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The latest event in the RSB’s Policy Lates series brought together sector leaders to discuss how interdisciplinary approaches could hinder the next outbreak.

One Health is defined by the CDC as a “collaborative, multi-sectoral, and transdisciplinary approach” to solving public health issues, including disease pandemic prevention and epidemic management.

It recognises that the health of plants, animals and humans are interlinked, with environmental changes creating knock-on effects for multiple species and ecosystems.

One Health approaches look to engage with multiple disciplines and communities to understand these changes, and develop sustainable solutions.

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The panellists and speakers, from top left clockwise: Dr Chadia Wannous, Dr Wendy Harrison, Professor Louise Cosby FRSB and Dr Helen Roberts

The event, chaired by Professor Louise Cosby FRSB, head of virology at Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute Northern Ireland, was held online and delivered with support from the RSB’s Policy Lates Working Group.

Panellist Dr Wendy Harrison, chief executive of the SCI Foundation, discussed how policymakers need to engage with multiple groups, not just bioscientists: “One of the most important aspects is that evidence relevant to One Health must come from multiple parts of society, not just academic labs.

“Evidence needs to be inter- and trans-disciplinary, including understanding the consideration of areas as varied as virology to construction in tropical areas.”

Policy lead for non-livestock diseases, risk and science at Defra, Dr Helen Roberts, echoed the need to overcome silos across disciplines, and described how national and international efforts are underway to identify the next potential pandemic.

Helen stressed: “understanding the data we already have is important, but recognising where data is lacking is also key.”

Global one health co-ordinator for the World Organisation for Animal Health, Dr Chadia Wannous, highlighted the importance and challenges of international partnerships, including the need for strategic information flow to integrate One Health principles into pandemic preparedness and response strategies.

Chadia also flagged the ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance and the need to integrate environmental data from multiple systems into potential future solutions.

The audience then discussed the need for individuals and organisations to understand how their work could utilise, and contribute to, a One Health approach. Points were made on how to identify relevant and effective partnerships, and share the benefits of improved strategies equitably.

It was noted that working across disciplines and communities often requires additional incentives and skills, with Dr Harrison suggesting this could be aided by learned societies and professional networks.

This event was organised with support from the Policy Lates Working Group: the Biochemical Society, the British Pharmacological Society, the Society for Applied Microbiology, the Society for Experimental Biology, and The Physiological Society.

The event is available to watch on the RSB’s YouTube channel.