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When it comes to health, we must look at the bigger picture

One Health means examining health at the intersection of humans, animals and the environment. This approach is vital not only for research efforts, but also for keeping people healthy.

The one constant when it comes to health care today is change. Whether it’s scientific discoveries that promise new treatments and cures for disease, or team approaches that provide better, more personalized care to patients, we know innovation is the key to the future.

Brooks Jackson

At the University of Minnesota, we are uniquely equipped to lead these efforts through our collaborative approach across all health sciences units. In our world, we’re focused on One Health: examining health at the intersection of humans, animals and the environment. This approach is vital not only for research efforts, but also for keeping people healthy. When we study how diseases spread, we do so with a multidisciplinary approach and a “One Health” lens.

Franken’s bill

Recently, Sen. Al Franken introduced legislation that would establish a coordinated national plan to fight diseases that come from animals. The landmark One Health Act of 2016 calls for a coordinated worldwide effort among animal health and human health officials to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the threat of viruses and to prevent their spread. When the Ebola virus threatened the U.S. in 2014, Franken immediately began working with Minnesota health agencies and national groups to coordinate a statewide response to the disease.

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Emerging diseases such as Zika and Ebola require a One Health approach. In fact, it’s estimated that 75 percent of infectious diseases originate with animals.

Habitat changes, deforestation, farming and climate changes are all factors that can alter ecosystems — leading to a greater chance of diseases passing among people and animals. With increased global travel and trade, these same diseases can travel more quickly.

Collaborative One Health efforts are critical, which is why our health sciences schools at the University of Minnesota have been at the forefront of this movement. Veterinarians, physicians, public health professionals, dentists, pharmacists and nurses have been working side by side to provide science-based resources and solutions in research, outreach and clinical services.

U studies moose, raptors, avian flu

At the U of M, veterinarians and scientists are investigating why the moose population is dying. Wildlife researchers from The Raptor Center are studying birds of prey as sentinels for changes happening in the environment. Avian influenza specialists are examining how the pathogen is transmitted and assisting poultry farmers with ways to enhance biosecurity measures and lower their risk.

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine will present the second International Conference on One Medicine One Science (iCOMOS) April 24-27, attracting experts and participants from 30 countries to explore issues such as water and air quality, food safety and sustainability, precision medicine, comparative medicine and public policy. The goal is to build multidisciplinary, international collaborations.

We invite the public to the conference to learn more about One Health. Visit icomos.umn.edu. This is a pressing issue affecting global health, one with great implications for all of us. It deserves our attention.

Brooks Jackson is dean of the Medical School and vice president for health sciences at the University of Minnesota.

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