One Health is a concept that underscores the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. This holistic approach recognizes that the well-being of these three domains is intrinsically linked and that addressing health challenges requires a multidisciplinary and collaborative effort. In recent years, the One Health framework has gained prominence in public health discussions, emphasizing the need to break down silos between medical, veterinary, and environmental sciences to tackle emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic spillovers, and the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. As we grapple with global health crises, the One Health approach serves as a critical tool to better understand and respond to complex health challenges, highlighting the importance of cooperation between different sectors and the imperative to safeguard our planet’s health for the benefit of all living beings.
Tag: GS Paper-2: Health; Government Policies & Interventions.
Climate change, more infections; Surveillance and reporting; One Health.
In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivers a stark warning that climate change heightens the global risk of infectious diseases.
Decoding the editorial: Climate change, more infections
- Mosquito-borne disease outbreaks:
- The periodicity no longer follows expected patterns.
- Dengue manifests in two to three peaks throughout the year.
- Variability in temperature, precipitation, and humidity disrupt disease transmission cycles.
- These also alter the distribution of the vectors and animal reservoirs that host the parasite.
- Heat has been proven to interfere with the genomic structure of pathogens, changing their infectivity and virulence.
- Human-animal interaction:
- Habitat loss forces disease-carrying animals to encroach upon human territory, increasing the risk of human-animal interaction and the transfer of pathogens from wildlife to humans.
- Viruses which do not harm animals can be fatal for humans.
- Nipah virus, which has been causing outbreaks in Kerala for many years now, is a good example.
- Infectious diseases:
- An analysis of 2022 published in Nature Climate Change warns that humans now face a broader spectrum of infectious agents than ever before.
- Over half of all-known infectious diseases threatening humans worsen with changing climate patterns.
- Diseases often find new transmission routes, including environmental sources, medical tourism, and contaminated food and water from once-reliable sources.
- Invasive species:
- While ecosystems shape local climates, climate change is transforming ecosystems.
- This dynamic introduces invasive species and extends the range of existing life forms.
- Both these trigger upheavals in ecosystems that are complex and confound ecologists and epidemiologists to predict outbreaks.
Surveillance and reporting
Over the past two decades, India has improved its reporting of outbreaks.
- The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)
- It was rolled out in a few States in 2007.
- From reporting 553 outbreaks in 2008, it last reported 1,714 in 2017.
- The Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP)
- IDSP was phased out in favour of a new, web-enabled, near-real-time electronic information system called IHIP.
- It was launched in seven States in 2018.
- It added 20 additional disease conditions over IDSP’s 13 and could present disaggregated data to its users.
- Tragically, the programme, which would have enabled real-time tracking of emerging disease outbreaks, has not delivered on expectations.
- The current design of surveillance is not adequate for the emerging disease scenario.
- A unified approach, termed One Health which integrates monitoring human, animal, plant, and environmental health, recognises this interconnectedness.
- This approach is pivotal in preventing outbreaks, especially those that originate from animals.
- It encompasses zoonotic diseases, neglected tropical diseases, vector-borne diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and environmental contamination.
- India’s strategy for one health:
- India must launch One Health and infectious disease control programmes by building greater synergies between the Centre and States and their varied specialised agencies.
- Animal husbandry, forest and wildlife, municipal corporations, and public health departments need to converge and set up robust surveillance systems.
- They will need to build trust and confidence, share data, and devise logical lines of responsibility and work with a coordinating agency.
- So far, the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister has been taking this lead but with new World Bank and other large funding in place, this will need greater coordination and management.
Globally, there is an obsession with the enigmatic “disease X,” but it is the familiar annual cycles of known agents such as influenza, measles, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, diarrhoea among others that will continue to test the public health system. The re-emergence of Nipah in Kerala is a wake-up call, that mere biomedical response to diseases is inadequate. Embracing the One Health paradigm is our best defence.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is One Health?
A: One Health is a holistic approach that recognizes the interconnections between human, animal, and environmental health. It emphasizes the importance of collaboration between these sectors to address health challenges comprehensively.
Q: Why is One Health important?
A: One Health is crucial because many health issues, such as zoonotic diseases (those that can transfer from animals to humans), antimicrobial resistance, and environmental health threats, are interconnected. It helps us understand and address these complex challenges more effectively.
Q: How does One Health address zoonotic diseases?
A: One Health recognizes that many infectious diseases, like COVID-19 and Ebola, originate in animals before spreading to humans. By monitoring and controlling diseases in animals and their environments, One Health helps prevent these spillovers.
Q: What role do veterinarians play in One Health?
A: Veterinarians are essential in One Health as they contribute expertise in animal health and disease control. They help track and manage diseases in animals, which can have a significant impact on human health.
Q: How can individuals support One Health?
A: Individuals can support One Health by promoting responsible pet ownership, advocating for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, and staying informed about health issues that affect animals, humans, and the planet. Supporting policies and initiatives that prioritize One Health is also crucial.
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