According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), about 75 percent of infectious diseases affecting humans have historically originated in animals. This is why the concept of One Health — in which the health of humans, animals, and the environment are inherently interdependent — is critically important.

“You can’t separate the three. They are interconnected,” says Dr. Troye McPherson, a veterinarian for 30 years and current President of the CVMA. “We have been working to create a greater awareness that the protection of animal and environmental health is good for human health.” The One Health framework has gained widespread adoption by governments, academics, the medical community, and non-profit organizations.

Healthy herds, healthy communities

Herd health is an important component of farm management, so to ensure the health of their animals, farmers collaborate frequently with veterinarians. The same conversations society has about vaccines for people are being had in the agricultural and veterinary community.

The spread of communicable disease is a concern for human and animal populations alike. “Preventative medicine is critical because some animals can hide illness and when symptoms do show up it can be harder to treat,” says Dr. McPherson. “Vaccines are safe, effective, and play an important role in preventing disease outbreak and illness.” Healthy livestock also means Canadian farmers have a sustainable market for their products, contributing to healthy communities across the role of antibiotics.

You may have heard your doctor talk about the appropriate use of antibiotics — the same is true for animals.

“While antibiotics are important for the health of animals, we’ve developed a framework for veterinarians to ensure that antibiotics are only used when medically necessary,” says Dr. McPherson. “Testing procedures are in place when they are used for dairy cows and livestock to ensure human safety.”

The CVMA is developing a system that will allow  veterinarians too begin tracking the use of antibiotics.

Dr. McPherson notes that some European countries have shown that tracking leads to significant declines in the administration of antibiotics, which can be good for overall health as animals are less likely to build resistance.

“Farmers are proud of what they do, and care very much for their animals,” she says, “but they also want to ensure the health of those who consume their products.”