The “One Health” concept summarised an idea that had been known for more than a century; that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist. We envisaged and implemented it as a collaborative global approach to understanding risks for human and animal health and ecosystem health as a whole.
Protecting “One Health”
The “One Health” concept was introduced at the beginning of the 2000s. In a few words, it summarised an idea that had been known for more than a century; that human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist.
This concept is envisaged and implemented by the OIE as a collaborative global approach to understanding risks for human and animal health (including both domestic animals and wildlife) and ecosystem health as a whole. The OIE builds upon the intergovernmental standards which it publishes and the worldwide information on animal health that it collects as well as its network of international experts and programmes for strengthening national Veterinary Services. Moreover, it collaborates synergistically with more than 70 other international organisations, particularly those which play a key role in the human–animal–ecosystems interface.
Animals, humans and diseases
Diseases of animal origin that can be transmitted to humans, such as avian influenza, rabies, Rift Valley fever and brucellosis, pose worldwide risks to public health. Other diseases which are mainly transmitted from person to person also circulate in animals or have an animal reservoir, and can cause serious health emergencies, such as the recent epidemic of Ebola virus. These risks increase with globalisation, climate change and changes in human behaviour, giving pathogens numerous opportunities to colonise new territories and evolve into new forms.
Today, we estimate that:
of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic
of emerging infectious diseases of humans (including Ebola, HIV, and influenza) have an animal origin
new human diseases appear every year. Three are of animal origin.
of agents with potential bioterrorist use are zoonotic pathogens.
Protecting animals to preserve our future
Controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source – that is, pathogens that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa – is the most effective and economic way of protecting people. Consequently, global strategies to prevent and control pathogens must be developed if we are to protect public health. These should be coordinated at the human–animal–ecosystems interface and applied at the national, regional and global levels, through the implementation of appropriate policies.
Guaranteeing competent Animal Health Services for a safer world
Veterinary Services, in both their public and private components, play an essential role in the development and implementation of policies to manage animal health risks. In protecting animal health and welfare, they meaningfully contribute towards improving human health, as well as food safety and security.
For this reason, they need appropriate and effective methods to prevent and control animal diseases, and must be able to communicate and work in close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, in order for joint action to be taken.
For more information
- Animals, humans and diseases
- Wildlife Health Framework
- Wildlife Health Survey Report
- Statement of the OIE Wildlife Working Group, April 2020: Wildlife Trade and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases (April 2020)
- A Rapid Review of Evidence on Managing the Risk of Disease Emergence in the Wildlife Trade
OIE Working Groups:
Controlling global health risks more effectively
Against the background of increasing trade globalisation, controlling and managing health risks can only occur through multi-sectoral collaboration; with well-structured and resilient health systems that prioritise prevention.
Global health risks and tomorrow’s challenges
Diseases of animal origin that are transmissible to humans, such as avian influenza, rabies, Rift Valley fever and brucellosis, pose worldwide risks to public health that must be prevented and controlled.
Pathogens of animal origin that are not transmissible to humans, but which have a severe impact on the production of animal protein, should not be neglected either, particularly in developing countries. In fact, they can lead to production losses and a reduction in the available food supply, leading to serious public health problems caused by food shortages and protein deficiencies.
These risks are increasing with trade globalisation, global warming and changes in human behaviour, all of which provide multiple opportunities for pathogens to colonise new territories and evolve into new forms.
- 60% of pathogens that cause human diseases come from domectic animals or wildlife.
- 75% of emerging human pathogens are of animal origin.
- 80% of pathogens that are of concern for bioterrorism originate in animals
- More than 70%  additional animal protein will be needed to feed the world by 2050.
- Meanwhile, more than 20% of animal production losses in the world are linked to animal diseases.
- Understanding the connections between biodiversity, ecosystems and infectious diseases is crucial.
- Animal diseases pose a direct threat to the incomes of rural communities that depend on livestock production.
- More than 75%  of the billion people in the world who live on less than $2 per day depend on subsistence farming and raising livestock to survive.
 FAO, 2011. World Livestock 2011 – Livestock in the food security.
 FAO \& OIE, 2015. Global control and eradication of peste des petits ruminants Investing in veterinary systems, food security and poverty alleviation.
Preventing and controlling animal pathogens at their source
Past decades have shown us that preventing diseases at their animal source is still the most effective and economic way of protecting people. New models are needed to ensure early detection, prevention and control at the human–animal interface to reduce the persistent global threat of emerging animal diseases. Given the complexity of these diseases and their emergence and spread in a world that is becoming increasingly globalised, it is essential to find effective strategies to control them at their source to reduce their potentially devastating impact on health. This can be done by building upon the successes of the past, integrating new control methods and by entering into new partnerships to reduce future threats.
