ULiège, Factory of Possibilities

Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux: caring together

One health: the health of the planet


One Health: a concept, a philosophy, a worldview that guides Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux's research and teaching work. This veterinarian by training weaves many links between countries and disciplines. And he takes an all-encompassing look at the health of our planet, with all its life.

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His office is a world tour of objects. Patchwork fabrics on the walls, sculptures of camels, elephants and birds, colorful wax, maps and souvenirs from countries of the South, photos of groups of smiling international students who have just graduated. And next to his work table, a framed drawing: from a cow's head, an open hand protrudes, bearing both a tree in its hollow and roots anchored in the bovine's horns. In just a few pencil strokes, Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux's son summed up what his father has dedicated his life to as a teacher and researcher: human health, animal health and plant health are inextricably linked, forming in reality "a single health", that of the planet.

"What is known today as One Health corresponds to an ancient concept, present in traditional thinking since the dawn of time throughout the world. What's new, since around 2000, is the realization that scientific disciplines, despite their major successes in their specialized and compartmentalized mode of operation, cannot alone answer certain questions at the interface of the human, animal and environmental worlds," explains Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux. The real challenge today is how to work together on these issues

The One Health approach has been developed over the past twenty years, mainly in response to emerging infectious diseases (Ebola, avian flu, covid, etc.) and antibiotic resistance. To meet these public health challenges, it has been necessary to decompartmentalize approaches by looking for ways of crossing and intersecting. The states of ecosystems, animal and plant species and human beings all influence each other. This vision is essential if we are to face up to the health emergencies that are multiplying as a result of global change, particularly climatic change.

" Beyond surveillance and emergency response, which are necessary, the concept of a single health is an approach focused on prevention. We're talking here about "in-depth" prevention: how can we design health risks as far upstream as possible? How can we protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and rethink our uses to prevent the emergence of new infectious diseases? How can we build health-generating cities for their inhabitants, with room for living things? How can we ensure healthy food produced with respect for the environment, animals and people? These questions call for a great deal of collaboration!An approach he sees as positive and hopeful.

In the South, in the North

By definition interdisciplinary and international, One Health is a natural part of Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux's research - and life - path. With a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a background in sociology and development economics, the scientist has never lost sight of his initial desire: to work for development cooperation.

During his travels in many countries of the South (Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America...), he was regularly confronted with the complexity of the problems. Everything is entangled. Everything seems intertwined. Each proposed solution generates new obstacles. "So I had to work with people from an increasingly wide range of disciplines," he recalls. It was a slow, maturing process that kept him constantly on the lookout for cross-fertilization, collaboration and openness. "I gradually realized that what I was doing corresponded to what was emerging in parallel in the scientific community, such as the one-health approach

As a veterinary surgeon by training, and even if his career hasn't led him to treat them, he emphasizes the central role played by animals, whether wild or domestic, companion, production or sport, and on two legs even, "man being of course an animal species!" "But," he adds, "while the centrality of the animal has motivated a strong veterinary presence within One Health, this must not skew the approach: problems are interconnected and all disciplines must contribute to solutions, in a balanced way.

At the University of Liège, the movement has found fertile ground in which to take root. "There are many talents, people and expertise from all faculties here around One Health. Everyone can contribute a piece to this great puzzle," he enthuses. Indeed, ULiège's objective is to coordinate and strengthen this movement in order to take concerted and original action at international, national and local levels. This is what the man his colleagues call "Nam" is passionate about.

Optimism and hope

As a researcher, teacher and citizen, his aim is to help change things for a fairer, more sustainable world. His driving force is other people, and "the immense pleasure of meeting so many people and being confronted with other ways of thinking. It's constantly refreshing and revitalizing," he smiles. So, convinced that we can do little or nothing alone, Nicolas Antoine-Moussiaux relies on encounters and collaboration, and suggests we arm ourselves with optimism and hope " to build the world we want ".


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