It’s a frightening reality that global and local health systems have been caught off guard by threatening infectious diseases. Newly emerging diseases, originating from the human-animal-environment interface have been predicted in disease hotspots in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
There is an urgent need to prepare policy frameworks that can combat these threats. These policies would address the emergence and spill-over of infectious diseases and assure appropriate control and prevention of disease outbreaks. Let’s take, for example, the human-animal-human lifecycle of influenza A (IA) virus. IA virus-infected humans in direct exposure to pigs can infect the pigs. When the virus reproduces in the new pig host, genetic reassortment may occur giving rise to a generation of new IA virus variants, which can reinfect humans from a pig host, causing a new outbreak of influenza.
To implement the One Health approach, policies must be made on the foundation of scientific studies that integrate microbiology, epidemiology, ecology, social science and economics science. We need governmental and nongovernmental policy makers, funders and industry to collaborate and work closely together to protect and meet global health and health security goals. In fact, the wheels have already been set in motion. For example, the One Health approach is already being implemented in policies to address a broad range of global challenges:
- Global health security: the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was launched in 2014 to elevate global health security. This is a coalition of 55 countries worldwide, The World Health Organization (WHO), The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) working together to prevent, detect, and respond to global infectious disease threats using the One Health approach.
- Antimicrobial resistance – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are working together to solve the antimicrobial resistance problem by monitoring the current situation and planning policies that combine agricultural, environmental and medical factors.
- Malaria – the System-wide Initiative on Malaria and Agriculture (SIMA) was created by the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka to investigate the relationship between agricultural practices, livestock management and malaria occurrence.
- Ozone Layer – the Montreal Protocol helped to significantly reduce the emission of ozone-depleting substances due to the combined efforts of 197 countries.
- Global warming – the Paris Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is developing cross-disciplinary policies the global average temperature well below 2 Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels.