One Health Approach: A Time Tested Nature’s Strategy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Abshaar Saeed is a graduate and an intern from Shadan medical and research institution, Hyderabad, India. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

There are thousands of diseases, but there is only one health – Karl Ludwig

Have you ever wondered how mammoth forests exist for years with all the biodiversity and richness enduring the harshest changes in the environment around them? The truth lies not in what the eyes can see but below the earth; a vast and specialised root network connects every tree in a forest that unites them despite the distinctions. This establishment ensures continual replenishment and harmonious subsistence. The environment around us had already demonstrated the necessity of confluence between different sectors to achieve well-being. One health integrates environmental, human and animal health by an interdisciplinary technique to reach a global health agenda. The concept gained momentum during the 2003 avian influenza pandemic threat that caused a global economic loss of 20 billion USD.

The current circumstances across the globe mandate our attention towards a collaborative effort. Uganda has encountered several epidemics of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic illnesses comprising; Ebola, Marburg, plague, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever and Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever.

A 2019 study conducted in Tanzania, where diverse mycobacterial strains were documented, exemplified how the country successfully devised an effective program to combat the spread of disease through surveillance and cooperation with agricultural, veterinarian and ecological sectors of two different countries. Similarly, India enforced bovine vaccination to prevent cross-infection with humans and develop antimicrobial resistance through livestock.  

Snakebite, re-declared as a neglected tropical disease affecting millions of people worldwide, especially of meagre income, could be impeded by making powerful, more beneficial and accessible anti-venoms. Julian Blanc, a wildlife expert with the United Nations Environment Programme, observed it as a great example of how better international and cross-sector cooperation can make a tremendous difference.

Apart from this, non-communicable diseases, responsible for seven out of ten leading causes of death render people more vulnerable to infectious diseases thus requiring effective mass screening. One health approach will reduce the inequitable distribution of healthcare resources, such as noticed in spinal muscular dystrophy, the second most common autosomal recessive disease in humans and the drug to treat it – Novartis is the most expensive medicine globally.

However, significant challenges in implementing one health approach need to be addressed at the national level foremost. It includes lack of coordination across sectors, funding deficiencies, government commitment, advocacy, awareness and research. The role of the private sector is considerably lesser and not primarily encouraged.

There should be more health-related seminars in non-medical colleges so students can shape their notions and comprehend their contributions. A recent initiative by WHO, BioBank, is a globally agreed system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples to facilitate and rapidly develop effective vaccines and medicines serve as an excellent motivation of how we can perform local and think global.

About the author

Abshaar Saeed is a graduate and an intern from Shadan medical and research institution, Hyderabad, India. She is a writer and a poet and had worked as a medical content writer briefly. Her writings are inspired by the wonders and phenomena of nature around her and a humanitarian who constantly engages in activities that motivate people to contribute to society’s welfare and the environment. She has been writing for many years, and her works have been awarded and recognised by prestigious organisations. However, she truly believes that every endeavour should have a positive impact.

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