One World, One Health

Representational photo

Nature had created this universe with a balance in every aspect. Human acts have disturbed this synchrony and endangered the blessings. Health of all living and non living beings which was one such treasure has been imbalanced mostly because of human acts. Not only humans, health of animals, plants, and the environment that has been affected requires interventions at medical, veterinary, environment and other relevant disciplines and sectors. Hence restoration of optimum health of living beings and of the environment envisages cooperation and coordination among the multisectorial stakeholders entrusted with the job not only on regional or national levels but also globally. This entire approach has been accumulated in One Health concept.

One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels — with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

One Health highlights that human health is interconnected to the health of animals, and the environment. With rise in human population, ease of moment, environmental and habitat destruction and more interaction between human, animals and environment, novel calamities including disease outbreaks are frequently erupting. Of importance are the zoonotic diseases that spread between animals and humans and that have havocked the entire world recently.

A zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans. There are over 200 known types of zoonoses. Of the known human infectious diseases, 60% are zoonotic. Among the emerging infectious diseases of humans, 75% have an animal origin. Of the 5 new diseases that appear every year in humans, 3 are of animal origin. About 80% of agents with bioterrorist use are of zoonotic nature. Thus zoonoses comprise a large percentage of new and existing diseases in humans. Veterinarians who are the custodians not only of animal health but also of public health, have a role in One Health. In fact the role of veterinarians becomes inevitable in the one health approach considering the global health crises, emergence of novel diseases, and need for future developmental strategies.

Veterinarians provide the health management services to ailing animals including diagnosis and treatment. They are involved in evolving epidemiology of diseases, devising prevention and control strategies for diseases. In addition to health, veterinarians have a role in food security, environmental hygiene and economy. Boosting livestock production for safeguarding food security for current and future generations requires veterinary expertise at all stages. More than 20% of animal production losses are accounted for by diseases of animals. For mitigating climate change and environmental deterioration, veterinary interventions are essential. To push up the agriculture economy the dairy sector has been a growth propeller. Veterinarians are working tirelessly to increase production and minimize scarcity of mutton and chicken which may account for more than 70% of additional animal protein needed by 2050. In addition to these veterinarians have been at forefront during the disease outbreaks threatening public health including the current pandemics of COVID-19 and avian influenza.

From Claude Bourgelat, a French veterinary surgeon who established first veterinary school in Lyons, France, in 1761 to Albert Bourla, a Greek veterinarian and the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical company that manufactures mRNA based COVID-19 vaccine currently; the veterinarians have come a long way in serving the profession, animal and public health. Noted veterinarians Robert Virchow (1821-1902) highlighted the interrelation of animal and human medicine in 19th Century when the Calvin Schwabe (1927-2006) promoted One Medicine in 20th Century however because of emergence of severe zoonotic diseases in recent past, One Health got a rethinking and gained momentum in combating emerging zoonosis. From initial priority disease list of avian influenza, rabies, or leptospirosis the list has been ever expanding with COVID-19 becoming the hallmark for the need of joint efforts from medical professionals, veterinary professionals, environmentalists, social scientists and other related disciplines as envisaged in One Health approaches.

Considering the need of the hour, World Health Organization (WHO), Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration and coordination with World Organization for Animal Health, formerly the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) has started many initiatives under One Health wherein effective ways are sought to fight health issues at the human-animal-environment interface, including zoonotic diseases involving experts in human, animal, environmental health, and other relevant disciplines and sectors in monitoring and controlling public health threats and to learn about how diseases spread among people, animals, plants, and the environment.

Realizing the importance of veterinarians in handling the current pandemic crises, the World Veterinary Association (WVA) has kept the theme of World Veterinary Day for 2021 (WVD2021) as The Veterinarian Response to the COVID-19 Crisis.

Globally various agencies and institutes are also working on One Health approaches. At national level also efforts are being made to infuse communication, coordination and collaboration among human, animal, environmental health, and other relevant partners. Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbnadry (FVSc and AH) Shuhama the only veterinary college of the Sher E Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) Shalimar has also organized a One Health Hackathon recently involving participation of medical professionals from Sher e Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura and Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, environmentalists from Kashmir University and SKUAST-K. The veterinary faculty is carrying out a series of other programmes, activities and webinars under the aegis of World Veterinary Day 2021 Celebrations which will be culminating on last Saturday of April 2021 (24th April, 2021).

The author is Assistant Professor Veterinary Medicine at FVSc & AH Shuhama, SKUAST-K. He can be mailed at [email protected]