Assessing the ecological dimension of One Health

McIntyre, Marie K.; Vogler, Barbara; Chantziaras, Ilias; Coelho, Ana Cláudia; García Díez, Juan; Esteves, Alexandra; Igrejas, Gilberto; Lurz, Peter; Martins, Sara Babo; Mastin, Alexander; Murray, Alexander; Parnell, Stephen R.; Poeta, Patricia; Ramos, Sónia; Saraiva, Cristina; Ifejika Speranza, Chinwe; McMahon, Barry J. (2018). Assessing the ecological dimension of One Health. In: Rüegg, Simon R.; Häsler, Barbara; Zinsstag, Jakob (eds.) Integrated approaches to health. A handbook for the evaluation of One Health (pp. 126-169). Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers

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This chapter provides a conceptual framework describing the main ecological components of the global ecosystem, which need to be considered when using a One Health approach, including incorporating examples of metrics which both reflect the connectedness of different environments and quantify the complex interactions between humans, domesticated and nondomesticated animals and the environment in which they live, and the direct and indirect drivers which impact them. The set of ecological components described should be used to inform the audience on how to quantify the sustainability and thus the ‘One Health-ness’ of any environment. It is the quantification of an array of these components which demonstrate the ‘added value’ of One Health, through the savings of lives, improvements in life-lived (quality of life), qualitative gains and financial savings. One Medicine recognises that there is virtually no difference in the paradigm between human and veterinary medicine and both disciplines can contribute to the development of each other; animals should thus be positioned in the social and not the environmental realm, taking a ‘less speciecist’ stance. It should be understood that when quantifying the health of anything, be it an organism or an ecosystem, the variables measured are all context-dependent, particularly for ecosystem and environmental health. The interpretation of resulting measurements will differ dependent upon a human, an animal and ecosystem perspective, and each of these perspectives has ist own value, when thinking about ‘One Health’. The environment is a major determinant of health with an estimated 25-33% of the global burden of disease attributed to environmental risk factors. Accordingly, when measuring the ecological dimension of One Health, account needs to be taken of the fitness and sustainability (including integrity) of the ecosystem and environment. This is not easy to quantify, as it results in the creation of indexes of heterogeneous variables, which do not provide an easily interpretable output of resilience. Various indices have been developed which aim to quantify environmental health, including: the long-term sustainability of different ecosystems; the state of the world’s biological diversity; describing the status of ecosystem services. Metrics to measure the health status of the world include the ‘One Health-ness’ of water, air, soil, biodiversity, and ecosystems. They require ecosystem approaches to health to factor in ecosystem interactions in health research. Methods to quantify the health status of populations under closer management of humans also need to be mentioned including those of humans, domestic animals, plants, and aquaculture. Finally, antimicrobial resistance issues across the ecological dimension should be considered. Many of these metrics are very ‘humancentric’ and should therefore be interpreted with caution. A major challenge for mankind to achieving a One Health in the future is to examine the trade-off from producing food and look for synergies with food quality for both animals and humans but also related to zoonoses emergence. Contaminants, including biological such as pathogens, chemical elements or compounds need to be identified and acted upon. Balancing all ecological components (water, air, soil, biodiversity) is critically important for food security, and both food safety and Food security should be interlinked for a One Health approach to sustained global food security. It is critical that a focus on food quality is not just on outcomes such as food nutrients or food safety (e.g. maximum residue levels) but also on how one-health-ness interacts with the food system at different stages of the value chain (production, processing, transport and consumption
of food) to affect food quality. Given the growing human population, a set of One Health indicators which capture the link between human health, animal health and ecological health is to inform future global developments, particularly as we enter a period of unprecedented anthropogenic influence on global ecosystems.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Land Systems and Sustainable Land Management (LS-SLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Ifejika Speranza, Chinwe


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Wageningen Academic Publishers




Florian Dolder

Date Deposited:

18 Dec 2018 14:58

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:19




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