This paper argues for an integrative modelling approach for understanding zoonoses disease dynamics, combining process, pattern and participatory models. Each type of modelling provides important insights, but all are limited. Combining these in a ‘3P’ approach offers the opportunity for a productive conversation between modelling efforts, contributing to a ‘One Health’ agenda. The aim is not to come up with a composite model, but seek synergies between perspectives, encouraging cross-disciplinary interactions.
We illustrate our argument with cases from Africa, and in particular from our work on Ebola virus and Lassa fever virus. Combining process-based compartmental models with macroecological data offers a spatial perspective on potential disease impacts. However, without insights from the ground, the ‘black box’ of transmission dynamics, so crucial to model assumptions, may not be fully understood. We show how participatory modelling and ethnographic research of Ebola and Lassa fever can reveal social roles, unsafe practices, mobility and movement and temporal changes in livelihoods. Together with longer-term dynamics of change in societies and ecologies, all can be important in explaining disease transmission, and provide important complementary insights to other modelling efforts. An integrative modelling approach therefore can offer help to improve disease control efforts and public health responses.This article is part of the themed issue ‘One Health for a changing world: zoonoses, ecosystems and human well-being’.