Commentary provided exclusively to the One Health Initiative website July 5, 2013

 The Need to Include Animal Protection in Public Health Policies

 *Aysha Akhtar, MD, MPH
Author, Animals and Public Health. Why Treating Animals Better is Critical to Human Welfare

 “Recent experience with emerging infectious diseases such as H7N9 reminds us of the intricate connection between the health of humans and that of non-human animals. This connection has been reinforced by the One Health Initiative, which rightly encourages interdisciplinary health specialists to consider the human-animal bond and intersections where diseases, particularly infectious diseases, cross species boundaries in their emergence and evolution and to consider public health strategies that address these intersections.

 Mitigation strategies, however, focus largely on cross-species disease surveillance and control efforts, which fail to address the underlying causes of these health threats, many of which lie in how animals are treated. In fact, a significant number of the most critical health issues we face today are inseparable from our treatment of animals.

 In the Journal of Public Health Policy, I explore how the One Health Concept and public health in general can expand beyond its traditional strategies by addressing the fundamental nature of our relationship with animals The article focuses on infectious disease generation through current animal agriculture practices and through the wildlife trade. However, other issues- the intersection between domestic violence and animal abuse and the human relevancy of the use of animals in experimentation- are also briefly explored.

 What's good for animals is also what's good for us. If we are to truly combat our current health threats, we must acknowledge their link with the treatment of animals so that we can address the underlying roots of these health problems. If we do not recognize this connection, opportunities to successfully tackle these health crises will be lost.”

 *Dr. Akhtar is a One Health supporter