management of our shared planet and resources, as promoted by both SDG4 and SDG11.
So, on this One Health Day, I want to invite everyone to think about the wonders of our shared planet-home and reflect on the big and small acts that we can implement to preserve it for us and all the lives that surround us.
By: Dr. Luca Mantegazza | Research Program Coordinator