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University of Alaska Fairbanks

One Health: A Ten Thousand Year-Old View into the Future

University of Alaska Fairbanks via edX

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Are you interested in understanding how global climate change will alter human society, animal health, and the environment? Are you curious about how these three things are interconnected?

This course focuses on what is happening right now in the Arctic, where climate change is accelerating twice as fast as the rest of the world. Understanding how Arctic ecosystems are adapting and collapsing can give us insight into future changes across the globe.

Finding deep solutions to new challenges caused by climate change can’t be accomplished using only traditional fields of science, such as medicine or biology.

Addressing these issues effectively requires a novel approach, one that integrates knowledge across disciplines and cultures and recognizes the interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health. This concept, always central to the Indigenous worldview, has recently been recognized in Western science as One Health.

One Health was originally developed as a means of understanding how zoonotic diseases, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, arise.

  • Between 65% and 70% of emerging diseases in humans are of zoonotic origin. The way we impact our environment and how this influences human-animal interactions play a significant role in how these diseases develop and spread.
  • Health is more than the absence of disease and can be defined as a state of well-being for individuals and their communities. Under this definition, well-being encompasses physical, mental, behavioral, cultural, and spiritual health.
  • Applying this holistic approach to the One Health paradigm allows us to bring in expertise across natural and social sciences and connect Western science with traditional Indigenous ways of knowing.
  • Such a broad and deep integration of knowledge and experience provides opportunities for understanding large issues like food safety, security, and sovereignty at their roots, and for engaging stakeholders to build effective solutions.


Week 1: 10,00 years of One Health:

  • One Health as an Indigenous worldview
  • How modern science has embraced the One Health paradigm
  • How does the interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health relate to you in your life experiences?
  • A different lens through which to view the world

Week 2: Why animal health matters

  • The human animal relationship across time
  • Traditional vs urban vs rural perspectives
  • The value of a salmon
  • Defining and understanding zoonotic disease

Week 3: Human Health – More than just the absence of disease

  • Health concerns across the Circumpolar North (and beyond)
  • What is disease?
  • What is well being?
  • Physical health - the foundation
  • Mental and behavioral health - the drivers
  • Cultural health - the strength and protection
  • Spiritual health - the ties across space and time that hold things together

Week 4: Environmental health influences everyone

  • One World; One Health
  • Climate change and the resulting influences upon One Health
  • Why the Arctic is a canary in the coal mine
  • Changing tides; the oceans and their role in our health
  • What’s all this fuss about biodiversity?
  • Mitigation, adaptation, and resilience

Week 5: Beyond natural science: The role of social sciences and Traditional ways of knowing

  • Why social sciences?
  • What can 10,000 years of traditional knowledge lend to understanding modern problems?
  • How does integration of knowledge across traditional, cultural, natural and social science perspectives provide a more comprehensive picture of the problems and the solutions
  • Why has it been so rare to integrate across these perspectives?
  • How to build cross disciplinary teams that function.

Timely and relevant examples of One Health issues:

Week 6: Zoonotic diseases and COVID-19

  • What is a zoonotic disease?
  • Why are they a “One Health” issue?
  • Lessons not learned from SARS, MERS, and COVID-19

Other zoonotic disease threats and the role of One Health in understanding their risk and management

Week 7: Food Safety Security and Sovereignty

  • How are the terms safety, security and sovereignty connected in regards to food?
  • Rural and urban similarities and differences
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) - a global threat
  • One Health and healthy stable food sources

Week 8: Operationalizing One Health

  • Constructionist vs reductionist approaches to problem solving
  • Stakeholders and their engagement
  • Bottom up versus top down
  • Community based management- the beginning and the end

Taught by

Arleigh Reynolds and Tuula Hollmen


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