What is one health?
One Health is a concept that public health agencies have claimed is a ‘paradigm shift’ in how we understand, predict and manage outbreaks of new diseases.
It dominates their communications and they’ve been advocates of it for years.
But what is it? Essentially, it is an approach that underlines the obvious connection and interdependency between our health and that of animals, plants and our shared environment. It is also a goal and a strategy which, if carried out properly, could maintain better health for all living things and possibly even prevent pandemics.
The One Health umbrella
It’s no surprise One Health has gained so much attention during the pandemic. And yet, much of it exists only in theory.
In our view, a powerful concept like this deserves a wider application in the real world. Governments and health authorities need to take purposeful actions and forge sector collaborations. We need an actionable strategy and new policies and regulations to keep up with the pace of innovation.
So, is there something that can make a One Health strategy easier to roll out?
We think there is.
One health's binding element - data
One Health makes so much sense. In fact, it’s a bit of a no-brainer when you first see it. Why aren’t we using it widely then?
Well, a holistic and proactive approach requires a holistic view – and for governments and global health decision makers to see the full picture. And we’re not quite there yet – the picture is incomplete.
A major factor that has contributed to the ineffectiveness of the pandemic response so far is that it has been missing an essential ingredient to help make sense of it all – data.
Had we adopted a One Health mindset and vision a decade earlier, we would have been much better prepared for pandemics and we’d have effective strategies in place. Strategies where testing, vaccines and information technology all have a role in solving a public health problem before it becomes severe.
But all is not lost because we still have technology and data on our side. In the last 10 years alone, we’ve seen considerable advances in technology, and in particular its applications in the medical and diagnostics fields.
Such advancements are the growing use of tele-health software and wearable medical devices, for example. Now, rapid diagnostic tests and devices are also starting to benefit from digital transformation and increased connectivity.
Some helpful measures have been put in place by regulators, but to get on top of a highly infectious disease, we need to do things at scale and a lot faster.
And the fastest way to fully realise the One Health vision is through gathering comprehensive health data in real time and using it to inform decisions, policy and strategy.
Governments and health authorities need to let science and data lead the pandemic response.
Make way for solutions made better with data
As this article concluded, tomorrow’s challenges cannot be solved with today’s methods – new cross-disciplinary, forward-thinking solutions are needed.
Take for example rapid diagnostics, and in particular, lateral flow. An industry with a versatile, low cost technology and products that address most of the things under the One Health umbrella – human, animal and plant health, environmental testing, ecology, food safety and agriculture.
The lateral flow industry has been one of the first to recognise the transformative value of digital and data. Professionals in the field have been working around the clock to introduce digital tracking and reporting of rapid test data so they can better contribute to COVID-19 efforts.
The same can be done with One Health. It requires purposeful actions from regulators, governments and global health agencies aligned with shared goals. It’s a call to action to collaborate with the pioneers out there who are leveraging the power of data and mobile technology.
Digital transformation and data may seem daunting, but they don't have to be if you work with experts
The lateral flow industry is showing that achieving a One Health mindset and co-creating smart diagnostics isn’t as daunting as it might seem at first. Working in open partnerships is essential, especially when merging different disciplines and different people. Or at least, this is the way our clients prefer to work with us – which we love.
Digital & mobile technology offer unbeaten ways of presenting and understanding complex data while educating and empowering people – be it patients, farmers, diagnostics professionals or public health decision makers.
By gathering data, our lateral flow clients are accelerating improvements that cross each of the three key elements – human health, animal health and environmental health.
Data is key to joining each of these key elements, and if One Health is to become a reality (the new paradigm), then how we capture data, analyse it and build data relationships between those elements is fundamental to its success.
We are active across each element and our digital products are enabling fast, data rich diagnostics that inform decisions across all health agendas.
Data links all stakeholders in the chain to coordinate decisions, but more importantly, it can lead to more accurate epidemiology monitoring and to developing informed disease strategies.
Data-led one health can mitigate an adverse situation and eventually prevent it
Even with vaccines now being rolled out, digital mass testing is still one of the best weapons we have to fight the pandemic. Vaccines are great but they are a reactive measure rather than a scalable solution. Therefore, they don’t fit the proactive nature of the One Health model.
Consider this: data-led mass testing is to global health like a vaccine is to a single human. The right intervention at the right time can catch a disease early and stop it from infecting other areas and spreading.
The diagnostics industry is doing its bit by enhancing their products with data. Other organisations and initiatives are working on completing their parts of the puzzle.
To do their part, key decision makers must declare the need for holistic testing initiatives and then adopt digitised solutions to carry this agenda and see it through. Regulators must prioritise, fast track and support digital testing programmes.
One Health can succeed, but to do so those driving it must embrace data. Without the insight that data brings there can be no paradigm shift.