Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Clean water and sanitation Sustainable cities Climate Action

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide the basis of systemic thinking for the improvement of surveillance programs, timely response to emergencies and economic savings by applying the OH approach. It will make students understand the need for an integrated and cross-sectoral approach toward the achievement of the Agenda 2030 SDGs and provides basic knowledge on the main issues related to health at the human/animal/environment interfaces. Students will finally understand that health is a precondition, an outcome and an indicator of sustainable development. The program is targeted to students, of all disciplines, who see their future as leaders in local and international bodies such as: • National and international institutions involved in health management, food security and food security. • National and international institutions dealing with cooperation and development in the field of health and food security. • Companies active in the production and marketing of food products abroad and in international trade. • National and international research institutes dealing with sustainable development • Biosafety and bio-defence agencies. • Advice to public bodies on health management, responsiveness and sustainability. • Academic institutions. • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in the field of cooperation and development

Course contents

Overall concept:

Many of the major health challenges stem from the complex interactions between humans, animals and the ecosystems in which they live. One Health (OH) is a global movement that recognizes the links between human, animal and environmental health. The OH approach is aimed at identifying all possible causal relationships (linear and non-linear) occuring at human/animal/environment interfaces, with the aim of maximizing the impact of disease prevention, prophylaxis and control interventions. The OH approach is considered essential to achieve a number of the 2030 Sustainable Development (SDG) objectives identified by the United Nations, among all SDG 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17. The course is therefore consistent with the UNIBO Strategies supporting the Sustainable Development through education.

The course will be aimed at enriching current highly specialized curricula by increasing the students’ understanding on health problems and their related causes, and finally gain the proper knowledge and skills to effectively address health problems and develop proper solutions to complex problems.

Besides disciplinary knowledge and technical skills, it is in fact necessary to enhance several transversal skills through practical sessions. The theoretical lessons will give students the fundamentals of One Health approach, while the case study’s practical sessions will be aimed at improving self-initiative, through the identification of the contribution of one's study discipline to solving and/or interpret it. Critical thinking and problem-solving will be also exercised in the definition of the best solutions in dealing with the proposed cases.

The capacities to analyze, manage and communicate the health risks, at different levels (e.g scientific experts, public opinion, policy makers), will be trained in the preparation of a project (group work) that will be presented at the end of the course as a final test. The group work is also expected to strengthen several life skills such as the ability to interact in heterogeneous groups (students of different disciplines), to relate with others, to cooperate, to manage and resolve conflicts.

The course will address 4 main topics (Climate change and Health, Urbanization and health, Water and Health, Food and Health) strictly linked to UN SDGs 2030 and related to distal and proximal determinants of health:

  • Distal determinants of health act through multiple intermediate steps and causal linkages and anthropogenic changes affecting landscape ecology and natural perturbation. The course will address two distal environmental determinants of health: Climate change (SDG 13) and Urbanization (SDG 11)
  • Proximal determinants have a direct influence on health. The course will address two proximal determinants of health: Water Use (SDG 6, 14) and Food production (SDG 2).
  1. Climate Change and Health. Climate change affects directly and indirectly the health of animals and humans. It has been estimated that potential 250.000 deaths/year will be due to climate change impact in the period 2030-2050.

    The module will educate students how biodiversity supports our economic prosperity and our well-being trough the delivery of basic goods and services (e.g. fertile soils, productive seas, drinking water, pure air, pollination, flood prevention, climate regulation, etc.), sustained by well-functioning ecosystems. Students will learn about resources valorization and sustainability, and which new technologies and innovative approaches can be used to preserve biodiversity. They also will be lectured to reduce natural resources consumption and depletion and how to manage and conserve ecosystems and the associated services. Furthermore, students will examine the main drivers for biodiversity loss and environmental impacts on human health.

    Two diseases will be used as examples of the above effects of climate change: Chikungunya infection and Rift Valley fever. Chikungunya epidemic outbreak in Emilia-Romagna (Italy) during summer 2007 was considered a paradigmatic example of the a tropical disease diffusion outside the conventional locations. This outbreak mainly resulted from the dangerous mixture of the large population of a highly competent vector, the “tiger” mosquito, and the possibility that an individual returned from an area of normal diffusion of the virus. Rift Valley fever is a viral zoonosis that primarily affects animals but also has the capacity to infect humans. Outbreaks are associated with periods of rainfall, but cannot easily be predicted, despite the remote warning systems that have been developed. The interaction between the environment, animal health and human health indicates that it is an ideal candidate for the application of a One Health approach to improve the understanding of RVF epidemiological dynamics and inform risk mitigation or control measures.

  2. Water and health. According to World Health Organization (WHO), providing access to safe water is one of the most effective instruments to promote health and reduce poverty. Water safety and quality are fundamental to human development and wellbeing.