As a result of its standard-setting activities for animal health and welfare and because its mandate focuses on transparency in animal health in the world, the OIE plays a crucial role in preventing and controlling global animal health risks.
Within this framework, cross-sectoral cooperation at the national, regional and global level is a fundamental part of ensuring that our efforts are successful.
Through its actions, the OIE strongly supports initiatives to broaden the scientific basis of positive multi-sectoral collaboration, and to find ways to put the “One Health” concept into practice at the political and practical level.
Networking international scientific expertise
Swift and accurate identification of the pathogens responsible for animal diseases is an essential component in the early detection of disease. That is why the capabilities and reliability of national veterinary laboratories play a key role in controlling such diseases.
For many years, the OIE has been committed to capacity building and global networking among veterinary laboratories. In addition, it provides Member Countries with the skills and knowledge of more than 320 international centres of expertise, as well as programmes to build the capacity of their own national laboratories, particularly through its twinning programme between laboratories, and through training workshops.
International FAO-OIE-WHO collaboration
Coordinating the many players involved in human, animal and environmental health is vital to meet the health challenges of tomorrow. In this context, three major international organisations, WHO, the OIE and FAO, are working together to prevent and control health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface. They are developing global strategies and tools to ensure a consistent, harmonised approach throughout the world, and to better coordinate human, veterinary and environmental health policies at the national and international levels.
FAO-OIE-WHO: a worldwide cross-sectoral strategy for “One Health”
These three organisations have worked together for many years to prevent, detect, control and eliminate health threats to humans, originating – directly or indirectly – from animals.
Putting the “One Health”» vision into practice has been facilitated by a formal alliance between the three organisations. In this context, the FAO, OIE and WHO acknowledge their respective responsibilities in combating diseases which have a severe impact on health and the economy, particularly zoonoses.
The basis of the FAO-OIE-WHO Tripartite Alliance
In 2010, the three Organisations published a Tripartite Concept Note, describing their collaboration and objectives in the prevention and control of health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface.
By working together in this way, they can create synergy in their expertise and communications activities on issues of common interest, in order to mobilise their public and private partners, Member Country governments and public opinion.
They meet regularly and their principal activities are aimed at early detection of the emergence of animal and human diseases, so that these can be met with a swift and targeted response to control disease outbreaks and prevent their spread worldwide
Such actions include, for example:
- developing their capacities for surveillance and rapid response, through the epidemiological data gathered by their respective health surveillance and early warning systems;
- ensuring consistency across the standard-setting activities of the three organisations (the intergovernmental standards of the OIE, the International Health Regulations [IHR] of the WHO and the international food standards of the Codex Alimentarius);
- evaluation of and taking measures to manage disease risks;
- building capacity for the health authorities of their Member Countries.
The 3 priorities of the Tripartite Alliance
Within the framework of their close collaboration and the development of joint strategies to prevent health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface, the FAO, OIE and WHO set three priority areas in 2011.
|Animal Influenza||Antimicrobial Resistance||Rabies|
|Influenza portal||Antimicrobial resistance portal||Rabies portal|
The worldwide spread of the avian influenza H5N1 epidemic at the beginning of the 2000s, with its host of economic and health consequences, intensified the joint work of the FAO, OIE and WHO. Since then, the three organisations regularly exchange follow-up information on the global animal influenza situation
OIE/FAO global network of expertise on animal influenza
|Antibiotics are essential for human health, and animal health and welfare. Over-use and abuse can cause the emergence of bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics, i.e. antibiotic resistance.|
This phenomenon limits the effectiveness and availability of antimicrobials and seriously jeopardises effective control of infectious diseases throughout the world.
At the same time, globalisation aids the spread of pathogens, including resistant bacteria, across the planet.
The joint actions of the FAO–OIE–WHO are aimed at:
FAO–OIE–WHO factsheet on antimicrobial resistance
Rabies still kills tens of thousands of people every year. However, we have all the methods needed to prevent and eliminate this disease.
Its first priority is good governance of the distribution of resources, both public and private, local, national and international, to carry out preventative actions in animals, particularly vaccination of dogs.
Enlarging the Tripartite commitment to face health challenges of the future
In October 2017, the OIE, the FAO and the WHO released their second Tripartite strategic document reaffirming their commitment to provide multi-sectoral, collaborative leadership in addressing health challenges. The scope of their collaboration will be enlarged to more broadly embrace the “One Health” approach recognising that human health, animal health and the environment are interconnected.
The document presents the way forward that the three organisations will follow. While maintaining the momentum achieved for antimicrobial resistance, rabies and zoonotic influenza, the partners decided to enlarge their collaboration with a particular focus on:
- the reinforcement of national services in human health, animal health and food safety;
- the strengthening and modernization of early warning and surveillance/monitoring systems;
- the foresight, preparedness and response to emerging, re-emerging and neglected infectious diseases;
- the encouragement and the promotion of coordinated research and development to achieve a common understanding of the highest priority zoonotic diseases;
- the challenge that represents food safety requiring a multi-sector approach in the context of reinforcing food security.
