Animal & Veterinary

One Health Initiative: Fat Cat?

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Note: The article has been updated with additional news since it was published.

By Ashley Steel, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

We drive through 7 am gridlock to survive the monotony of our 9-to-5 jobs all to find a way to pay for life’s expenses. Sitting through crowded rush hours to meet the bottom line of modern life has become the dominant activity for some people’s bottoms, and they aren’t getting any smaller from all the use. Many of us, victims of hurry up and wait, just sit in our office cubicles day after very long day. And through it all, our furry little friends sit at home waiting lethargically for our return.

Today’s fast-paced, sedentary lifestyle makes it harder for people and their pets to lead healthy lives. So, with healthful living for all in mind, a group of physicians, veterinarians, and other health professionals are working to “…promote, improve and defend the health and well-being of all species….” This effort, known as the One Health Initiative,disclaimer icon is endorsed by major medical associations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is leading the way toward a healthier world.

Dr. Bernadette Dunham, Director, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has long been a keen supporter of this initiative.

“Sir William Osler, M.D. (1849-1919) promoted the philosophy of ‘one medicine.’ How exciting to witness, in our time, the official adoption of the ‘One Health’ initiative by both the AMA and the AVMA,” said Dr. Dunham. “Through mutual collaborations—clinical and research experiences—veterinarians and physicians can accomplish so much more together to advance the health of humans and animals. Today, we truly live in a global village where people, animals, and microbes all travel. So, it is even more imperative that we all embrace the One Health initiative. I look forward to joining my colleagues in a multidisciplinary approach as we address the global health needs of humans, animals, and their environment.”

People and animals are vulnerable to many diseases, some related to genetics and some to their own behavior. Certain diseases even impact multiple species. Obesity is a prime example of a medical condition that affects a variety of species, especially when the species share similar habits and environments.

One Health Shall Be Achieved Through:

  1. Joint educational efforts between human medical schools, veterinary medical schools, and schools of public health and the environment;
  2. Joint communication efforts in journals, at conferences, and via allied health networks;
  3. Joint efforts in clinical care through the assessment, treatment and prevention of cross-species disease transmission;
  4. Joint cross-species disease surveillance and control efforts in public health;
  5. Joint efforts in better understanding of cross-species disease transmission through comparative medicine and environmental research;
  6. Joint efforts in the development and evaluation of new diagnostic methods, medicines and vaccines for the prevention and control of diseases across species and;
  7.  Joint efforts to inform and educate political leaders and the public sector through accurate media publications.

Obesity is an increasingly serious health concern for both people and their pets. According to CDC, 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.1 According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese.2

Obesity goes a lot further then skin deep. It’s a major health hazard for all creatures, increasing the risk for several ailments including3

  • Heart disease,
  • Arthritis,
  • Breathing complications,
  • Cancer, and
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

As suggested in the case study, Feline Models of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, “… diabetes in cats is increasing for the same reasons it is increasing in humans – an increase in obesity and a decrease in physical activity.” Both people and animals are eating more, but exercising less.

In an effort to promote the health of all species, the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Medical Association’s Medical Student Section, and the American Public Health Association’s Student Assembly organized One Health Challenge III. The challenge is a cross-species obesity awareness campaign, with educational programs and events (like 5-K runs) to give people and their pets the tools and opportunities to live healthier and slimmer lives.

To support One Health Challenge III, the AVMA Group Health and Life Insurance Trust donated a $20,000 grant to help fund programs to motivate people to take control of their health and the health of their pets. The joint human-and-animal challenge moves us all toward the goal of One Health. 

***The National League of Cities (NLC) adopted an historic One Health Resolution at its annual business meeting in Phoenix, AZ (USA) on November 12, 2011, stating that NCL “supports integrated decision-making in the context of the One Health Initiative, and calls on the federal government to adopt legislation and practices that address human health, animal health, and ecological health in an integrated fashion and support local efforts to advance sustainability goals.” 

1 JAMA- Katherine M. Flegal, et al. “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008.” icon

2 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “Obesity Facts & Risks.” icon

3 American Diabetes Association. “Living with Diabetes – Complications.” icon

Page Last Updated: 06/05/2014
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