One Health and Planetary Health Disciplines

21 Apr 2018
Valerie Colgate

One Health and Planetary Health Disciplines

We are living in a unique time presenting a host of challenges on numerous fronts.  Weather patterns are increasingly abnormal and unpredictable.  Natural disasters are more prevalent and volatile.  As such, large populations of people are displaced.  Pollution is on the rise; stifling cities and valleys.  Landscapes are changing, and animals are becoming displaced and slowly extinct.  Food systems have transformed from the family farm to the mass production of processed foods.  These dynamics along with sedentary lifestyles are causing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, chronic lung disease and cancers to be diagnosed at record, high rates. [1]

Beyond the practice of traditional health care and medicine that can aid in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases, there are new and emerging initiatives and disciplines that are targeting planetary challenges that affect our health and wellbeing.  Most of us have heard about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Implemented in 2015, the SDGS are comprised of 17 “Global Goals” that are “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.[2]  In addition, two fairly new and intersecting health disciplines have emerged to engage in these efforts: One Health and Planetary Health. Of note, the NCD Alliance mentioned One Health and alluded to Planetary Health initiatives in discussing health, environment and climate change in their 13 February 2018 webinar. Topics discussed included: SIDS and vulnerable settings, position of environmental health in preventing health emergencies and global health security. [3] 

One Health seeks to expand “interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment.” [4] What is unique about this approach is the inclusion of veterinary medicine and focus on emerging and re-emerging infections that are vector-borne or zoonotic. [5] Examples of emerging and re-emerging infections that are vector-borne or zoonotic are Ebola, Avian flu/SARS and Chikungunya.[5] In addition, One Health also includes “environmentally related disciplines”; such as agriculture.[5]  An example of this interdisciplinary collaboration and communications is between the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  These organisations have been working together for years to discover cost-efficient and effective solutions “to address risks at the human-animal-ecosystems interface. [6] Some topics they are working on include zoonotic Tuberculosis and capacity building to bridge the animal and human health sectors. [6] As a result of these collaborative efforts, “the WHO Global Action Plan against antimicrobial resistance” and “a Global framework for the elimination of dog-mediated human rabies” have been developed and implemented to promote and protect the health of animals and humans. [6]

On the other hand, “Planetary Health broadens health research to include the external systems that sustain or threaten human health”. [7] You may be asking how this differs from One Health.  Planetary Health consists of intersecting disciplines from the Health Sciences and Natural and Physical Sciences. [7] For example, Planetary Health is comprised of oncology, genetics research, urban planning and ecology. [7] Planetary Health challenges barriers and explores connections that exist between these disciplines. [7] An example of these intersecting disciplines working together is a £10 million urban health project with 10 cities worldwide:  London (UK), Rennes (France), Beijing and Ningbo (China), Nairobi and Kisumu (Kenya), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Vancouver (Canada), and Accra and Tamale (Ghana). [8] This project is being launched by Wellcome, a global charitable foundation in London. [8] The selected countries will be engaging in a research partnership to “improve understanding of how countries can create healthier cities and protect the planet”. [8] In particular, this project aims to inform policy makers and governments about how to reduce health inequality and improve population health. [8]

This project sounds similar to work we’ve conducted as part of our community-engagement programme, which to-date has taken place in mostly urban settings in eight London boroughs and two UK cities.  C3’s programme works by engaging in strategic partnerships to identify how local environments can be changed to make it naturally easier for people to live and eat healthfully using an evidence-based strategy called CHESS™ (Community Health Engagement Survey Solutions). At the heart of this innovative process is a tool for Android Tablet, built on solid, prevention-focused evidence.  It equips community members – the often over-looked experts – to collect quantitative data on certain aspects of the built environment (for example, streets, parks or shops) that are either promoters of or barriers to health. Thanks to evidence collected through CHESS, communities have been awarded over £2 million to implement their proposed interventions that aim to create healthier urban neighbourhoods.

At C3 we firmly believe that the only way the world can address the escalating non-communicable disease crisis is by joining together all sectors and all disciplines, particularly those that were historically disconnected. One Health and Planetary Health mirror this thinking, and we look forward to learning more about each discipline and strategizing about how C3 may get more involved.




  1. WHO | Four noncommunicable diseases, four shared risk factors. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  2. Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP. 2018. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  3. NCD Alliance Webinar, 13 February 2018 | NCD Alliance. 2018. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  4. One Health Initiative – One World One Medicine One Health. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  5. One Health Initiative – One World One Medicine One Health. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  6. OIE, FAO and WHO enlarge their collaboration commitment to face health challenges: OIE – World Organisation for Animal Health. 2017. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  7. Planetary Health: a new discipline. The Lancet. (accessed 16 April 2018).
  8. £10 million to fund new urban health project in ten cities | Wellcome. 2018. (accessed 16 April 2018).