Memorandum of Understanding signed by FAO, OIE and WHO to strengthen their long-standing partnership
On 31 May 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
This MOU supports the 2010 Tripartite Concept Note describing the collaborative strategy amongst the three organisations as well as the strategic document published in 2017.
Bringing together knowledge, insights and technical capacities in human and animal health and food and agriculture can generate strong synergies, for more robust, effective and cost-efficient solutions to the complex health problems facing the world today.
Joint activities under the MOU will include:
- Supporting the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, as well as the continuing implementation of the Global Action Plan on AMR
Engaging with countries to reinforce national and regional human health, animal health and food safety services Improving inter-agency collaboration in foresight analysis, risk assessment, preparedness building and joint responses to emerging, remerging and neglected infectious diseases at the animal-human-ecosystems interface Addressing food safety challenges requiring a multi-sector approach in the context of reinforcing food security. Promoting coordinated research and development to achieve a common understanding of the highest priority zoonotic diseases and the research and development needed to prevent, detect, and control them Developing a Voluntary Code of Conduct to reinforce implementation of international standards on responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials
Strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration at the national level
The OIE envisages and implements the “One Health” concept as a worldwide collaborative approach to understand risks to human, animal and environmental health as a whole.
However a collaboration of this nature cannot be limited to an international plan. It must also be based on harmonised and coordinated systems of health governance which are adapted to the regional and national level.
Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries
Every day we hear about health challenges at the human-animal-environment interface. Zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, rabies, Ebola, and Rift Valley fever continue to have major impacts on health, livelihoods, and economies. These health threats cannot be effectively addressed by one sector alone. Multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration is needed to tackle them and to reduce their impacts.
As a way to support countries in taking a One Health approach to address zoonotic diseases, the guide: “Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries” has been jointly developed by the Tripartite organizations (FAO, OIE, and WHO). This Guide, referred to as the Tripartite Zoonotic Guide (TZG) is flexible enough to be used for other health threats at the human-animal-environment interface; for example, food safety and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The TZG provides principles, best practices and options to assist countries in achieving sustainable and functional collaboration at the human-animal-environment interface. Examples and lessons learned from countries experiences are also included.
By using the TZG and its associated operational tools (which are currently being developed), countries can build or strengthen their national capacities in:
Options for monitoring and evaluating the impact of these activities are included allowing countries to make improvements in their zoonotic disease frameworks, strategies and policies. Moreover, taking the One Health approach presented in the TZG helps countries to make the best use of limited resources and reduces indirect societal losses, such as impacts on livelihoods of small producers, poor nutrition, and restriction of trade and tourism.
By working together and collaboratively, our global health systems are improved in a sustainable way ensuring an efficient prevention of the global health risks.
Consult the Tripartite Zoonotic Guide (TZG): “Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries” by clicking here . Use the communication tools available here to disseminate the TZG.
Building capacities: Operational Tools of the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide
The Joint Risk Assessment Operational Tool (JRA OT) provides guidance on how to set up a joint, cross-sectoral risk assessment process at the national level. While it describes step-by-step how to conduct each component of the process, it also provides model documents and templates to support its implementation by staff from national ministries responsible for management of zoonotic diseases. Thanks to the recommendations on risk monitoring, management and communication resulting from a joint risk assessment, decision-makers can implement science-based measures and align communication messages between sectors.
Navigating the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide (TZG): A Training for Advocates and Implementers
A self-paced training has been developed by the Tripartite organisations (OIE, FAO and WHO) to introduce participants to the TZG while providing practical guidance for strengthening a One Health approach to zoonotic diseases. By completing the three modules in this training, participants will:
- Understand the purpose of the TZG
- Recognize the tools that can be used to understand national context and priorities for One Health
- Explore the technical capacities addressed in the TZG
- Learn from country experiences about the implementation of key principles of the TZG
- Identify operational tools available to support the use of the TZG at national level
Access here to the TZG online training:
Reinforcing national animal health systems
The promotion of the “One Health” concept at the national level is aimed at establishing stronger political support over time to ensure the coordinated prevention of diseases that have a major impact on public health at the human-animal-ecosystems interface.
In fact it is essential to provide human and animal health systems which are well organised and resilient.
In this context, the OIE is committed to supporting the constant improvement of the performance of national Veterinary Services (the PVS Pathway
In addition the OIE offers all its Member Countries an independent evaluation of the level of compliance of its Veterinary Services comply with the OIE’s quality standards. It also provides specific tools to calculate the investments required and to carry out the legislative and technical reforms needed for compliance. The PVS Pathway
For these actions to be effective on a larger scale, the cooperation of all countries is required, since globalisation and its effects mean that health threats cannot be confined to one country’s borders.
