Mapping the links between animal, human and eco health

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“I worry we’re moving from the idea of public health as a collective good to a more individualistic idea,” remarked Jeremy Farrar, director of health charity the Wellcome Trust, at a meeting in London last month. Farrar was speaking at the opening of One Health for the Real World — a symposium organised by the Dynamic Drivers of Disease Consortium (DDDAC) — and his words get to the heart of why ‘One Health’ approaches to development are becoming increasingly important.  

The One Health approach takes as its starting point a focus on the fundamental interconnectedness of animal, human and environmental health and systems. It supports research partnerships that span sectors and disciplines — a rare thing until not long ago — in the pursuit of policies and action that balance the needs of all three.

Research on bat-borne disease, for example, would bring ecologists and veterinary, medical and social scientists together to look at bat ecology and infection, and how shifting social and livelihood patterns might increase disease risk, in order to work out how to reduce disease without jeopardising livelihoods and conservation.

This balancing act is far from straightforward. As Melissa Leach, director of the Institute of Development Studies, said at the same symposium: “One Health is not a matter of neatly putting things together — we’ve seen synergies but also conflicts and trade-offs.” But in a world of escalating population growth, social flux, climate change and a growing zoonotic disease threat, research and interventions of this kind are absolutely vital, Leach said.

The photographs in this gallery are drawn from One Health research projects across five African countries, supported by DDDAC, a network of 20 institutions and researchers from across Africa, Europe and the United States.