Discussions that took place around World Veterinary Day, on April 24, 2021, focused on acknowledging the interconnectedness of animals, humans, and the environment, an approach referred to as “One Health”.
GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Health, Government Interventions and Policies)
What is One Health and what is India’s approach towards it? The battle against COVID-19 should also be used as an opportunity to meet India’s ‘One Health’ targets. Discuss. (15 Marks)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is One Health?
- What are the changes that make One Health a necessity now?
- Across the species barrier
- How does a One Health approach work?
- India’s framework, plans for One Health
What is One Health?
- One Health is an approach that recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.
- One Health deals with designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
- The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonotic diseases (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combating antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).
- Although OneHealth, as a conceptual entity, emerged relatively recently, a stellar example of OneHealth being operationalised in the field was seen in India in the late 1950s.
What are the changes that make One Health a necessity now?
One Health is not new, but it has become more important in recent years. This is because many factors have changed interactions between people, animals, plants, and our environment.
- Human populations are growing and expanding into new geographic areas. As a result, more people live in close contact with wild and domestic animals, both livestock and pets. Animals play an important role in our lives, whether for food, fiber, livelihoods, travel, sport, education, or companionship. Close contact with animals and their environments provides more opportunities for diseases to pass between animals and people.
- The earth has experienced changes in climate and land use, such as deforestation and intensive farming practices. Disruptions in environmental conditions and habitats can provide new opportunities for diseases to pass to animals.
- The movement of people, animals, and animal products has increased from international travel and trade. As a result, diseases can spread quickly across borders and around the globe.
These changes have led to the spread of existing or known (endemic) and new or emerging zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can spread between animals and people. Examples of zoonotic diseases include:
- Salmonella infection
- West Nile virus infection
- Q Fever (Coxiella burnetii)
- Lyme disease
Animals also share our susceptibility to some diseases and environmental hazards. Because of this, they can sometimes serve as early warning signs of potential human illness. For example, birds often die of West Nile virus before people in the same area get sick with West Nile virus infection.
What are common One Health issues?
One Health issues include zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety and food security, vector-borne diseases, environmental contamination, and other health threats shared by people, animals, and the environment. Even the fields of chronic disease, mental health, injury, occupational health, and noncommunicable diseases can benefit from a One Health approach involving collaboration across disciplines and sectors.
Across the species barrier
- Studies indicate that more than two-thirds of existing and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, or can be transferred between animals and humans, and vice versa, when the pathogen in question originates in any life form but circumvents the species barrier.
- Another category of diseases, “anthropozoonotic” infections, gets transferred from humans to animals.
- The transboundary impact of viral outbreaks in recent years such as the Nipah virus, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Avian Influenza has further reinforced the need for us to consistently document the linkages between the environment, animals, and human health.
How does a One Health approach work?
- One Health is gaining recognition globally as an effective way to fight health issues at the human-animal-environment interface, including zoonotic diseases.
- Successful public health interventions require the cooperation of human, animal, and environmental health partners. Professionals in human health (doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists), animal health (veterinarians, paraprofessionals, agricultural workers), environment (ecologists, wildlife experts), and other areas of expertise need to communicate, collaborate on, and coordinate activities.
- Other relevant players in a One Health approach could include law enforcement, policymakers, agriculture, communities, and even pet owners. No one person, organization, or sector can address issues at the animal-human-environment interface alone.
- By promoting collaboration across all sectors, a One Health approach can achieve the best health outcomes for people, animals, and plants in a shared environment.
India’s framework, plans for One Health
- India’s ‘One Health’ vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance comprising the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) — a global initiative supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank under the overarching goal of contributing to ‘One World, One Health’.
- In the 1950s, the OneHealth approach helped discover the source of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), a highly dangerous haemorrhagic fever more threatening than COVID-19. This was the result of working of several organizations such as the Virus Research Centre (now known as the National Institute of Virology), Pune, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bombay Natural History Society.
- In keeping with the long-term objectives, India established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses as far back as the 1980s. And this year, funds were sanctioned for setting up a ‘Centre for One Health’ at Nagpur.
- Further, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases since 2015, with a funding pattern along the lines of 60:40 (Centre: State); 90:10 for the Northeastern States, and 100% funding for Union Territories.
- In addition, DAHD will soon establish a ‘One Health’ unit within the Ministry.
- Additionally, the government is working to revamp programmes that focus on capacity building for veterinarians and upgrading the animal health diagnostic system such as Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).
- In the revised component of assistance to States/Union Territories, there is increased focus on vaccination against livestock diseases and backyard poultry. To this end, assistance will be extended to State biological production units and disease diagnostic laboratories.
- WHO estimates that rabies (also a zoonotic disease) costs the global economy approximately $6 billion annually. Considering that 97% of human rabies cases in India are attributed to dogs, interventions for disease management in dogs are considered crucial. DAHD has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the National Action Plan for Eliminating Dog Mediated Rabies. This initiative is geared towards sustained mass dog vaccinations and public education to render the country free of rabies.
-Source: The Hindu