One Health platform
Hluvukani Animal Clinic | Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station
In a world that is continuously shrinking due to population expansion, new technologies and increased human and animal movement the boundaries between countries, rural and urban areas are becoming more and more blurred. A complex mosaic of human, animal and environmental interfaces creates an ever increasing threat in the form of trans-boundary, emerging and re-emerging diseases. Today over 60% of recognised human infectious diseases are zoonoses in that they originate from the movement of pathogens mostly from wildlife and livestock to humans. Amongst a rapid expanding global human population understanding the human/animal interface is becoming increasingly important in preventing and managing disease threats globally. Present day scientists require a further intricate understanding of the environment and its dynamics as a major driving force in disease epidemiology and ecology in order to react proactively and efficiently when faced with a health threat. The indirect economic impact that certain disease epidemics have on agricultural trade is generally far more than direct financial losses.
The ‘One Health’ approach necessitates multifaceted and interdisciplinary networking and collaboration between experts in the professions of veterinary, human health, environmental, ecological, agricultural, and conservation sciences, to name but a few. It requires professionals and experts to work together in multidisciplinary teams from different institutions and faculties across continents and over boundaries. However, in a scientific world largely functioning within the traditional and familiar, narrow and focussed disciplinary silos, this approach is not always met with enthusiasm nor applied correctly. A new generation of scientists is required which will have a strong sense of propinquity in their scientific approaches. This generation of scientists should be familiar with holistic and ‘out of the box’ thinking together with the ability to strategically channel expertise over disciplines in order to resolve the complex challenges posed by the modern world. Unfortunately such individuals seldom merely exist. It entails the vision of current leaders in the various scientific disciplines and institutions to entice and evoke a ‘One Health’ mindset within today’s students. The ‘One Health’ approach in research programmes and as a prominent feature in curricula will develop mindsets with a spontaneous affinity towards ‘One Health’. ‘One Health’ centres of expertise in universities, with the aim of networking and combining research efforts between all relevant faculties and disciplines in coordinated research and development programmes, will have a more sustainable impact on society than one-dimensional approaches.
The University of Pretoria is the only academic institution in South Africa and much of the region that has a veterinary, medical, social as well as a natural and agricultural sciences faculty. It therefore embraces the ‘One Health’ approach where applicable in the relevant health sciences to further our understanding and contribution to important socio-ecological systems. Together with the development of the Mnisi Community Programme itself, the University of Pretoria has been involved with governmental and non-governmental organisations in the establishment of two major, complementary initiatives in the Mnisi area: The Hluvukani Animal Clinic and the Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station. Both these initiatives are managed and driven by the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, in conjunction with various stakeholders such as Mpumalanga Veterinary Services and the Peace Parks Foundation. These three initiatives form a very unique and ideal One Health Platform through which integrated research, teaching and learning and community engagement can be facilitated at the human/animal/ecosystem interface.