[Good Governance] How One Health will mitigate endemic zoonotic infections

In India, the One Health approach is recognised, and implemented to achieve quality human health and the development of social and environmental ecosystems.
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One Health is a multi-sectoral approach that takes into consideration human, animal, and environmental health, and the interconnectivity and interdependence of these three elements.  

In the past, we have seen disease outbreaks with major implications on the social and economic landscape of the nation. These outbreaks were witnessed with the emergence of new infections, re-emergence of existing diseases that are often neglected, detection of antimicrobial resistance at the human-animal-environment interface, and influence of climate change on vector-borne diseases and vector epidemiology. 

Globally, zoonotic diseases account for over a billion cases and a million deaths per year, and the COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness and accelerated the implementation of One Health worldwide. 

In India and globally, the One Health approach is recognised, and implemented to achieve quality human health and the development of social and environmental ecosystems. 

Zoonotic diseases account for over a billion cases and a million deaths per year

The One Health approach will help in early detection, prevention, and control of public health emergencies, and mitigate endemic zoonotic infections and outbreaks.

In a conversation, Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India, discusses how One Health’s approach is helping the sector. 

Edited excerpts from the interview: 

How is the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying planning on implementing the One Health approach? Have any steps been taken already?

Being a multi-sectoral approach, the implementation of One Health demands the collaboration and support of stakeholders from the public and the private sector. 

Stakeholders from the sectors of livestock, human health, wildlife, environment, technology, and finance need to work together on strengthening solutions and achieve successful implementations to fight national and global challenges. 

To lead the One Health initiative, The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying will focus on interventions that resolve challenges of veterinary manpower shortages, limitations of diagnostic services and epidemiological support, lack of information sharing between stakeholders and institutions, and inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities.

How is the One Health approach interrelated to public health?

Microbes that infect animals can also infect humans since we share the same ecosystem. Animal-Human interactions are increasing, given the increase in socio-economic activities. 

Besides this, the impacts of climate change are increasing food safety risks and disease outbreaks. As per research, over the last three decades, more than two-thirds of the emerging infectious diseases of humans were found to have originated from animals. 

Protecting wildlife and animal health will help both safeguard the environment and animals and also help control public health and create stronger communities.

With the pandemic highlighting the impacts of zoonotic diseases, how will implementing the One Health concept help prevent and compact any such outbreaks?

The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased the devastating impacts a disease outbreak can have on human life. This has been an indicator for us as key stakeholders to accelerate efforts and implement the One Health framework. 

Its implementation will allow tracking and resolving challenges of animal and human health, which prevent possible infection and disease outbreaks. 

Under the One Health Framework, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying will strengthen systemic capacity to better manage animal health and reduce disease incidence

One Health is an intersectoral approach. How will it be implemented across India? 

The One Health framework will be implemented with a multi-stakeholder approach, bringing together both public and private sectors. The government is committed to focusing its resources on improving the health and security of livestock and people. 

This will be achieved by building and strengthening India’s One Health systems, including animal and human surveillance, workforce development, improved laboratory infrastructure, outbreak detection, reporting and response, biosecurity in animal production systems, and community awareness. 

All sectors relevant to One Health will need to come forward and work in an institutionalised formal mechanism for harmonised efforts. 

What are the initial implementations we can expect from the One Health plan?

With the establishment of the One Health Support Unit (OHSU), under the One Health Framework, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying will strengthen systemic capacity to better manage animal health and reduce disease incidence at a national and global level. 

Strengthening the livestock sector is a key area of focus for the implementation of One Health. Hence, we will be looking at strengthening the infrastructure and skills of animal health systems in terms of field epidemiological, laboratory, and response capacities. 

The department has been working closely with the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, to develop an end-to-end digital platform for the livestock sector. It aims to create a unique identification number for animals and their registration, which will help in real-time reporting of livestock disease, active surveillance of diseases and help control possible zoonotic disease outbreaks in the country.

Edited by Suman Singh

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