|The connections between animals, humans and the environment mean that improving and protecting global health requires a One Health approach. From preventing zoonotic disease to feeding a growing global population, we are facing global health challenges that can only be tackled through a huge collaborative effort.
Veterinarians contribute to tackling these challenges in many ways. Here, we highlight three vital roles:
1. Feeding a growing population: The global population is predicted to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, an increase that will require a 70% increase in food production to keep everyone fed. The role veterinarians play in protecting the health of livestock supports food security, livelihoods, and adequate nutrition for billions of people. And this role extends beyond treating and preventing illness – veterinarians also advise on housing, diet, and hygiene to increase productivity and protect animal welfare.
2. Protecting against zoonotic disease: In the past 30 years, 75% of all emerging human infectious diseases started in animals. Keeping animals healthy is clearly an important part of halting the spread of disease from animals to humans, but it is only one element. Veterinarians must also navigate the potential conflict in interest between human and animal health, as well as the economic pressures of the food industry.
3. Tackling antimicrobial resistance: Inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to resistance among the microorganisms they’re designed to kill and lead to a future where these medicines can no longer control these threats. Its why antibiotic resistance is a global public health threat to both animal and human health. Veterinarians play a vital role in ensuring prudent use of antibiotics, reducing the need for use and managing resistance in animals.
It’s clear that veterinarians are working hard to protect the health of animals and humans around the world. But they can’t do it alone. The stresses and strains of this responsibility are highlighted by recent surveys of those in the profession, with reports of high levels of stress, burnout and wellbeing challenges. So, while we celebrate our veterinarians on this International Day of Veterinary Medicine, we also want to acknowledge their need for our continued support.