One Health Concept

The World Organization of Animal Health, commonly known as OIE (an abbreviation of its French title), summarises the One Health concept as “human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist.

Relevance of the News: One health concept highlights the interdependence of all living creatures on earth and the concept of ecological inter-connectedness.

What is One Health?

  • One Health recognises inter-connectivity among human health, the health of animals, and the environment and the importance of each for the sustainability of the other two.
  • It is not a new concept as in 400 BC, Hippocrates in his treatise On Airs, Waters and Places had urged physicians that all aspects of patients’ lives need to be considered including their environment and disease was considered a result of imbalance between man and environment.

Why it has received interest now?

  • With the expansion of populations around the world, greater contact is established among living creatures including humans, animals and environment which provides more opportunities for diseases to pass from one to the other.
  • Climate change, deforestation and intensive farming further disrupt environment characteristics, while increased trade and travel result in closer and more frequent interaction, thus increasing the possibility of transmission of diseases.

Facts highlighted by the World Organization of Animal Health:

  • 1.60% of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic i.e. they are transmitted from animals to humans;
  • 2.75% of emerging infectious human diseases have an animal origin.
  • 3.Of the five new human diseases appearing every year, three originate in animals.
  • 4.It is estimated that zoonotic diseases account for nearly two billion cases per year resulting in more than two million deaths — more than from HIV/AIDS and diarrhoea.
  • 5.One-fifth of premature deaths in poor countries are attributed to diseases transmitted from animals to humans.

Concern for India:

  • 1.Developing countries like India rely too much on agricultural systems which results in uncomfortably close proximity of animals and humans.
  • 2.The size of India’s human and animal populations is almost the same; 121 crore people (2011 Census) and 125.5 crore livestock and poultry.
  • 3.A network of 1.90 lakh health institutions in the government sector form the backbone of health governance, supported by a large number of private facilities but there are only 65,000 veterinary institutions which tend to the health needs of 125.5 crore animals which includes 28,000 mobile dispensaries and first aid centres with bare minimum facilities.
  • 4.Private sector presence in veterinary services is close to being nonexistent.

The World Organization of Animal Health highlights the following Steps that can be taken as a Safeguard:

  • 1.Veterinary institutions and services must be strengthened.
  • 2.The most effective and economical approach is to control zoonotic pathogens at their animal source.
  • 3.Close collaboration at local, regional and global levels among veterinary, health and environmental governance is needed and also greater investment in animal health infrastructure.
  • 4.Humans require a regular diet of animal protein.
  • 5.There could not be a stronger case for reinventing the entire animal husbandry sector to be able to reach every livestock farmer, not only for disease treatment but for prevention and surveillance to minimise the threat to human health.
  • 6.Early detection at animal source can prevent disease transmission to humans and introduction of pathogens into the food chain, so a robust animal health system is the first and a crucial step in human health.
  • 7.Disease surveillance has to go beyond humans and encompass preventive health and hygiene in livestock and poultry, improved standards of animal husbandry for greater food safety, and effective communication protocols between animal and public health systems.