One Health Fieldwork: A Closer Look
The concept of single health is the concept of a health sensu lato that extends from infectious and degenerative diseases to traumatology and nutrition. Historically, we observe that health advocates have attempted to understand the fundamental elements of health, inquisitive about how the combination of multiple factors focus on health rather than disease. Since Hippocrates, when a disease was discovered, the question to answer became “why and how did the patient become ill?” Such a primordial “explanatory” approach to disease, taking into account the aquatic, atmospheric, and terrestrial environments, even occurred in the ancient medical school of Kos, 400 BC.
In the 20th century, environmental health accounted for risk factors within the ecosystem. Although many infectious diseases were controlled, health authorities tended to favor medical specialization to promote scientific discoveries. Hence, the medical system developed ivory towers of impenetrable disciplines. At the beginning of the 21st century, scientists aimed to solve the same problems, in the footsteps of those of the 18th century’s “Age of Enlightenment”, when multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches were promoted. Over time, the One Health concept has gained recognition in public health fields. Architects and sociologists united their efforts to build healthy homes, while public health physicians and veterinarians met health geographers in response to zoonotic disease risks at different latitudes and various environments.
Fieldwork is a prerequisite to any scientific study which paves the way to discovery. For example, anthropologists have long valued fieldwork to learn about cultures, societies, and history through extended periods of field immersion within communities. Geologists and astronomers spend time collecting data from earth and space, leading to discoveries related to the global ecosystem and space exploration. In public health, fieldwork includes data collection (e.g., sampling, demographic variables, environmental data) to identify risk factors and disease outcomes, which can subsequently be used to establish associations between collected variables. In biology (e.g., natural sciences), fieldwork involves the study of plants and animals in their natural habitat. Fieldwork across diverse disciplines is essential to learn more about the risks associated with human, animal, and environmental health. Above all, there is no science without data to observe, collect, and analyze.
One Health emphasizes the value of the transdisciplinary approach in the scientific process of understanding the balance between health and disease. Data collected from fieldwork across disciplines can help inform health workers, educators, researchers, community practitioners, and health authorities about the benefits of a comprehensive and holistic approach. Focused practitioners and scientists in the field who are supported by policy and research funding will further extend our vision for the future of One Health.
In the current issue of the OHNL, we are introduced to fieldwork and practice in One Health across multiple geographic regions and various strategies. Shabangu Ntji describes fieldwork on the occurrence of Babesia rossi in black-backed jackals in South Africa. Tariku Jibat Beyene describes his fieldwork and community participatory rabies control in Ethiopia. Sahana Kuthyar outlines her One Health fieldwork with Giardia intestinalis in Argentina. Finally, Jean-Paul Gonzalez reviews a book by Marie-Hélène Marchand about the contributions of the Pasteur Institute to Global Health.