Is One Health approach the gateway towards pandemic preparedness ?

Shobha Shukla, Bobby Ramakant-CNS
Covid pandemic is a grim reminder of what can go wrong when we do not work with an integrated “One Health” approach to human health, animal health, food system and climate. The critical link between these sectors has only deepened over the years. But will our public health approach pass the litmus test of effective collaboration with other health and non-health sectors ? Preventing future pandemics start with recognising links between human health, animal health, food system and climate, and ensuring our health response is socially just and ecologically sustainable.
 One Health approach addresses shared health threats by recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, food system, and environment. Undoubtedly, One Health approach has become critically important than ever before as we navigate the Covid pandemic.
 “60% of emerging infectious diseases in humans have an animal origin, and 72% of these are coming from wildlife. So, with increasing interaction at the human-animal-ecosystem interface we really need to have a more holistic approach in managing health problems” said Dr Ronello C Abila, Subregional representative for Southeast Asia, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) based in Bangkok, Thailand.
“We can only prevent future pandemics with an integrated One Health approach to public health, animal health and the environment we share”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year. More importantly, Dr Tedros added: “We cannot protect human health without considering the impact of human activities that disrupt ecosystems, encroach on habitats, and further drive climate change”. These activities include pollution, large-scale deforestation, intensified livestock production and the misuse of antimicrobials, along with how the world produces, consumes and trades food.
Local actions for global goals
Dr Tedros had also said that “to keep people safe, One Health must be translated into local-level systems.”
That is why, local leaders including Mayors, Members of Parliament, Governors, and other Government officials and public health experts from around 80 cities of over a dozen countries in Asia and the Pacific endorsed a Declaration rooted in One Health approach, at the 6th Asia Pacific Summit of Mayors (6th APCAT Summit), organised by Asia Pacific Cities Alliance for Health and Development, said Dr Tara Singh Bam, Asia Pacific Director of International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). “The local Government plays a significant role for the success of one health implementation on the ground. Mayors play a very important role at the local level. OIE has been working with National Governments and this is the first time I am talking to the Mayors who are working on the ground. Hopefully we could also reach out on the implementation of one health approach for controlling future pandemics” rightly said Dr Ronello C Abila of OIE.
Coronavirus, animals and humans
One of the lessons learned from Covid is that emerging zoonotic infectious diseases (animal diseases that can spread to humans) are here to stay and fighting new disease threats such as Covid, Ebola, and Zika warrants One Health collaboration across human, animal, and environmental health organizations. (To be contd)