By: Dr Mphane Molefe
“We have a common goal of optimal health for humans and animals, and to ensure a sustainable environment for our future existence”, explains Dr Mphane Molefe, SAVC Council Member and Ministerial Representative.
“The One Health approach brings together expertise and resources to achieve this goal”.
One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach to achieve optimal health and well-being outcomes. It recognises the interconnections between people, animals, and their shared environment. Veterinary and paraveterinary professionals are critical in the success of the One Health approach as they form the cornerstone of animal health in the One Health triad.
Where did the One Health concept originate?
The term ‘’One Health” or “One Medicine” has been around a long time — the concept goes back as far as 400 BC in Hippocrates’ On Airs, Waters, and Places. In more recent times, American born Dr. Calvin Schwabe (widely known as the father of veterinary epidemiology) coined the term “One Medicine” in his book, Veterinary Medicine and Human Health in 1964.
Schwabe was a pioneer in bridging the veterinary and human health professions. His influence on how closely related the health of animals is to the health of humans stretched far and developed a progressive way of thinking.
According to the One Health Commission (global initiative), nearly 75% of all global emerging human infectious diseases in the past three decades originated in animals.
At its core, One Health is rooted in understanding the interdependence of human and natural systems and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration.
The role of the veterinary industry
As veterinary and para-veterinary professionals take care of animals, they must consider the impact of their practices on the health and welfare of the public and the environment. A typical example is to ensure prudent use of antibiotics when treating food-producing animals, to ensure that the residues of the antibiotics are not transferred into the food chain.
Antimicrobial resistance is a typical example where antibiotics that have been effective for generations for the treatment of animal and human illnesses are no longer effective. This has been attributed to various factors, including human beings consuming animal products that contain antibiotic residues and the careless use of veterinary medicines, such as incorrect dosage and inadequate treatment periods.
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC), through the Food Safety and Security Committee, is constantly analysing the latest developments on the One Health2 approach and advising its registrees on best practices in carrying out their activities to ensure optimal health for all in the ecosystem.
- Deworming a dog will ensure that a child who plays with that dog, does not get internal parasites from the dog or the grass that is contaminated through dog faecal material containing worm eggs and larvae.
- Vaccination of dogs and cats for rabies will ensure that animals do not contract rabies and transmit it to human beings.
- Implementation of pathogen reduction programmes at farm level by veterinary and para-veterinary professionals and the farming communities ensures that pathogens are not transmitted through the animal-product value chain, resulting in illnesses such as salmonellosis and listeriosis.
SAVC registrees and the public are advised to ensure that veterinary medicines are used prudently in accordance with the advice of the manufacturers. And make sure that any unused medicines are disposed of carefully, to ensure that there is no contamination of the environment.