One Health Approaches Serve to Mind the Gaps

Olga Jonas, Economic Adviser, World Bank, Washington, DC 20433 (USA)    

Provided to One Health Initiative Website – November 9, 2011

The breaking of the levees in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the single most catastrophic failure of an engineered system in history.  Faulty design of some structures, poor construction in others, poor maintenance, and underfunding of safety were all to blame.  Expert investigations highlighted numerous failures at the joints, for instance between two levee sections built at different times, or where a levee met another structure, such as a pumping station.  Different segments often fell under the authority of different parishes or agencies.  Critically, often no agency was actually responsible for the joints, so many joints were not engineered, constructed, and maintained as part of the system – instead, they were improvised.  Policy makers failed in minding the gaps, with disastrous consequences.  According to the expert investigation reports, the hurricane protection system was not a system, but a “disjointed agglomeration” whose parts were joined together in make-do arrangements.

There are alarming parallels with local, country, and global defenses against contagious diseases arising at the animal-human-ecosystem interfaces.  One Health approaches can help manage the gaps between systems, institutions, and professions.  More attention to the gaps is necessary to keep the rising tide of dangerous pathogens at bay. 



A video presentation by UC Berkeley engineering professor Raymond Seed, one of the co-leaders of the Katrina investigation team, (see especially slides at 31:35 and 38:20)

Expert reports, including:

A Failure of Initiative, Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee U.S. House of Representatives, 109th Congress (2006)

Preliminary Report on the Performance of the New Orleans Levee Systems in Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 by R.B. Seed, P.G. Nicholson, R.A. Dalrymple, J. Battjes, R.G. Bea, G. Boutwell, J.D. Bray, B. D. Collins, L.F. Harder, J.R. Headland, M. Inamine, R.E. Kayen, R. Kuhr, J. M. Pestana, R. Sanders, F. Silva-Tulla, R. Storesund, S. Tanaka, J. Wartman, T. F. Wolff, L. Wooten and T. Zimmie, Preliminary findings from field investigations and associated studies performed by teams from the University of California at Berkeley and the American Society of Civil Engineers, as well as a number of cooperating engineers and scientists, shortly after the hurricane. Report No. UCB/CITRIS – 05/01 November 2, 2005

Independent Levee Investigation Team Final Report, Investigation of the Performance of the New Orleans Flood Protection Systems in Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005,  July 31, 2006;

The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System:  What Went Wrong and Why, A Report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel, 2007.