MEDIA RELEASE: On One Health Day, AMRRIC calls for research into connections between human, animal, and environmental health

Today, AMRRIC celebrates International One Health Day by recognising the importance of the One Health approach and calling for further research and understanding into the complex and interconnected relationships between human, animal, and environmental health.

One Health is an international movement, and an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple disciplines collaborate to achieve better health outcomes for humans, animals and the environment.  Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which is believed to have originated as a virus carried by bats, have highlighted the important role that changing interactions between people, animals and the environmental can have in the occurrence of new disease, and the vital need for improved understanding of these relationships.

In remote Indigenous communities that AMRRIC serves, there has long been an understanding of the importance of One Health principles, which align with the interconnectedness inherent within Indigenous world views. When country is sick, people and animals are sick. At a practical level, when animals are suffering zoonotic parasitic illnesses, people often will too, or when there is an overpopulation of companion animals, local biodiversity also suffers.  One Health recognises the positive relationships between humans, animals and the environment too. For example, the companionship and stress-relief that dogs and cats so willingly provide to people aids in supporting good mental health of people.

While AMRRIC’s work has a veterinary focus, all AMRRIC’s activities are underpinned by One Health values, leading to collaboration with medical, public health, environmental health and conservation professionals, for better outcomes for communities and their companion animals. For example, in a veterinary program at Cherbourg QLD, AMRRIC collaborates with The University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, Darling Downs Public Health Unit (Queensland Health) and Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council. Animals diagnosed with high parasite burdens are treated with broad-spectrum anti-parasite treatments, but importantly, their owners are also notified of the diagnosis and, with the owner’s consent, the local health clinic also informed. This transdisciplinary collaboration between human and animal health services is helping to address zoonotic diseases and create better health outcomes for both people and their pets.

On One Health Day, we celebrate the ways in which One Health informs and strengthens AMRRIC’s work, whether it be through strong animal and health focused education programs in community, the environmental impacts of unmanaged cat populations, collaborative work with health services to detect and prevent zoonotic disease occurrences, or vet programs that are advised by community and cultural protocols.

While we celebrate our One Health approach, AMRRIC also recognises the enormous knowledge gaps, particularly around the prevalence and significance of animal-derived pathogens and their impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. On One Health Day, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the potential for other zoonotic diseases like rabies to develop into a greater threat for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, AMRRIC calls for further funding and support for ethical, co-designed One Health focused research which will benefit the health of communities, companion animals and country.

Frances Grant
Author: Frances Grant