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NCCEH Student Project Award 2012 - Z Leung

One Health and EcoHealth in Ontario: A qualitative study exploring how holistic and integrative approaches are shaping public health practice in Ontario

Z Leung
University of Guelph: Master of Public Health

There is a growing recognition that many public health issues are complex and can be best understood by examining the relationship between human health and the health of ecosystems in which people live. Two approaches, One Health and Ecosystem Approaches to Health (EcoHealth), can help us better understand these intricate and complex connections and appear to hold great promise for tackling many modern public health dilemmas. Although both One Health and EcoHealth have garnered recognition from numerous health bodies in Canada and abroad, there is still a need to better
understand how these approaches are shaping the practice of public health in Ontario.
The purpose of this study is to characterize how public health actors in Ontario are influenced by the holistic principles that underlie One Health and EcoHealth and to identify important lessons from their experiences. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten participants from the broad public health sphere in Ontario. Participants encompassed diverse perspectives including infectious disease, food systems, urban agriculture, and environmental health. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative content analysis to identify major themes and patterns. Four major themes emerged from the interview transcripts: the importance of connecting human health with the environment; the role of governance in promoting these ideas; the value of partnerships and collaborations in public health practice; and the challenge of operationalizing holistic approaches to public health. Overall, study participants were significantly influenced by concepts heavily couched in EcoHealth and One Health literature, despite a lack of familiarity with these fields.