One Health Day 2022 at ZEF: Reflections on the present and future of the approach

November 10, 2022.  

The COVID-19 health crisis created social, economic, and political disruptions in all regions of the world. One of the major lessons learned is that all living organisms are co-dependent at different levels and that changes in their shared environment affect their health and well-being. The steep learning curve created by the pandemic led to a “One Health momentum” with a focus on the human-animal-environment interdependence. As part of this momentum, governments, international agencies, civil society actors, and donors enacted One Health coordination mechanisms to facilitate cross-sector collaboration and address health risks. Those actions taken, call now for scientific expertise in evaluation.

The graduate program One Health and Urban Transformation at ZEF hosted a symposium on One Health Day on 03 November 2022 to address this need for future research. This was highlighted by a previous announcement on 17 October 2022 by four international organizations[1] of a first joint plan on One Health for the period 2022-2026, which includes a new definition, scope, coordination, and evaluation mechanisms for implementing the concept.

The speakers at the One Health Day symposium critically reflected on the directions and perspectives for One Health by revisiting the concept itself and with presentations of the ongoing work of researchers at ZEF. The researchers pointed to areas receiving much attention, such as zoonotic diseases and anti-microbial resistance, and further hinted at neglected areas like the valuation of health for non-human beings and animal-environment health interactions beyond the human sphere. The scope was widened by looking at the overlaps of One Health with other integrative concepts such as Planetary Health, and by reconsidering integrated perspectives to assess the impacts on health from geopolitics, and the political economy. Speakers at the symposium also called for looking deeper at the sustainability of the current One Health developments, the need for a broadening of notions of health and well-being, and the inclusion of gender-sensitive approaches.

Two of the highlights of the research symposium were the critical assessment of the One Health developments and the introduction to the concept of antibiotic footprint and its consequences.

Revisiting the One Health concept

For the opening address, Professor Walter Bruchhausen from the IHPH walked the audience through the latest developments of the One Health concept. On the one hand, the concept can be seen as an appealing concept important to raise awareness on topics that have been neglected; on the other hand, the use of the term One Health is impregnated with ambiguity and confusion, leading important groups, such as animal rights activists, to desert from advocating for the approach.

A highlight was the call for deeper reflections on the role of the environment at the One Health interface, particularly for research that goes beyond human-animal interactions, for instance, urban health and the safety of non-animal-based diets. Professor Bruchhausen concluded his address by pointing out some areas that can be considered research priorities for one health, namely, (1) the transmission of Anti-microbial resistance, (2) spill-over of zoonotic diseases, (3) control of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, (4) food and water safety, and (5) the threats to food security from animal and plant diseases.

One Health, Anti-microbial Resistance, and Geopolitics

To look beyond the general One Health developments into a particular context, Professor Nico Mutters, director of IHPH delivered his address on the general micro-One Health idea, particularly on how the resistance to antimicrobials develops, to later spread from different environments to humans, animals and plants, and poses serious risks to health.

An important highlight was the role that geopolitics and political economy play in antimicrobial resistance transmission. Plainly said, if we look at the antibiotic footprint of the different countries in the world data from the initiative of the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, shows that antibiotic consumption per person is notably higher in European countries than in any other regions of the world. However, the resistance spread is occurring at a higher pace in South Asia. This indicates that there is only a slight correlation between consumption and resistance and that poorer infrastructure and poorer governance can lead to higher antibiotic resistance.

The directions of One Health research at ZEF

At present, there are 18 doctoral research projects within the framework of the Graduate School One Health and Urban Transformation at ZEF. Six of these are in the final stage and twelve are in the data collection stage. Most of the projects have a strong focus on environmental transformations and the way those affect health and well-being and urban health resilience. Important additions that came in the second stage of the project were the inclusion of the gender perspective, strengthening research on the governance and implementation of One Health initiatives, and targeting the research on anti-microbial resistance to tackle food safety on plant-based diets. 



The NRW Forschungskolleg “One Health and Urban Transformation” is funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, MKW).



Ana Maria Perez and Max Voit from the coordination of the NRW Forschungskolleg “One Health and Urban Transformation” at ZEF;  health(at)


Resources for background information

  • Falkenberg, T., Paris, J. M. G., Patel, K., Perez Arredondo, A. M., Schmiege, D., & Yasobant, S. (2022). Operationalizing the One Health Approach in a Context of Urban Transformations. In Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme (pp. 95-102). Springer, Singapore.
  • Perez Arredondo, A. M. (2022). Research-Practice-Collaborations Addressing One Health and Urban Transformation. A Case Study. The European Journal of Development Research, 34(4), 1745-1756.
  • FAO, UNEP WHO, WOAH. (2022). Global Plan of Action on One Health. Towards a more comprehensive One Health, approach to global health threats at the human-animal-environment interface. Rome.
  • Perez Arredondo, A. M., Yasobant, S., Bruchhausen, W., Bender, K., & Falkenberg, T. (2021). Intersectoral collaboration shaping One Health in the policy agenda: A comparative analysis of Ghana and India. One Health, 13, 100272.
  • Schmiege, D., Perez Arredondo, A. M., Ntajal, J., Paris, J. M. G., Savi, M. K., Patel, K., ... & Falkenberg, T. (2020). One Health in the context of coronavirus outbreaks: a systematic literature review. One Health, 10, 100170.
  • Bruchhausen, W. (2019). Emerging Global Health Approaches at the Human-Animal Interface: Conceptual and Historical Issues of One Health. In Global Applications of One Health Practice and Care (pp. 1-32). IGI Global.
  • Zinsstag, J., Schelling, E., Wyss, K., & Mahamat, M. B. (2005). Potential of cooperation between human and animal health to strengthen health systems. The Lancet, 366(9503), 2142-2145.
  • Antibiotic Footprint




[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).