The University of Guelph will introduce a first-of-its-kind Bachelor of One Health (BOH) degree program in fall 2022.
One Health is a growing field that seeks to solve health problems at the intersection of animal, human and ecological systems.
“This is the first four-year undergraduate degree devoted to One Health in Canada,” said Dr. Brian Husband, associate dean, academic, in the College of Biological Science (CBS) and a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other recent events have spurred the desire to incorporate a more inclusive and interdisciplinary perspective on health, Husband said, making the OH field – and the new U of G program – extremely timely.
“One Health advocates for a more holistic approach that considers the interactions between humans, animals and ecosystems, and the role of social and cultural influences on health,” he said.
“The necessity for this has been highlighted so well during the current pandemic, where focusing on the impacts on human health is only a small part of solving the puzzle. Rather, it requires an understanding of the origins of the virus, the evolution of virulence, environmental influences on virus transmission, social influences and inequities, as well as diagnosis and treatment.”
Students will explore socio-cultural and scientific perspectives and connections among human, animal and environment health, said Heather Pollock, CBS manager of academic programs.
U of G is not new to One Health. With deep roots in veterinary medicine, food production and biodiversity conservation, researchers have long understood the close relationship between the health of plants, animals, people and the land.
The University trains transdisciplinary graduates capable of addressing complex health issues from a One Health perspective. Zoonotic diseases, water quality, poverty and food security and pollinator health are just some of the areas with a One Health focus.
The One Health Institute was established in 2018 to provide focus and support to One Health initiatives in all seven colleges across campus, and the graduate Collaborative Specialization in One Health prepares future leaders in the field for the complex challenges where human, animal and environmental health meet.
The new program is led by CBS and the Department of Integrative Biology, in collaboration with the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, the Ontario Agricultural College and the Ontario Veterinary College. It draws on U of G strengths in agriculture, environment and biodiversity science, animal biology and veterinary medicine, health and life science, social science, environmental governance, culture and community engagement.
Students will undertake holistic, critical health studies and learn to be interdisciplinary problem solvers in the ethical use of resources and sustainability of health. Pollock said graduates may enter professional or graduate school or work in Canada and globally in governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, public health institutions, food safety and security, ecosystem management and international development.
“The program’s integration of both scientific and socio-cultural aspects is highly innovative,” said Pollock. “A strong focus on knowledge, together with training in skills related to the One Health approach, also makes the program unique.”
The program will train students to manage and help mitigate complex challenges, including transmission of zoonotic disease, anti-microbial resistance, rural community health, agricultural sustainability, food security and species at risk.
“This program helps to meet the needs of students who have interests in both science and social sciences, and those who are looking to make connections with real-world complex health issues and challenges facing society,” Pollock said. “Students are very thoughtful and conscious of the impact humans are having on the health of individuals, populations and ecosystems, and they want to make positive change.”
Areas of focus within the program include disease, complexity and health; environment, food and health; policy, economics and health; and culture, society and health.
Dr. Brian Husband