Human health connected to animals and environment

December 2015

Five years after the 1st International One Health Congress, Melbourne will again host the conference in 2016. This time the event will invite participants from the EcoHealth community to discuss the health of humans, animals and the environment.

The One Health movement believes that human and animal health is intricately linked and that the well-being of all species can be safeguarded by encouraging the collaboration of medical professionals, veterinarians and wildlife ecologist.

However, the One Heath approach has evolved beyond the containment of infectious diseases, such as SARS and HIV, which originated in animal species, to include the safety and security of our global food systems and our impact on the planet, which is why the congress will also be joined by the 6th Biennial Conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health.

Club Melbourne Ambassador Professor Martyn Jeggo, who is the Director of Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases (GCEID), believes this is an important step as the discussion now includes an essential component – the environment.

“We have an impact on the environment just as much as the environment has an impact on us,” says Professor Jeggo.

Taking a multidisciplinary approach can only yield positive results, as it will assist scientists in predicting and responding to challenges that have an impact on human health, animal health and environmental health.

Melbourne is an ideal city to have the congress because it has the necessary expertise to lead the conversation. Not only does Melbourne compete on the global stage in terms of specialised facilities, but we also have a very strong medical research sector that  solves basic questions on health and develops a range of drugs and vaccines.

Driving policy reform

When asked what he thought the focus of the congress would be, Professor Jeggo replied, “I believe it will be two things. One will be linking the environment to the One Health message and the second is moving the science into political reform. It should underpin government action and regulation.”

The congress is hoping to bring together members of governments, international organisations and the medical industry in order to establish networks with researchers.  Keeping governmental bodies in touch with the latest research could translate to effective and positive social change, which is one of the main goals of One Health.

It is also important for Melbourne to implement new policy to ensure that we retain our international reputation as the world’s most liveable city – a crown we have retained for the last five years. It is quite possible that in the future the criteria for the index may change to include environmental factors.

There are rumours that Melinda Gates may open the event as she and husband Bill support One Health through the Gates foundation, although she has yet to officially confirm her attendance. Having such an international presence would go far at promoting One Health and Eco Health message.