An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society
(Adopted by the AMS Council 4 January 2015)
One Health recognizes that the health of humans, other animals, and ecosystems is interconnected. It involves applying a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary, and cross-sector approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at the interface of humans, other animals, and ecosystems1. Because weather and climate affect the health and well-being of humans, other animals, and ecosystems, meteorologists and climate scientists bring fundamental knowledge, skills, and experiences that can improve health today and throughout the coming decades.
Understanding and managing human health and well-being requires cross-disciplinary efforts due to the complexity of the interrelationships within and between Earth and human environments. The health of Earth’s ecological and physical systems is fundamental to the health and well-being of humans and other animals. Tackling threats to health in the twenty-first century requires the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines to understand the intricate web of sometimes competing relationships that lead to good or poor health and how those relationships might vary and interact over various time and geographical scales. In addition to natural and physical factors, social behavior and demographic patterns also affect impacts. The cross-disciplinary knowledge gained can be used to design, implement, and monitor interventions to improve current and future health.
Weather and climate have been and will continue to be major influences on human, other animal, and ecosystem health. For example, as average global temperatures fell in the Little Ice Age, starting in the early seventeenth century, extreme climate events caused harvest failures and frequent disease epidemics, often with disastrous consequences at local scales. Research on historical records and recent observations demonstrate that temperature extremes, changes in precipitation patterns, alterations in other weather variables, and sea level rise can directly affect human health. Indirect health influences can arise from ecological disruptions caused by a changing climate, ocean acidification, or societal responses to changing weather patterns.
Integrated datasets matching data on humans, other animals, and ecosystems, together with weather and climate information, are needed to inform the public and develop health and environmental policies to reduce morbidity and mortality. This requires enhanced data and information sharing across disciplines and agencies. Improved understanding of the onset, duration, and severity of El Niño–Southern Oscillation events supports predictions of drought conditions, which in turn enables earlier responses to the threat of famine and changes in marine food supply. Similarly, more robust forecasting of hot and dry conditions leads to improved early warnings for heatwaves, airborne dust, and wildfires. The developing ability to predict climate patterns on decadal or longer time scales provides the basis for predictions of changes in spatial and seasonal patterns of infectious diseases.
Effective early warning and response systems require collaboration among climate/weather scientists, oceanographers, epidemiologists, public health agencies, and social and political scientists. Weather and climate forecasts alone are at once crucial and yet insufficient for effective public response. Developing early warning and response systems requires close linkages among scientists with expertise in climate, weather, and hydrology and those tasked with conducting research and establishing public health policy. Input is needed from social science because health outcomes are mediated through political and social contexts and responses. Optimal outcomes can be achieved only by integrating physical and health science, social and political science, and urban and environmental planning. Because combining data from different sources is an essential step in developing effective early warning and response systems, barriers restricting access to these data need to be resolved in order to facilitate interdisciplinary analysis and coproduction of knowledge. These are shared challenges to which AMS scientists are able to contribute.
Climate change will bring new challenges for the health of humans, other animals, and ecosystems that will require further integration across disciplines. Changing weather patterns and hydrologic systems, sea level rise, and ocean acidification can directly affect the habitable zone not only of plants and animals, but also of vectors that carry infectious diseases and of the pathogens themselves. Indirectly, climate change can alter ecosystems, increase competition for resources, particularly freshwater availability, and affect the timing and patterns of animal migration. All these changes will alter disease burdens, including the possibility of causing the emergence of diseases in new locations, and at different times, thus increasing the risks of adverse outcomes for highly vulnerable human, other animal, and plant populations. Understanding and preparing for these risks requires multidisciplinary systems–based research and policy intervention.
Opportunities abound for AMS members to participate in One Health research. AMS members possess the requisite weather, climate, hydrological, and oceanographic expertise and knowledge essential to foster the interdisciplinary research needed for One Health. Collectively, members have a deep understanding of the land–atmosphere–ocean system on daily, seasonal, and interdecadal timescales, including associated projections and uncertainties. Thus, AMS members are equipped to combine their skills and knowledge of the physical land–atmosphere–ocean system with the skills and knowledge of medical, public health, and veterinary scientists, ecologists, and social scientists. Doing so will enhance our ability to understand, predict, and avert risks that arise from the interconnections among the health of humans, other animals, and ecosystems.
[This statement is considered in force until January 2020 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.]