The concept of ‘One Health’ is currently gaining popularity worldwide which, India must deploy to bolster the way it responds to health crises.
About the Mission:
India is currently preparing for a wider ‘National One Health Mission’ under the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor.
Objective: The idea behind this mission is to coordinate, support, and integrate all existing One Health initiatives in the country.
What does One Health concept mean?
One Health is a holistic approach to problems that recognizes the interconnections between the health of humans, animals, plants, and their shared environment.
An early articulation can be found in the writings of Hippocrates (460-367 BC), who contemplated the relationships between public health and clean environments.
How ‘One health’ is linked to Humans and Animals?
Human population growth, urbanization, and industrialisation have compounded the damage to biodiversity and ecosystems.
These harmful environmental changes are linked to zoonoses – diseases shared between animals and humans.
Researchers have estimated that 60% of emerging diseases that can infect humans are zoonotic in nature.
They include bird flu, Ebola, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis.
Some zoonotic spillover events:
The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have originated in bats and possibly passed to humans through an intermediate animal host, possibly pangolins.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus is believed to have originated in dromedary camels.
Human infections have occurred through close contact with infected animals or their products.
Avian Influenza (H5N1 and H7N9):
These bird flu strains have caused sporadic human infections, often associated with close contact with infected poultry. Although human-to-human transmission has been limited, the potential exists for these viruses to adapt and spread widely.
Rabies is often transmitted to humans through the bites of infected animals, primarily dogs, bats, and other mammals.
Need for such an initiative:
Humankind has also become beset by major issues of antimicrobial resistance, food safety and security, and the control of vector-borne diseases.
These issues warrant both the inter-sectoral management and the efficiency that characterises the One Health strategy.
What are the benefits of One Health approach?
One Health minimises resource requirements across sectors.
Taking a One Health approach allows researchers to, for example, share their laboratories and findings, and ultimately make decisions that lead to resilient, sustainable, and predictable policies.
The economic benefits of One Health are understood in contrast to the cost of managing a pandemic with a non-One-Health approach.
What are some recent One Health initiatives?
The Government of India established its ‘Standing Committee on Zoonoses’ in 2006 under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The purpose of this committee was to provide the Union and the State governments guidance and recommendations on challenges related to zoonoses.
India’s first consortium on One Health: The Department of Biotechnology launched India’s first consortium on One Health in October 2021.
It brings together 27 organisations from several ministries and plans to assess the burden of five transboundary animal diseases and 10 select zoonotic diseases.
The government has allocated Rs.31 crore for three years to the consortium, especially for its promise of improving cross-cutting collaborations between the animal, human, and wildlife sectors.
One Health pilot project in Karnataka and Uttarakhand:
In June 2022, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairy (DAHD) – in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Confederation of Indian Industry – launched a One Health pilot project in Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
This initiative intends to strengthen intersectoral collaborations through capacity-building, with the goal of improving livestock health, human health, wildlife health, and environmental health.
Departmental collaboration: An important way to achieve one health is by encouraging coordination across governmental units, including the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Environment, and Science and Technology.
Surveillance and Early Detection: Establish integrated surveillance systems to monitor and detect emerging infectious diseases in both humans and animals. Timely identification can help prevent outbreaks and mitigate their impact on public health.
Research and Data Sharing: Invest in research that explores the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. Encourage open data sharing to facilitate informed decision-making and knowledge dissemination.
Policy Integration: Integrate the One Health approach into national and international policies, regulations, and guidelines. This can ensure that health strategies consider the interdependencies between sectors.