What is One Health?

According the One Health Commission website, One Health is defined as:

The collaborative effort of multiple health science professions, together with their related disciplines and institutions – working locally, nationally, and globally – to attain optimal health for people, domestic animals, wildlife, plants, and our environment.

Did you know?

Worldwide, nearly 75 percent of all emerging human infectious diseases in the past three decades originated in animals.

OAVT and One Health

The Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians hosted the province's first-ever One Health Summit at the OAVT Conference on February 21, 2013.

"It was all about communication," said RVT Kirsti Clarida. "Where are One Health meetings happening? How often? Is the concept working?"

Kirsti, the former Communications Manager for the OAVT, is one of the driving forces behind the One Health movement in Ontario. But, as she said, it all started very simply over lunch.

"There was a lunch meeting between Dr. Catherine Filejski, Rory Demetrioff and myself," Clarida explained. "We talked about the disconnect between human and animal medicine. Catherine had six Public Health regions already interested in talking, and she asked if RVTs across those six regions might be interested in meeting with Public Health representatives to bridge the gap."

Those six regions were:

  • City of Hamilton
  • Durham Region
  • Grey-Bruce
  • Niagara Region
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph
  • York Region

Kirsti said the idea was to target those regions first. As the project grew, she would inform Dr. Filejski (Public Health Veterinarian, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) about other regions with an RVT looking to initiate One Health talks.

So Kirsti emailed OAVT members from the six regions, looking to see how many RVTs wanted to get involved. Within two weeks she had 40 responses.

"At the time that was a huge response," explained Clarida. "Once we knew we had some interest, I told Catherine where the interest was and shortly after we had all six regions on board."

Since the first One Health Summit at the 2013 OAVT Conference, a meeting was held every year through the 2018 OAVT Conference.

So Why Should RVTs Get Involved?

"I think that RVTs are on the front lines when it comes to client education," Kirsti says. "They deal with clients directly. They do triage. I believe that RVTs can very quickly perceive symptoms of disease that could cross over between humans and animals."

And that, in the end, is at the heart of the One Health movement.

Consider this: when pet owners bring dogs with ticks into clinics, it helps RVTs to better understand which areas of the community ticks may be spreading to. RVTs can bring that information to the One Health table, making Public Health aware of what is happening – because if there were no human diagnosis of Lyme disease in the region, how else would Public Health know? By being made aware of the tick movement via pets, Public Health has the opportunity to take prophylactic measures like spraying and messaging.

"We need to have conversations between the two groups," Clarida says. "We need to understand each other and use that understanding to help everyone in the community. Go back to ticks and Lyme disease. It's a hot topic right now. Why are tick conversations happening in human medicine and separate tick conversations happening in veterinary medicine? If we had one big talk together it would save money and more answers could be found."

Many diseases and illnesses can crossover from pet to owner. There are also a number that can be transmitted to either animals or humans through common carriers (vectors) like mosquitoes and ticks. So it is extremely important that professionals in veterinary medicine (RVTs, DVMs) have a good relationship with human health professionals.

Where Do We Go Next?

Kirsti says her goal for One Health in Ontario is to continue to grow the conversation.

"I want it to grow big enough so that the conversation is being had in all 36 regions," Kirsti explains. "I'd like to see each region become stronger and to be able to keep these conversations going on their own. An RVT or vet should be able to pick up the phone and call public health, and vice versa. They should see each other as an ally, not the enemy."

If you are interested in getting involved with the One Health initiative in Ontario, please contact Laurie Williams, RVT.

Current One Health Teams in Ontario:

  • Hamilton/Halton Region
  • Grey-Bruce
  • Middlesex-London
  • Niagara Region
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph
  • York Region

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