Celebrating One Health Day: The Fletcher School Participates

Faculty at Tufts today are celebrating One Health Day, a global effort to emphasize that pressing public health and environmental concerns require cross-disciplinary solutions.
Celebrating One Health Day: The Fletcher School Participates

Ian Johnstone, Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School, and a team of interdisciplinary faculty, have developed an initiative called Global One Health Diplomacy. Since its inception, the initiative has received a $100,000 Cummings Center grant and a $25,000 Tufts Springboard grant in order to address holistic, interdisciplinary problems as they relate to global public health and policy.

To learn more about Global One Health Diplomacy, we spoke with Ian about the initiative, the group's progress to date, and what to expect next.

What is Global One Health Diplomacy? What inspired this initiative?

Global One Health Diplomacy is a descriptor we at Fletcher are using to capture a broad set of activities engaged in by professionals who work at the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health. These actors operate across society in health ministries, other government ministries and agencies, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, research institutions, and the health professions. They interact not only with national governments but also with other local actors, both in government and outside.

Global One Health Diplomacy aims to mobilize multiple sectors, disciplines, and communities to work together in fostering well-being and tackling threats to health and ecosystems. A global One Health diplomat is a professional based in an intergovernmental, governmental, or non-governmental organization tasked with achieving the goals of One Health through negotiation and conflict resolution, political and legal analysis, communication and advocacy, good governance and human rights promotion, capacity-strengthening, and community engagement.

Based on our research and conversations with experts and practitioners, our team has concluded that while there are many One Health initiatives and many health diplomacy initiatives, there are virtually none that merge the two as a focused One Health Diplomacy program. And yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment are interdependent. Navigating the resulting challenges of this interdependence requires a new kind of professional – someone who not only understands the relationships between the fields but has the diplomatic knowledge and skills to build bridges across them.

Why is Fletcher—and Tufts—uniquely positioned to own this kind of programming?

The Fletcher School is well-placed to lead a program on global One Health diplomacy for two reasons. First, the School has a long history of multidisciplinary research and teaching on diplomacy. Our curriculum and scholarship encompass traditional diplomacy, negotiation and conflict resolution, international law and organizations, environmental policy, development, humanitarian action, and security.

Second, Fletcher is situated in a university with a unique combination of health sciences schools and programming: a medical school, a veterinary medical school, a nutrition school, and health sciences departments in our School of Arts and Sciences. Moreover, Tufts has an international orientation, a history of civic service at Tisch College, and a tradition of fostering collaboration across the schools in order to leverage the synergies from our comparative strength.

What are some ways you are educating others, in and beyond Fletcher, about Global One Health Diplomacy?

Fletcher has offered courses in global health, from "Coronavirus as Contemporary History: Pandemics, Power, and Policymaking," to "Global One Health Diplomacy: Holistic Approaches to Global Health Challenges."

Under the auspices of the Center for International Law and Governance, we produced a background paper and report on Infectious Disease and the Stigmatization of Refugees and Vulnerable Migrants, as well as a Primer on International Law and Pandemics, which provides an accessible overview of topics such as the role of the World Health Organization, the International Health Regulations, state responsibility, and human rights as they relate to pandemic preparedness and response. Fletcher faculty are already researching in these fields too, and some recent publications include Alex de Waal's New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and Its Alternative, and my article, "COVID, International Law and the Sustainable Development Goals."

Building on this foundation, the Global One Health Diplomacy initiative convened a symposium on Controlling Infectious Disease Outbreaks in Conflict-Affected States. While the symposium was conceived at the time of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019, by the time we were able to meet in 2021, COVID had spread throughout the world. The symposium took on a broader imperative: one of its findings was the need for global One Health peacemakers, which became the subject of a journal article I wrote with Diana Chigas, Deborah Kochevar, and Liz McClintock this year.

As the Fletcher School has been expanding its work in global health, faculty from across Tufts won a multi-million-dollar, multi-year grant aimed at decreasing the risk of spillover of animal viruses to humans. With a mandate to better understand the risk factors that contribute to spillover and to assess practices and policies to prevent it, the USAID-funded project STOP Spillover, helmed by Fletcher Senior Fellow and Dean Emerita of the Cummings School Deborah Kochevar, provides a vivid illustration of the need for and value of global One Health diplomacy.

What's next for Global One Health Diplomacy?

The Fletcher team recently convened a workshop of practitioners to explore what an educational program in Global One Health Diplomacy might look like. Our main aspiration is to establish a master's program. Additionally, we are considering, alongside the master's degree, shorter programs that are either stackable towards the degree or stand-alone executive education programs. Our interlocutors believe that these programs would fill an important market niche, training global One Health diplomats to translate complex science into understandable messages for the purposes of negotiation, to break silos, and to think across disciplines.

Following this workshop, a group of faculty from across Tufts met to discuss next steps, considering new educational programs and, in the spirit of One Health, avenues to work alongside our existing health sciences and international affairs curricula. Soon, we will be launching a search for an endowed Cummings Foundation One Health Professorship.

Simultaneously, we plan to expand our research in the field. We will launch a new Global One Health "hub," with the purpose of bringing Tufts faculty together to develop multi-disciplinary research projects and write grant proposals to fund them.

Ultimately, we envision a program that situates Tufts University as the leading source for expertise, education, and innovative thinking on the complex challenges associated with the intersection of human, animal, and environmental health.