One Health – What we are learning from the Corona crisis

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the connection between human and animal health has gained new attention. Politicians and scientists are joining forces to propagate the solution: One Health. But what is behind the concept? And can it also guarantee food security for all people worldwide?

 

(c) Christoph Püschner/Zeitenspiegel

Dr. Arnulf Köhncke

(c) Arnulf Koehncke / WWF

Dr. Arnulf Köhncke is an ecologist and head of the Species Protection Department at WWF Germany. Since he lived and worked in Cambodia for almost a year some time ago, he has been fascinated by the region of Southeast Asia, its people and its nature. In the meantime, he is working more generally on the challenges of protecting endangered species and making environmental protection and economic development more compatible. His main areas of work are poaching and the trade in illegal wildlife products, especially ivory and rhino horn. At the same time, he works to protect such endangered and iconic species as the great apes, the polar bear, the great panda and the Sumatran rhinoceros.

 

Dr. May Hokan

(c) May Hokan / WWF

Dr May Hokan is a veterinarian and has been with the WWF since 2019. After growing up in Syria and studying in Germany, she was drawn to Africa where she researched lemurs and worked with elephants. Her main interest is the health aspect of the relationship between humans, animals and the environment. At the WWF, she worked for the protection of the habitat of lions, elephants and cheetahs in southern Africa.

 

World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)

WWF

 

The health of people, (wild) animals and the environment are interrelated. That is the philosophy behind the ‘One Health’ concept. People and animals share many pathogens (zoonoses). Just like Covid-19, which also originated from an animal. But zoonoses are only one part of ‘One Health’. After all, human health depends on the environment in many other ways besides contagious diseases that are transmitted. Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as nutritional and mental well-being also depend on our environment. A healthy environment in turn includes a prosperous biodiversity. It provides clean air, clean water, modern and traditional medicines, climate regulation and safe food supplies.

Malnutrition is the biggest contributor to human diseases worldwide, regardless of whether people live in developing countries or not. It is estimated that two billion people are deficient in one or more micronutrients.

 

 

The global decline in biodiversity and the number of pollinators is having a major impact on agricultural productivity and food security, and thus on human health.

 

A healthy, balanced diet requires a variety of foods to provide the full range of necessary nutrients. Diversity within staple foods often makes the difference between adequate nutrition and nutrient deficiency.

 

Biodiversity is a prerequisite for food diversity and provides a natural wealth of nutrients (macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats; and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals) for a healthy human diet. Species-rich environments provide more animal feed, more fishery products and better pest control (e.g. through more insectivorous animal species). Biodiversity also reinforces important ecosystem services that are essential for food production, such as soil fertility and plant pollination.

 

Pollinators (insects as well as mammals such as bats) play an important role in the production of about one third of the world’s food supply. Pollination also affects the quantity, nutrient content, quality and diversity of available food. The global decline in biodiversity and the number of pollinators is having a major impact on agricultural productivity and food security, and thus on human health.

 

Kenya / Marsabit, Nov. 2011: Deworming of goats. (c) Christoph Püschner/Brot für die Welt
Kenya / Marsabit, Nov. 2011: Deworming of goats. (c) Christoph Püschner/Brot für die Welt

Biodiversity provides the foundation for productivity and resilience of agricultural and other ecological systems. However, land use change and agriculture are the predominant causes of biodiversity loss because 33% of the land area and about 75% of freshwater resources are used for food production (plants and livestock). Around one million species could disappear within the next few decades if the condition of our ecosystems continues to deteriorate. Agriculture and biodiversity are highly interdependent, which needs to be more widely recognised and supported with appropriate political and economic framework conditions for sustainable agricultural practices.

 

Biodiversity is the foundation of our food supply and is thus a key factor for human health. The mutual interrelations between humans and the environment must be taken into account in order to safeguard public health. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the added value of a transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach like ‘One Health’. If used properly, it could prevent epidemics and even protect human health on a broader scale.

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