One Health

Taking a One Health Approach to Public Health

A Brief History of One Health


One Health is a term used to describe the collective health of people, animals, and the environment in which we live, and speaks specifically to the effect each element has on the health of the others.

The term One Health is generally attributed to a document called the Manhattan Principles that was published in 2004 by the Wildlife Conservation Society following a symposium titled “Building Interdisciplinary Bridges to Health in a ‘Globalized World’.” The theory of One Health, however, has been used for centuries as the field of public health has taken shape.

“One Health” in the early days

  • Hippocrates—the Father of Western Medicine—spoke to the importance of a clean environment for public health.
  • Aristotle—a Greek philosopher and scientist—developed the practice of comparative medicine via looking at disease and characteristics across species.

“One Health” in the 1000s

  • Giovani Maria Lancisi—a veterinary and medical doctor, and epidemiologist—demonstrated the effect the environment has on human and animal health while addressing rinderpest.
  • Rudolf Virchow—a medical doctor and pathologist—was the first to speak of infectious disease passing between humans and animals (zoonosis), and highlighted the role the environment plays in disease transmission while addressing typhus.

“One Health” in the 1900s

One Health in the 2000s

Over the last decade, One Health has gained prominence as our world has become more of an integrated community. We have seen—over and over again—how the health of the environment and animals impacts the health of humans, and also how humans and animals impact the health of each other and the environment.

We recognize that we must all work together and draw from the best practices of complementary disciplines to ensure a healthy world. Building on work done by the One Health Commission, many leading health and policy organizations have taken on the One Health approach.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association, specifically, defines One Health as “the integrative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment.”

Cornell University is already a thought-leader in the core elements of One Health—animal health, human health, and environment health—and its multidisciplinary research is applied to improve health and sustainability locally and worldwide. This blog will help to highlight this work.

This article was written by Gen Meredith.

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