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One health
One Health in the real world

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ALMOST 150 people gathered at the Zoological Society of London last month for an international symposium discussing ‘Healthy ecosystems, healthy people’. The meeting, organised jointly by the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium and the Zoological Society of London, with support from the Royal Society, brought together speakers from a range of different disciplines to present new interdisciplinary frameworks for a real-world One Health approach, highlight evidence from field-based settings in Africa and further afield, and debate implications for policy and practice.

The meeting took the form of a series of panel discussions on a range of different subjects. Each member of a panel gave a brief presentation exploring a particular aspect of One Health before members of the audience were invited to quiz the panel members about their work and to debate how their findings might influence policy and practice.

Among the speakers was Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu from the University of Ghana, who discussed some of the challenges of working on emerging infectious diseases in Africa. She described her research into the extent of human-bat interactions in Ghana and the disease risk this created. She found that the proximity of bat roosts to people's homes, places of work and social dwellings, such as churches, escalated the risk of disease spillover.

Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu describes her work on the extent of human-bat interactions in Ghana

Photograph: Nathan Oxley

Another speaker was Jo Sharp, a lecturer at the University of Glasgow, who described how, when analysing poverty and zoonotic disease risk, she had focused on women's access to healthcare. One woman interviewed as part of the study had said that she worried more about the cost of medication than about disease itself. This, suggested Professor Sharp, indicated that poverty among particular groups led to a greater vulnerability to ill health.

Also speaking was David Waltner-Toews, founding president of Veterinarians Without Borders in Canada. Focusing on past epidemics, he highlighted the need for inclusive, multiperspective responses to One Health, with key players from all disciplines coming together for mutually respectful policy negotiations. When asked about the potential difficulties that might arise from such multidisciplinary responses when dealing with an epidemic, he commented: ‘In times of crisis everything works well, it's in times of peace that departments segregate.’

The event concluded with a panel discussion on policy and action, bringing together the findings from the two-day meeting, as well as what had been learned from previous epidemics such as Ebola.

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