Posted: June 25, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EDT
The human-animal bond connects veterinarians to millions of families, communities and organizations worldwide. Each of us can play a more active role in the One Health movement.
The One Health movement calls for greater cooperation and integration of human health, animal health and ecosystem health sciences. It fosters collaboration at the local, national and global levels to achieve optimal health for people, domestic and free-living animals, plants and the environment. If or when properly implemented, it will help protect and save untold millions of lives in present and future generations.
You can help promote the One Health concept from your exam room, home or community. If you know the common factors that cause disease in people, companion animals, livestock and free-living animals, you can inform your clients, communities and organizations.
At least 60 to 75 percent of human infectious disease agents and emerging human pathogens can be acquired from other animal species. The list includes SARS, mad cow disease, Nipha virus, West Nile virus, avian influenza, Lyme disease and Bartonella (cat scratch disease), which was recently found to be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The U.N. General Assembly met in 2001 solely for an AIDS summit that led to a global fund and a 10-fold increase in funding of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programs.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization held their second world health summit in New York City in September 2011. The summit examined non-communicable diseases (NCD), a conglomeration of noninfectious chronic diseases that often share common causation factors.
These ailments include heart, lung, liver, kidney and digestive tract disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, degenerative central nervous system disease, genetic disorders, autism and mental illness. NCD causes three of every five deaths worldwide and is estimated to cost the global economy $30 trillion over the next 30 years.
Epidemiologists, ethicists and multidisciplinary health experts representing all types of non-infectious diseases collaborated to develop an approach to improve global human health.
Instead of competing for funding and donations for their specialty silo of disorders, this multidisciplinary group examined the causes and similarities of NCD. They evaluated data on causative factors–excluding AIDS, infectious diseases and starvation–that contribute to death in all people under age 60 around the world.
Tobacco is the biggest international killer. It causes lung cancer, heart disease and diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Recent studies found that 50 percent of liver cancer patients worldwide are smokers and that female smokers are more prone to COPD than men because of a smaller lung capacity.
The next biggest international killers are is excessive intake of alcohol, sugar and salt, which leads to alcohol addiction, obesity, hypertension, sleep apnea, liver disease, malnutrition, diabetes, pancreatitis, fetal alcohol syndrome and sugar habituation, if not addiction.
Poor access to potable drinking water is a huge global killer not only for humans but domestic and free-living animals.
World Health Campaign
The U.N. Non-Communicable Disease Alliance aimed to set up educational campaigns and to produce resolutions that governments could take action on to cut sugar and salt content in food, cut tobacco and alcohol use, and expand access to lifesaving drugs.
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Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, documented in the Feb. 2 issue of Nature that some 6-month-old babies are obese because of excessive sugar content in milk replacement formulas. Lustig provided evidence that high sugar intake (fructose corn syrup) has toxic and habituation effects similar to alcohol addiction. This data may explain the world’s childhood obesity epidemic. Regulation of milk replacement formulas is under way by the alliance to reduce childhood malnutrition and obesity.
The first NCD campaign will educate people of all ages about why they should not smoke or should stop. The next campaign will educate people about the effects of ingesting excessive amounts of alcohol, sodas, sugar and salt. Another campaign encourages healthy eating and exercise habits to maintain proper weight in all stages of life.
There is an ongoing effort to provide potable water worldwide. This global health campaign amounts to common sense. However, it will be difficult to achieve. Why is that so?
The Battle for One Health
The valiant efforts of thousands of U.N. health workers at the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance were obstructed. Educating people and encouraging governments to select healthy habits apparently steps on the profitable toes of big business.
Example 1: Tobacco companies have infiltrated the governments of many developing nations, making it difficult for legislative officials to support proposals from health groups, tax cigarettes and cancel smoking advertisements ads on TV and in other forms of media. Tobacco companies prey on developing nations for profit.
Example 2: U.N. health ethicists did not allow tobacco companies to sponsor the the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance. However, companies such as SAB Miller, Diageo Plc, Nestle SA, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Sanofi, Roche Holding AG, Bayer AG and Novo Nordisk A/S, along with other food, beverage and alcohol producers, were present. Many of these companies are based in the U.S. and Western Europe, and they market products to India, Asia and developing countries where smoking, obesity and alcoholism are becoming a public health crisis.
Conflict of Interest
Manufactures of snacks, drinks, cigarettes and drugs provided the global market with more than $2 trillion worth of product in 2010. Big business and governments promote consumption for economic growth. The status quo is to abdicate responsibility largely to consumers and individuals. Is there a conflict of interest regarding public health? They must defeat the U.N., WHO and One Health measures or drastically change how they do business.
Big tobacco, food, beverage, timber, mining and oil corporations finance ad campaigns, lobbyists and organizations that become powerful and convincing opponents to common sense health care and conservations efforts.
Example 3: Big food and beverage corporations undermined the wording of the Non-Communicable Disease Alliance proposals to governments. They forced the omission of timeline goals to reduce the content of harmful food ingredients, world smoking rates, alcohol, sugar and salt consumption, obesity and premature death. Many U.N. health workers felt that the Alliance proposals were deliberately watered down by corporate lobbyists to slow society’s shift away from consumption of their harmful products to maintain profits for as long as possible.
What Can You Do?
You can help spread the One Health message every time a client-smoker comes in or when caring for a cat suffering from oral cancer or GI lymphoma. You can and should inform clients about the increased cancer risk that cats endure when living with smokers. It’s not their choice.
Dennis Lawler, et al, documented that obesity is one of the most obvious modern-day genetic triggers for multiple diseases. Lawler’s group followed dogs over a 14-year longevity study of lean vs. obese dogs at the U.S. headquarters of Nestle Purina in St. Louis. Both groups had the same rate of disease. However, the lean group had a two-year delay of disease manifestation and lived two years longer than the obese group. This represents 14 human years of additional healthy life span. This is powerful information.
Geneticists conclude that humans and animals are genetically predisposed to one disease or another. Epidemiologists and medical experts say that life-style choices most likely pull the trigger to initiate genetic predispositions for disease and early death. In other words, “Your genes load the gun but your life style pulls the trigger!” Are we pulling a genetic trigger within the bodies of household cats and dogs by over feeding them or allowing free access to high carbohydrate diets?
Sadly, each person who chooses to smoke, abuse alcohol or drugs, overeat or consume sweets and salty food is taking a path to a poor quality of life and probable premature death. The physical and emotional suffering of the individual, his family and his companion animals has no bounds.
Baby boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day. Those who do not smoke or drink excessively and maintain normal weight with healthy diets are likely to have the longest health spans. People who made poor lifestyle choices and have excellent medical care may survive long periods despite their ailments and disabilities.
However, they are likely to spend more time at their doctors’ offices, in hospitals, using walkers and wheelchairs, in assisted-living facilities or rest homes than their healthy counterparts, who are likely to live independently into their old age and avoid the expense, humiliations and horrors often found in rest homes.
Why did I write this article?
One, to inform and inspire; two, to help you increase the health of people, animals and places you know and love; three, to reduce the wretched time that people spend warehoused in rest homes before their final departure. Question: If rest homes were big business corporations, would they oppose this article?