About One Health

Ever wonder what vultures, a rabies outbreak, and an NSAID used in livestock have in common?

Probably not. The solution is complicated, messy, and too big for any one person to unravel.

To oversimplify, what happened was that diclofenac was used to treat livestock in India. In vultures, which are carrion feeders, diclofenac causes renal failure (pdf). Exposure to the drug decimated three species of vultures in India, causing their population to decline by more than 96% from 1992-2007.

With far fewer vultures providing the ecosystem service of carrion disposal, other players stepped in. The most significant was feral dogs, which increased in population by at least 3.7 million in India as the vulture population declined. In a 2008 paper in Ecological Economics (pdf), Markandya et al estimate the increases in dog bites due to the dog population increase, and, after considering the proportion of dog bites in India that lead to rabies deaths, estimate the cumulative additional human deaths caused by increases in the dog population between 1992-2006 at over 47,000.

The only way to begin to understand such complexity is by deliberately uniting fields of scientific thought that tend not to cross paths. One Health is the paradigm that advocates for strong and purposeful collaboration between health professionals in human medicine, veterinary medicine, and environmental science. Its goal is to cultivate healthy people, healthy animals, and a healthy planet.


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