What is ‘One Health’?
‘One Health’ is the idea that the health and wellness of all living things on this planet is interconnected. That is to say, human health, wildlife health, and the health of ecosystems are intimately connected with one another (they constitute ‘One Health’, rather than individually-siloed disciplines of health), and must therefore be studied through an integrated, multidisciplinary approach.
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How does WAB-Net incorporate a ‘One Health’ approach?
WAB-Net aims to improve regional capacity for One Health approaches in order to mitigate threats to bat populations that also facilitate viral spillover. Given the lack of coordinated research in Western Asia regarding bat and bat-borne virus research, there is a critical need to link bat research with public health initiatives in order to achieve “win-win” solutions for bat conservation and zoonotic disease prevention.
A regional network approach, such as WAB-Net, is able to enhance both bat conservation and zoonotic disease mitigation efforts. Longitudinal studies of regional bat populations, for example, aid in identifying shared threats to bats and human-mediated factors associated with increased disease emergence risk – both of which will likely change over time. Collaboration is required among diverse experts, including bat conservationists, public health officials, and virologists, in order to build impactful One Health research agendas and formulate effective recommendations to mitigate shared regional threats to bat populations and human health.
Monitoring ecological dynamics and interactions among bats and other wild and domestic animals coupled with behavioral and socio-economic studies of humans in shared ecosystems are hallmarks of a One Health approach (Karesh et al., 2009). Such approaches are necessary to proactively detect and minimize the emergence and impact of zoonotic diseases.
By adopting an ecologically-minded One Health approach to proactively identify bat-associated zoonoses and the specific human activities that contribute to increased spillover risk, this also contributes to a regional understanding of the diversity and distribution of bat species in understudied regions such as Western Asia. Inclusion of bat experts in initiatives to monitor bat-associated viruses enhances our ability to derive and communicate meaningful information about potential risks to human and animal health but also informs intervention measures to reduce opportunities for virus spillover in degraded environments.