One Health Approach – Significance and Steps Taken by India

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Synopsis:Covid-19 has once again shown the degree of chaos that can be spread by zoonotic diseases. This gives India an opportunity to work on the One Health approach.

  • In 1856, the father of modern pathology (Rudolf Virchow) observed that there are no dividing lines between animal and human medicine.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic once again highlighted the interconnectedness of the systems. 
  • The havoc caused by the pandemic induced the experts to sensitize countries towards the ‘One Health’ approach on the occasion of World Veterinary Day (April 24th).  
What is the One Health Approach?
  • Firstly, it is a collaborative, multisectoral, coordinated, and transdisciplinary approach. It recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, and the environment
  • Secondly, it calls for working at the local, regional, national, and global levels with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes. 

Need for focusing on ‘One Health’:

  • High Prevalence of Zoonotic Diseases: More than two-thirds of existing and emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Experts believe that there are more than 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife, and many of them are likely to be zoonotic.
    • It is an infectious disease that jumps from animal to humans.
    • Anthropozoonotic infections get transferred from humans to animals.
  • Transboundary impact: The transboundary impact of viral outbreaks such as the Nipah virus, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), etc. were alarming for the world. It has made it imperative for the world to focus on one health.
  • Huge Economic Cost: Zoonotic diseases place a heavy burden on the economy of countries.  
    • For instance, the WHO estimates that rabies (also a zoonotic disease) costs the global economy approximately $6 billion annually. 

India and one health approach:

  • India’s ‘One Health’ vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance towards ‘One World, One Health’.
  • The alliance includes:
    • the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 
    • the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 
    • the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Steps taken by India towards ‘One Health’:
  • The country established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in the 1980s.
  • The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases since 2015.
    • For instance, under the National Animal Disease Control Program, 13,343 crore rupees have been sanctioned for Foot and Mouth disease and Brucellosis control.
    • DAHD has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the National Action Plan for Eliminating Dog-Mediated Rabies.
    • Further DAHD will soon establish a ‘One Health’ unit within the Ministry.
  • A Center for One Health will soon be established at Nagpur.
  • Efforts are being made to revamp programs that focus on capacity building for veterinarians.
  • The government is also upgrading the animal health diagnostic system such as Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).
Challenges hindering the success of one health approach:
  • Veterinary manpower shortages make the early detection of zoonotic diseases difficult.
  • Lack of information sharing between human and animal health institutions
  • Inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities
Way Forward:
  • The focus should be on increasing investments and augmenting awareness generation towards the’One Health’ approach.
  • There must be the integration of existing animal health and disease surveillance systems. 
    • For instance, the Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health, and the National Animal Disease Reporting System can be integrated.
  • The government needs to formulate best-practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operations. This would improve inspections, disease prevalence assessments, etc.
  • Further, it must create mechanisms to operationalize ‘One Health’ at every stage from top to grassroots level.

Source: The Hindu

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