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Summary of the One Health course

In this article, Jakob Zinsstag summarises the topics which have been discussed in this One Health course.

At the end of this course, we would like to thank you for your participation and contributions to the mutual learning between educators and students. Developing and running a free online course is quite an intensive but also enriching experience because of the new dimensions of global social networks which lead to unexpected interactions and contributions.

Take home message

According to our understanding, One Health can be summarised as the added value of a closer cooperation between human and animal health and related disciplines. The added value can be in terms of human and animal health, financial saving, environmental services or social equity. To measure such an added value implies a deep understanding of the social-ecological system in which we study human and animal health, but this alone is not sufficient. We need methods that are capable of measuring this added value qualitatively and quantitatively. We call such methods explicit One Health methods; they have been presented to you in this course with examples and applications.

Week 1

In Week 1 we addressed how humans relate to animals and what influences the human-animal relationship. From there we proceeded with the investigation into where human and veterinary medicine are linked and why both medicines are often separated. In order to lead up to the One Health approach, we asked if a closer cooperation between human and veterinary medicine would make sense and if there could be benefits if doctors and veterinarians worked better together as One Health?

Week 2

In Week 2 we introduced how we can identify and generate an added value between human and animal health. As you saw, the requirement is that we connect humans and animals in interfaces and understand the diversity of these animal-human interfaces. Then we can develop methods to assess the animal-human interface by means of matrices and equations. You studied examples from infectious diseases which are transmitted between animals and humans. Then you considered the methods for cross-sector One Health economics.

Week 3

In the third week, we discussed three important developments of One Health: Firstly some detailed examples of the comparative assessment of the cost of dog rabies control. Secondly you could evaluate the costs of either investing in human post-exposure prophylaxis alone or in dog mass vaccination combined with human post-exposure prophylaxis. Thirdly you acquired understanding of the broader issues influencing healthy and safe, as well as fair, food in a development context of West Africa when we demonstrated that hazards do not always translate into health risk.

Week 4

In the fourth week you learned that the social-cultural context matters in disease risk for zoonoses and control options. You acquired some key concepts of medical anthropology and learned about the most important qualitative methods and how to differentiate between qualitative and quantitative methods. These methods enable mixed and/or qualitative One Health studies utilising social and medical sciences. We introduced theory on transdisciplinary processes which connect stakeholders from civil society and academia for societal problem solving, which is particularly relevant for One Health. You learned how to set up a transdisciplinary process for a One Health question.

Week 5

That week encouraged you to understand how quantitative and qualitative One Health methods are related. You investigated human and animal vaccination coverage assessments and principles of health and demographic surveillance as adapted to integrated human and animal health and demographic surveillance. You also acquired insights into modern real-time syndromic surveillance and aetiological confirmation of infectious diseases at the animal-human interface.

Week 6

In the last week of this course, we addressed human and animal health in an integrated fashion, enriched by social ecological perspectives that broaden the One Health approach. Contemporary complex problems, including climate change or the emergence of new diseases, cannot be solved using reductionist single discipline approaches. Extensions to other disciplines are necessary; they are provided, for instance, in the One Health Impact Assessment. A last, but very important, component of One Health is its interventionist orientation which we showed using the example of the current status of rabies in the world and the potential for rabies elimination in Africa and Asia.

© University of Basel
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One Health: Connecting Humans, Animals and the Environment

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