The recently agreed Sustainable Development goals are a great step forward for holistic health from the current Millennium Development Goals and One Health is perfectly placed to assist.
Imagine buying new car, with brand new seats, tyres and suspension only to find that poor roads and infrastructure causes considerable damage to your vehicle. Easy fix right? Money permitting, all those elements can be replaced, but the environment within which the car operates ensures that its health complaints continue to re-occur.
Such was the case with the soon to expire Millennium development goals, whose focus on combatting specific illnesses, such as HIV and malaria, lost sight of the broader social and environmental drivers of such problems. Liz Ford of the Guardian points out that,
“The Eight MDGs failed to consider the root causes of poverty and overlooked gender inequality as well as the holistic nature of development. The goals made no mention of human rights and did not specifically address economic development.”
As noble and significant step forward in development discourse as the MDG’s were, about 1 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day – the World Bank measure on poverty – and more than 800 million people do not have enough food to eat.
Thankfully, at the end of 2015 the MDGs will be replaced by the more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals. Put together by representatives from 70 countries, the list of development aspirations has expanded from eight to a whopping seventeen! These goals such as, ‘End Poverty’ are then rightfully accompanied with sub-points to provide more specific aspirations in order to achieve the broader long-term aim.
Of particular note to OHO, goal number 3: “Ensure healthy Lives and promote Well being for all at all ages”, coincides with One Health’s vision of ‘Health for All’. The choice of these words by the UN is greatly encouraging to One Health as the use of language is itself quite holistically framed. But Jimi Wollumbin, CEO of OHO, was mindful of the pitfalls of some of the more selective disease focused targets which, once again, ignore some underlying causes of poor health. He reminds us that,
“A ‘comprehensive’ or holistic approach to primary health care would use economic, political, educational, environmental and human rights markers as targets too, as these create the environment in which either health or disease thrives.”
With a global shortage of 7.2 million doctors, nurses and midwives (WHO 2014 estimate), a more holistic approach is required to prevent the conditions in which poor health can flourish. OHO,in its efforts to strengthen the pre-existing health workforce in developing countries, is at the forefront of this holistic re-think of how we achieve health.
OHO’s Alexandra Kennett explains:
“We support existing community organisations to provide support to their communities. We assist them to strengthen their structures, resources and infrastructure and thereby contribute to overall Health System Strengthening. In that way we contribute to the development of an environment in which health thrives.”
From assisting orphanages in Myanmar, to co-designing nutritional education programs with Indigenous Australians, OHO is diligently filling in the pot holes of the roads to sustainable health, creating the infrastructure necessary for development more broadly.