On the first-ever “One Health Day” on November 3, global health and development organizations are asking people around the world to learn more and help spread the word about “One Health,” a public health approach that emphasizes the health connections between humans, animals, and ecosystems. Read more to find out why.

Animals, the Environment, and our Health: What’s the Connection?

According to the World Health Organization, “About 75% of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past 10 years have been caused by pathogens originating from an animal or from products of animal origin.”

Interactions between humans, animals and the environment are complex and constantly evolving. Our world is more connected than ever, and realities like deforestation are changing the environment in ways that affect us and our health – for example, by bringing us into contact with areas and animal species that we as humans previously weren’t routinely exposed to. This means that in order to protect the health of people, we need to also protect the health of animals and the environment.

An Innovative Approach

One Health is both a call to action and a method. It involves breaking down the silos between the animal health, environmental health, and human health sectors so that we can track diseases wherever they are found and help prevent and quickly respond to outbreaks.

For example, a One Health approach to public health surveillance involves governments implementing systems that track diseases in animals as well as humans, so that avian flu is detected as soon as it appears in birds – before it has the chance to infect entire flocks of chickens and threaten people’s livelihoods, and before it has the chance to infect people.

The Need for One Health to Go Global

While substantial progress is being made, it’s important that One Health approaches are used globally. In a world where people can easily cross national boundaries, so can diseases. To make sure that people around the world are protected from harmful diseases that originate in animals and the environment, countries must work together to implement One Health practices.

The West African Regional Conference on One Health

From November 8-11, national leaders from across West Africa will come together at the West African Regional Conference on One Health, an event convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), along with other regional and international partners. Ministers, health experts, and practitioners will share what they’ve learned from implementing One Health approaches and develop a roadmap for strengthening public health systems across the West African sub-region.

It’s a great example of how countries are working with each other and with multilateral organizations to make sure that national borders don’t become barriers to disease prevention and public health preparedness.

How You Can Get Involved

One Health Day – which will occur just five days before the conference – gives everyone around the world the opportunity to learn more, raise awareness, and help move this important international issue forward.

In order to protect ourselves, those around us, and future generations from devastating disease outbreaks, we must educate ourselves on One Health and the heath policies and practices that exist in our countries. And we must let our representatives know that being prepared for disease outbreaks is an issue that is important to us.

Follow @WHOAFRO and #OneHealthDakar for updates on the conference, and join the conversation online, both on #OneHealthDay and beyond.