“One Health” is a growing movement at Texas A&M which strives to unite the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment using transdisciplinary research, education and outreach.
“I walk by and read that every day, and it reminds me how we must all come together if we’re going to solve society’s greatest problems,” says Michael Chaddock, assistant dean for One Health and Strategic Initiatives within Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Whether it’s global food security, climate change, infectious diseases or the availability of clean water, it’s going to take people from every area of study to tackle these issues.”
This spirit of collaboration is driving the One Health movement forward at Texas A&M, where students and faculty from every discipline – from engineering and science, to business, liberal arts and medicine – are being encouraged to join forces to achieve optimal health globally for all residents of planet Earth.
“One Health approaches problems as challenges, breaking down each aspect and approaching them from multiple disciplines,” says Samantha Darling, a junior psychology major. She became involved in the One Health movement by participating in a research project to investigate why the number of households with cats have declined and explore possible solutions.
The American Humane Association and Texas A&M assembled a multidisciplinary team of students including Darling and six others representing various colleges including Veterinary Medicine, Mays Business School, Medicine, Liberal Arts and Agriculture & Life Sciences.
“This truly is a transdisciplinary, collaborative team approach to the question of ‘where did 5.5 million cats go?’” explains Chaddock. “The number of households owning a cat declined 6.2 percent from 2006 to 2011, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.”
Chaddock says the future looks bright for the One Health initiative at Texas A&M with plans in the works to offer a certificate in One Health, allowing for students of all majors to learn how to use their talents and perspectives to contribute to a healthy planet for everyone. He says the program will continue to facilitate transdisciplinary collaborations, and “our goal down the road is to offer a master’s in One Health,” he adds.
Darling and Sarah Shaffell, another member of the team, say they’ll take the One Health philosophy with them into their future careers by focusing on collaboration with those outside their field and by remembering that humans, animals, plants and the environment are interconnected and depend upon one another for survival.
“One Health is more than just collaborative effort to enhance the wellness of humans, animals and the environment − it is a way of thinking and living,” Darling concludes. “It is the start to a great and innovative future.”