However, some countries still lack consultation and cooperation between their public health and animal health sectors. This is why new initiatives, presented below, have been developed to assist countries to set up effective national health systems for both human health and animal health; systems that are well organised and operate according to the principles of good governance, enabling the monitoring of animal health and public health alike.
Stronger cooperation between national human health authorities and animal health authorities
WHO and the OIE have developed tools to assist their Member Countries to implement their respective standards and help them to identify tailored and coordinated strategies to deal with national health risks at the human–animal interface, by:
- evaluating the capacity of the animal health and human health sectors
- identifying gaps in the implementation of health standards
Based on the experience acquired from two national pilot workshops, held in Azerbaijan and Thailand, a joint WHO–OIE Guide for national public health and animal health authorities (represented by Veterinary Services) has been produced. It sets out methods for strengthening good governance of health systems throughout the world.
OIE–WHO operational framework for good governance at the human–animal interface: connecting the tools of WHO and the OIE to evaluate national capacities
The Guide gives a detailed picture of all the tools available under the WHO Framework for Monitoring International Health Regulations (IHR) and the OIE PVS Pathway, and their use to create pathways and meet the objectives of the “One Health” approach.
All these synergies between animal health and human health specialists, applied at the local, national and worldwide level, will undoubtedly contribute to the simultaneous and continuing improvement of global public health.
|National IHR/PVS Workshops|
International Health Regulations (IHR) and PVS Pathway Evaluation of Performance
of Veterinary Services
Since the publication of the Operational Framework described above, the OIE and WHO continue to develop a multi-sectoral approach and now organise national IHR/PVS seminars in those Member Countries that want to strengthen collaboration between their human and animal health sectors, to manage priority health threats in the most effective way possible.
These seminars will provide participants from national authorities with countless opportunities to: consult on the results of IHR and PVS evaluations of countries’ capacities and identify ways to make use of these conclusions; improve dialogue, coordination and collaboration between the human and animal health sectors to:
identify areas for joint strategic action, enabling a synergistic approach to disease prevention, detection and control;facilitate identification of possible tools, by gathering together all the different kinds of technical expertise, data, best practice and resources; improve understanding of the respective roles and mandates of stakeholders in different sectors. develop tools to enable mechanisms for multi-sectoral coordination and cooperation to be more easily funded and incorporated into institutions and aligned with national priorities and strategies, with the aid of information shared by international organisations.
Protecting animals, preserving our future
Since the OIE believes that controlling all animal pathogens at their animal source is the most effective and economic way of protecting people, it works every day to promote a collaborative and multi-sectoral approach, centred on the concept of “One Health”.
Being aware of health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface is the cornerstone of their prevention and control. The communication tools developed by the OIE are freely accessible and available to everyone for downloading and distribution.
Animals, humans and diseases
« One Health » infographic
Scientific and Technical Review, 33(2), «One Health»
Bipartite and Tripartite FAO–OIE–WHO documents
The Tripartite’s Commitment (2017)
The FAO–OIE–WHO Collaboration: a Tripartite Concept Note (2010)
WHO–OIE Operational Framework for good governance at the human-animal interface: bridging WHO and OIE tools for the assessment of national capacities
FAO–OIE–WHO factsheet on the fight against rabies
FAO–OIE–WHO factsheet on the fight against antimicrobial resistance
- 19/01/16 World Veterinary Day Award 2016
- 14/12/15 Adapted and resilient animal health and animal production systems are key to efficiently address the effects of climate change
- 13/11/15 Protecting the effectiveness of antibiotics: we can all contribute
- 28/09/15 WHO, OIE, FAO and GARC call to invest in defeating human rabies transmitted by dogs
- 11/09/15 Global Heath Security Agenda: Moving forward to a safer world
- 07/08/15 Public health, animal health and security sector must speak with one voice on the need to strengthen health systems
- 12/05/15 The OIE welcomes the publication of WHO Best Practices for the naming of new infectious diseases
- 03/04/15 The OIE joins in the celebration of World Health Day 2015
- 03/10/14 Bridging WHO and OIE tools to better control global health risks at the human–animal interface
- 29/09/14 The importance of animal health for Global Health Security
- 24/05/14 The Directors General of FAO, OIE and WHO united to tackle new challenges
- 06/11/13 WSAVA and OIE call on political leaders for action on rabies
- 21/10/13 OFFLU and WHO extend their collaboration for pandemic preparedness
- 09/12/11 Summary details the outcomes of international high-level talks on health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface
- 21/04/10 FAO-OIE-WHO Collaboration Concept Note on health risks at the human-animal interface is available online