One Health approach has gained massive traction as the pandemic underscored the need for attention to health-related threats emerging at the intersection of animals and humans.
One Health is an integrated approach to tackle health-related threats emerging at the intersection of animals, humans, plants and the environment and address collective needs for clean air, potable water and safe food.
This approach has gained massive traction as the pandemic underscored the need for attention to health-related threats emerging at the intersection of animals and humans.
A key player in promoting the One Health approach in India is the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Union minister Parshottam Rupala says that his ministry is already ahead of the curve, having launched vaccination for animals before the Covid-19 vaccination began in India, in an interview with Rajiv Tikoo of Outlook Business. Edited excerpts:
What has the government done so far on One Health?
As part of the One Health initiative, we are looking to reduce the incidence of diseases that can be prevented and are organising vaccination drives in critical areas. The National Animal Disease Control Programme for foot and mouth disease, brucellosis and other critical national diseases has been launched.
Apart from the nation-wide vaccination, emphasis on zoonotic diseases, like brucellosis, glanders, anthrax and avian influenza, is given in developing joint efforts under the National Cooperative Development Corporation, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). To reduce antimicrobial resistance, we are building and initiating awareness programmes to reach different stakeholders. We have supported the development of the National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.
The One Health Support Unit at the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying has been established for disease prevention, surveillance and response. The National Action Plan for (Dog Mediated) Rabies Elimination to reduce human deaths due to dog-mediated rabies to zero by 2030 was developed and launched jointly with the MoHFW.
How serious is the threat from zoonotic diseases, like Covid-19, and how can One Health help tackle it?
On average, a new disease has emerged or re-emerged each year since World War II. Seventy-five per cent of these have an animal source. Also, 335 pathogens emerged between 1940 and 2004, with 60% being of zoonotic origin and 70% from wildlife.
The health issues today are more complex, transboundary, multi-factorial and prevalent across species. Zoonotic disease threats shared between animals and humans entail trans-disciplinary and multi-sectoral cooperation, collaboration and coordination amongst various stakeholders. The concept of One Health dictates sharing of resources and capacities of each other and supporting the strategic response mechanism jointly or synergistically for early mitigation of the problem in a sustainable manner.
We want to strengthen One Health coordination mechanisms with inter-departmental executive authority for better control measures of zoonotic diseases. Improved access to quality animal healthcare and better disease control and management will minimize the economic loss from zoonotic diseases. Increased awareness of bio-security measures and adoption of good animal husbandry practices by farmers, consumers and other actors along livestock commodity value chains will bring transformative changes.
Going forward, how do you intend to promote One Health?
The Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying has been proactively strengthening animal health and production programmes, which got a major boost with the approval of the special livestock sector package with an outlay of Rs 9,800 crore over the next five years. It seeks to leverage a total investment of Rs 54,618 crore.
Keeping in view the economic onslaught caused by non-zoonotic diseases and endemic, emerging or re-emerging zoonotic diseases, we envisage the overall strengthening of the animal husbandry infrastructure, so that the country is capable of handling not only the emergency public health threats but also the non-zoonotic diseases. These diseases jeopardise the animal food systems, which also impacts human health and economies. There cannot be a stronger case for expanding and reinventing the entire animal husbandry sector for disease surveillance, prediction, prevention, detection and control to minimise the threat to human health.
Do you envisage engagement with the private sector?
We always believe in a collaborative, collective and cooperative approach with all stakeholders, including the private sector. We never left out the private sector. We consider private companies and their associations as important stakeholders and have convened more than three rounds of consultations on important points of One Health, the industry’s role in antimicrobial resistance and National Action Plan Development on Antimicrobial Resistance. We are looking forward to more active involvement in solving problems by public-private partnerships in the animal husbandry domain.
What are the challenges in promoting One Health?
The One Health concept is not new, but practical implementation throughout the world has not yet come to the desired level. Implementing the One Health concept is now imminent and most urgent. The key challenge is inter-sectoral coordination among human, animal and wildlife health. Other challenges may include disparity in physical and manpower capacities in different sectors. There is a need to strengthen institutional capacities and timely data sharing. Efforts are being made to develop inter-sectoral coordination and information sharing.