One Health

COVID-19 – a wake-up call: The pandemic that we are currently experiencing, but also the emergence of other zoonoses, along with the growing incidence of antimicrobial resistance, make clear how important it is that we approach the topic of health with a broader understanding than has been the case up to now.

Because of that – and in order to avert the risk of health crises like the present pandemic in the future – the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is promoting the One Health approach.

Graphic representation of the One Health approach: One Health is at the centre and there are interdependencies between human health, animal health and a healthy natural environment.

The One Health approach

Still from the video "Breaking Barriers: Advancing the One Health Agenda with a Focus on Environment"

12-13 October 2023 Breaking Barriers: Advancing the One Health Agenda with a Focus on Environment

The One Health approach is based on the understanding that there are close links between the health of humans, animals and the environment.

The One Health approach serves the goal of prevention and fosters interdisciplinary cooperation, in particular between human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental science. The central focus of One Health is on the interfaces between humans, domestic animals, livestock and wild animals, and the ecosystems in which they live.

Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development
The diversity of species and habitats on Earth is vital to all life, including human life. That is why it is so important to protect the natural environment in all its diversity, especially in the most biodiverse regions of the world. Nature conservation also lessens the risk of future pandemics, because viruses are particularly likely to jump from animals to humans when previously untouched natural areas are destroyed and ecosystems are thrown off balance.
Svenja Schulze Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development

Fighting infectious diseases using the One Health approach

Infectious diseases pose a threat for people and animals. They are a particular threat for people living in low- and middle-income countries.

An example of this is the group of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Most of these infectious diseases can lead to death or chronic health issues and disabilities if left untreated. NTDs are not as well known as the “big four”, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and hepatitis, although they affect roughly one billion people – mainly people who are poor and without resources.

Deficits in health care provision and hygiene practices – for example in regard to food, drinking water and slaughter waste – particularly encourage the spread of NTDs. In order to effectively prevent and fight NTDs, it is necessary to follow a One Health approach that takes account of the interfaces between humans and the organisms that transmit the diseases (so-called vectors such as mosquitoes or ticks), and ecosystems (for example swamps and lakes), food products, drinking water and climate.

Fields of action

In order to implement the One Health approach, the BMZ is actively engaged in four fields of action, spending up to 150 million euros a year as of 2021:

We are supporting our partner countries in their efforts to include the One Health approach in their strategic planning, for example when elaborating national crisis and emergency plans.

We are expanding our cooperation with international organisations in regard to One Health and are fostering cooperation and networking between them – for example in the form of the “Quadripartite” between the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

We are strengthening local capacity, for example by establishing the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) in Kenya. This centre is dedicated to improving the health of humans, animals and ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa through capacity building, strengthening networks, evidence-based policy advice and recommendations for practical application.

We are putting the One Health approach on the agenda in the development debate with the aim of raising awareness among decision-makers and the population in the Global North and South regarding important One Health topics.

As at: 14/10/2022