One Health

The health of humans and that of animals are inseparable and are closely intertwined with each other and with their environment and surroundings. By researching health aspects from this One Health perspective, our aim is to address current health and policy issues. 

What is One health? 

One Health stands for the pursuit of an holistic approach (which considers the whole and not at the sum of the different parts from which something is constructed) to health research in humans, animals, their environment and/or society by studying the interactions between these elements and their effect on health. One Health offers organizations a (new) research approach, with Sciensano as a crucial partner in promoting and guiding One Health research. 

Sciensano endorses the new definition developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

One Health in practice

One Health is a concept with many facets and components. In practice, this translates into a whole range of research fields and methods, but the mindset on how to approach them remains the same. For example, if we ask ourselves how healthy our environment is from the perspective of food safety and food production, we then naturally pose the question regarding the direct link between soil pollution and its effect on plants and animals, for instance. With One Health in mind, however, we instantly adopt a broader approach, and look for answers to questions such as:

  • In addition to the soil, does air quality, water quality, etc. also have an effect on the health of plants, animals and people?
  • What is the situation withinsects and birds that provide pollination, and consequently make it possible to produce fruit and vegetables, both for our own food and for the production of animal feed?
  • Are the animals that are in the food chain (and, by extension, also our pets) healthy, or do they carry germs that could make people sick?
  • Can these diseases  spread more easily in a world where we and our food travel longer distances?
  • Does the transportation of animals require improvement?

Every link in this chain is important in itself, because it is inextricably connected to other links. We cannot view them separately as food safety, human health, animal health, or some other separate domain, because then we do not get a complete picture of all the aspects that contribute to health as a whole. A One Health approach is therefore necessary. It is precisely this approach that enables Sciensano to respond to the health issues of the 21st century.

Sciensano is a special partner with regard to One Health, since we have unique in-house expertise in public health, the health of animals and their environment. The collaboration between our scientists across the various sectors and the regional partners responsible for topics such as the environment is therefore very important.

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