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What is One Health?

One Health is a relatively new term that has huge connotations for the way in which the health sciences work together to improve the health of humans, animals and the environment. It is very topical globally, particularly in the animal science community.

As wildlife rehabilitators, we can directly see the interconnection of environmental, animal and human health. For example, a kereru (animal) carries an infectious disease contracted through contaminated water (environment). That kereru coming into care could potentially infect humans. An outbreak of campylobacteriosis in Hawkes Bay, NZ, in 2016 was due to a contaminated water supply and is a real-life example of a disease that affects both humans and animals, with thousands of people becoming infected.

It sometimes seems obvious that they are interrelated, but there is still very little interaction between human, animal and environmental health professionals. Antibiotic resistance, for example, is a genuine threat to human and animal health and requires doctors and vets to work collaboratively to implement change to treatment practices.

Harvey (2010) discussed themes that are needed to embrace the One Health paradigm fully. These themes emerged from discussions with scientists in the ecology, human health and animal health fields in New Zealand.

1. Improving partnerships and communication amongst the three disciplines

2. Working to influence policymakers and drive policy change

3. Including One Health education into the health sciences

4. Strong leadership across disciplines

5. Diffusing boundaries between disciplines to address complex health problems

In 2010 the World Health Organisation, OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) formed a partnership agreement specifically to address the threat of infectious diseases at the human-animal-ecosystems interface and are concentrating on improving communication, and developing global systems for managing and responding to health threats.

So what can wildlife rehabilitators offer to One Health implementation?

· Keep your eye out for any suspicious illnesses in wildlife – wildlife rehabilitators are a part of a surveillance network – though there is no formal arrangement!

· Inform local authorities of any unusual cases or unexplained mass mortalities. MPI is New Zealand’s contact department 0800-809-966

· Seek to educate yourself about zoonoses

· Inform doctors of any suspicious illnesses you have and let them know straight away that you work with wild animals

· Inform local government or other policymakers about one health problems in your region

· Do not use antibiotics or anti-parasitic drugs without veterinary advice

· Can you think of other ways we can work together?

We believe collaboration is the way forward. We are at a time of enormous information overload, yet we still struggle to understand and control many illnesses in the world. Rabies, TB, cholera all still exist in both third and first world countries. Combining our unique strengths and skills to tackle some of the world’s health challenges is imperative.

Want to know more?

This website is quite informative:


FAO-OIE-WHO. (2010). The FAO-OIE-WHO Collaboration: Sharing responsibilities and coordinating global activities to address health risks at the animal-human-ecosystems interfaces. Retrieved from:

Harvey, Hillery A. (2010) Building Bridges to Protect Health: Enhanced Partnerships among Animal, Human, and Ecosystem Health Sectors in New Zealand. Published by Fulbright New Zealand. ISBN 978-1-877502-21-7 (PDF)

School of Public Health (2016) University of Minnesota. Retrieved from:

Written by Janelle Ward

Wildlife Veterinarian & Co-founder of Learn Bird Care Ltd.


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