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What is One Health

The One Health philosophy underlines the idea that the health of coexisting humans, animals, and plants in one environment is interconnected. Governing this interconnection is key to achieving the health of the whole system. The One Health Center at UF aims at expanding areas of knowledge on health interconnections with the ultimate goal of improving health as a system.

One Health is a conceptual framework aiming at understanding the links and dependencies between the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment. One Health strives to bring all the different disciplines and perspectives towards the optimization of health outcomes for humans, animals, plants and the environment.

A classic and simple example of the One Health approach involves diseases that are shared between animals and people, also called zoonotic diseases. Consider the cases of Nipah virus in Bangladesh, which is responsible for hundreds of deaths each year. In order to innovate ideas to prevent this disease, a One Health approach is useful to highlight the areas of interface that lead to an increase in transmission.

  • Fruit bats harbor the Nipah virus pathogen as natural hosts and carry it without any symptoms of infection or illness. In Bangladesh, local fruit bats drink a natural sugary liquid produced by palm trees: the date palm sap.
  • While drinking and feeding on this sap, bat saliva and urine come into contact with the date palm sap and enter the circulation within the tree trunks. These fluids contain the Nipah virus, so now the Nipah virus is circulating within the tree. 
  • Just as the fruit bats, Bangladeshi people also enjoy drinking the sap. When they encroach into the wild bat ecosystems, they inevitably share the same date palm trees. Humans drink date palm sap contaminated with bat fluids infected with Nipah viruses, which can make humans sick.

Other examples of One Health

Pop microscopy artwork on display

One Health and Arts & Science: One Health is not limited to the biological and medical sciences focused on infectious diseases at the pathological and clinical level. One Health is a concept that promotes good health and well-being for all by collaborating with many different disciplines, such as the arts. The Pop Microscopy exhibit, a visual representation of the beauty of science, served as a nidus of interdisciplinary collaboration. The display attracted people from all disciplines, and therefore encouraged discussion between people that are typically not connected. Another example is the Center for Arts in Medicine at UF, which is focused on using the arts to advance health. They have many interdisciplinary initiatives such as using music in emergency and trauma units and using art for health messaging. 

Bee image representing the foods bees pollinateOne Health and Bees: Since 2006, the US has lost 40% of its commercial honeybees due to diseases, pesticide use, environmental change, and beekeeping practices. This decline has extremely serious consequences for humans, animals, plants, and the environment. One-third of the food on our table depends entirely on the pollination work of bees. The image to the left represents the agriculture made possible by bees. Their absence, and therefore the absence of pollination, would lead to the extinction of many crops. This would devastate the food supply and therefore negatively affect all animals and humans that depend on these foods for nutrition and survival. It would also have economic effects, as the price of these foods would surge and lead to socioeconomic effects among humans. It is obvious that the health and ecology of bees directly and indirectly affects the health of all.

The evolution of humansArtificial Intelligence and One Health: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and One Health at the University of Florida aims at developing ‘ethical’ AI to benefit the future health for humans, animals, and the environment. AI is not only an instrument to improve life for humans, but it will evolve in ways that will spread through all aspects of life on earth. For example, AI could be used for optimization of agriculture and livestock, recycling, green energy, and conservation ecology. We are innovating research in data science by combining theory-based, top-down approaches with hypothesis-free, bottom-up data mining. Think of a top-down approach as starting with a theory first and then collecting data to explore the validity of that theory. Think of a bottom-up approach as starting with the data, and then exploring relationships from those data that lead to a theory. The combination enhances the results and leads to consistency.

What is One Health