One Health continues to evolve for better health of people, animals and ecosystems


  • Simon R. Rüegg
  • Barbara Häsler



This article provides insights gained during a four-year project funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) named «Network for Evaluation of One Health», which brought together over 250 scientists, decision-makers and practitioners with expertise and/or interest in One Health to investigate the added value of One Health and elaborate and evaluation protocol for One Health. Here, we present our reflections on the significance of these findings for our common practice as health professionals. Two initial findings lie at the core of this analysis, namely the observation that 1) One Health integrates knowledge from various sources in a transdisciplinary way and that there are as many concepts of health as participants in a specific initiative; and 2) the nature of complex One Health problems necessitates systems thinking and consideration of emergences as a One Health initiative is implemented. An analysis of eight case studies, i.e., evaluations of different One Health initiatives, found that the capacity of an initiative to facilitate knowledge integration improves with the age of the initiative, political boundaries of any nature hinder knowledge integration, and the prevailing competitive mentality in academia may be a serious obstacle to trusted collaboration required for interdisciplinary progress. The COST project also revealed a number of important knowledge gaps, namely the need for: a scalable definition of health, balancing expert advice and citizen participation to tackle health challenges, bridging the scission between the benefits and risks arising from nature, discussing whether egoism will define the boundary to sustainable health, a biocentric social justice framework, and comparative values associated with health of people, animals, plants and ecosystems. Furthermore, methodological challenges were identified such as participatory methods that are scalable to large populations, a specific skill set to facilitate transdisciplinary research, and governing mechanisms alternative to legislation and markets. Finally, as a rather unexpected outcome, the project has revealed the tension between the academic and societal demands for infallibility and predictability versus the need for honesty, authenticity, humbleness and emotion to permit the full unfolding of human creativity.


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Rüegg, S. R., & Häsler, B. (2020). One Health continues to evolve for better health of people, animals and ecosystems. Conexus, 3, 8–25.