How to Live a One Health Life

We’ve written extensively on this blog about the concept of One Health. What does it mean? How does it work? Perhaps you have one more nagging question: How can I practice One Health in my everyday life? We are here to answer that for you.

Doctors now are more specialized than ever which is of great comfort when you are sick, but less helpful when it comes time to consider the context in which outbreaks occur. Environmental science is divided into many focuses, helping to identify unique solutions to individual problems. But it is also important to acknowledge the ways deforestation, climate change, and occurrence of natural disasters, for example, are all interrelated. Considering One Health–the inexorable link between environmental, animal, and human health–represents a paradigm shift in the scientific community. But the simple fact is, for you, it probably does not.

What in our world is called ‘One Health,’ in yours is probably simply called environmentally conscientious. Conserving energy and recycling are both smart decisions for myriad reasons; whatever your motivation, you’re practicing One Health each time you do either.

When you turn out the lights after you’re done using them, perhaps you simply have your electric bill in mind. But an act that simple can have far-reaching One Health connections. The energy used to power your lights is coming from coal, a process which has significant, negative effects on the environment. As the wildlife loses its natural habitat in places where coal is being mined, they’ll eventually move, resettling closer to humans, potentially exposing those populations to diseases which they may carry.

The connections between living things means decisions which may seem very local can have global benefits.

You may have any number of reasons to bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store, but the fact is that’s a decision which ripples far beyond your neighborhood. Cutting down on paper use drives down the demand for timber and deforestation, itself a major driver of disease spread. And plastic waste–like grocery bags–often ends up in a series of massive garbage patches throughout the Pacific Ocean.

No one person can heal the Earth, but if we each are taking a series of steps, small as they may be, together we can move the needle. This is a key concept of One Health, understanding that we’re all linked and what’s good for me is also good for you, for endangered species, and for ecosystems around the globe.

There was a time in which exercising was thought of as very much independent of health. To suggest now the two aren’t linked incontrovertibly would seem absurd. And so it is with One Health. The link between the health of all living things is undeniable, though our thinking might not align with that. Regardless, each move you make in the name of environmentalism, conservation, or public health is a boon for the others as well.