    This module will address water pollution hazard and water-borne diseases, with a special focus on sustainability and environmental impact. Sources and pathway for exposure to waterborne disease, due to the consumption of food that may be contaminated during the agricultural process (e.g irrigation or uptake from contaminated soil or sediment) will be also presented. The different perspectives on water resources and responsible use in industrialized and developing countries will be discussed.

    The second part of the module will address the connections and links between human wellbeing and water, with a focus on recreational activities and marine ecosystem.

    The United Nations Environment Program describes human wellbeing as “the extent to which individuals have the ability and the opportunity to live the kinds of lives they have reason to value”.

    This term comprises various and fundamental components of human existence such as good health and quality of life, access to materials for a good life, good social relations, a pleasant and livable environment. All components relate to each other and underly the freedom to make choices.

    It is important to underline that the ocean life exhibits a high-level of ecological complexity and interrelationships among marine ecosystems’ constituents. Thus, climate changes are affecting not only biodiversity of marine ecosystems but sensitively the availability and sustainability of ecosystem goods and services for human wellbeing as high-quality and environmental-friendly seafoods and maritime and coastal tourism (according to the BlueGrowth EU policy).

  3. Urbanization and Health. Over history, human interaction with nature and animals has changed considerably. This has been driven by the domestication of animals, urbanization, and by the industrialisation of food systems. Anthropogenic practices, such as changes in land use and extractive industry actions, animal production systems, and widespread antimicrobial applications affect disease transmission. Human contact with wildlife is increased, on a large scale, through road building, establishment of settlements, and increased mobility of people, hunting, consumption, and trade in wildlife for food.

    The first part of the module will address the drivers linked to urbanization that enhanced the emergence of diseases due to pollution.

    Sources of outdoor and indoor pollution and impact on human wellbeing and health will be presented and discussed, as well as sustainable relationships between environment (i.e. air, water, soil and food chain) and lifestyle in age and gender. A general overview about pollution, environmental risk and law at International, European and National level will be illustrated, including the concept of environmental risk. Finally, relevant cases in Eu and Italy will be presented (e.g. ILVA case; toxic wastes case; GMO case).

    In the second part of the module, an overview of the most important changes in the relationship between humans and animals will be provided. The species and numbers of animals present in the urban environment and human-animal relationships has changed over times. In the western world, people tend to be more detached from ‘livestock’, but they have developed closer bonds with companion animals. At the same time, in many countries of the Global South humans and animals, either domestics or wildlife, live in close proximity even in urban centers (e.g wet markets, wild animals kept in holy temples or stray).

    Moreover, it should be considered that more urbanized and walled-in built environments have a greater content of human-associated microbes compared to more rural and open dwellings.

    Finally, several considerations about the psycho-biological foundations of human-animal bonds will be discussed. In this context, there will be a particular focus on the major implications for integrated therapeutic practice of animal-assisted activities.

  4. Food and health. According to the definition by FAO, the sustainability of diets goes beyond nutrition and environment as to include economic and socio-cultural dimensions. The need to shift to more sustainable diets and food systems is crucial, for this reason several countries started to incorporate sustainability considerations into their food policies and consumer education programs.

    This module will illustrate what are the “two pyramids” and how they are linked to sustainability and nutrition.

    WHO considers nutrition a critical part of health and development. The importance of a healthy and balanced diet in the growth of children and adolescents will be discussed. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease), and longevity. Malnutrition, in every form, presents significant threats to health. Today the world faces a double burden of malnutrition that includes both undernutrition and overweight, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

    The valorization of sustainable agri-food production and the importance of the environmental pyramid will be analyzed under the economic, communication and ecological impact points of view.

    Moreover, students will be lectured about the importance of nutraceuticals. Finally, a focus on the neuropsychiatric aspect concerning eating disorders and the fear of growing up will be provided.


Slides will be provided

Teaching methods

Classes will take place from March to May 2022.
There will be 8 classes of 3 hours each (once a week, in the afternoon).
The on-line frequency will be guaranteed.

Frontal lectures, seminars from experts, case studies and final group work. An interaction for joint activities will be expected.

Assessment methods

The students will be admitted to the final exam (a written report) only if they attended at least 70% of classes. 

The final report should be uploaded by the students on Virtuale, at the end of classes.

The students need to prepare a short report (minimum 500/maximum 800 words) in which they should reflect on the activities carried out during the course and on the contribution that their own discipline may give in the various One Health related topics discussed.

For the final grade, the teacher will consider also the partecipation of the students to the interactive sessions.


Teaching tools

Power point slides, video, online resources uploaded on Virtuale.

The course will be held in blended mode, and the on-line frequency will be guaranteed.

Office hours

See the website of Antonella Marangoni