Investing in animal health systems is essential for our future One Health – EURACTIV.com
“We are only as strong as the weakest healthcare system in our interconnected world”
This phrase uttered by UN Secretary-General António Guterres during the pandemic has resonated around the world and brought together policymakers and the private sector to design innovative, forward-looking and multi-sectoral solutions to the challenges we face. face today and in the future.
Roxane Feller is the general secretary of AnimalhealthEurope.
We live in the era of One World, One Health, and recent events continue to highlight the interconnectedness and interdependence of our world today. Just as we know that disease knows no borders, we realize that humanity faces many challenges that require comprehensive, concerted and achievable solutions.
Protecting animal health is an important action to address some of these challenges and it is a step that deserves greater attention. The increasingly crowded nature of our planet – on which humans and animals live ever closer – has increased the potential for the spread of zoonotic diseases between species. And with today’s changing ecosystems, globalization of trade, increasing urbanization and ever-expanding population, disease can spread like never before.
It has long been noted that approximately 60% of human infectious diseases have an animal source, with approximately 72% of new emerging infectious diseases originating from wildlife. This is why the animal health industry has long supported ‘One Health’, a concept coined centuries ago by Hippocrates and reaffirmed in the 1800s by Dr Rudolf Virchow, who underlined the need for a joint approach. to combat health-related problems.
In today’s Europe, veterinarians, farmers and other animal owners are confronted with unprecedented animal diseases such as lumpy skin disease or African swine fever. And in the spirit of One Health, they must also deal with the impacts of climate change, try to mitigate environmental impacts and emissions from animal husbandry, and play their part in combating the rise of antimicrobial resistance. All of these challenges mean one thing: we need to do more to prevent disease in animals from the start.
Better animal health plays a key role in protecting our collective health in several ways:
Innovation in preventive veterinary medicine, the generalization of vaccines and the development of vaccine banks are playing an increasingly important role in the fight against infectious diseases that can be transmitted between humans and animals.
Other animal health tools such as ectoparasiticides also play an important role in helping to stop the spread of insect-borne infectious diseases like ticks and mosquitoes, protecting the health of both animal and human populations.
From the perspective of food safety, security and affordability, better animal health also supports public health. We know that preventing disease in animals plays a key role in bringing safer and better quality meat, fish, eggs and dairy products to market. And as today’s consumers are increasingly interested in having information about the origin and quality of their food, digital traceability tools allow the food industry to access important information about the animal of fork to fork.
From an environmental perspective, better animal health can also help prevent feed losses and farm inefficiencies. The use of modern animal health technologies facilitates the control and eradication of diseases without having to slaughter healthy animals, by making it possible to differentiate vaccinated animals from infected animals.
And highly effective pest controls have also helped farmers combat the huge losses that can be caused by worm infections. This helps the food processing industry reduce food loss from products that are unacceptable for human consumption, contributing to more sustainable food production and reducing environmental footprint.
The One Health concept has been operational in animal health innovations for decades, but there remains a clear need for public investment in animal disease surveillance and prevention. This includes increased investment in the least developed countries – those most at risk from animal diseases and where many viruses originate.
The global pandemic has demonstrated to the world that trying to solve today’s problems and prepare for tomorrow’s cannot be accomplished with yesterday’s approaches.
If more people working in the animal, public health and environmental sectors adopt a One Health mindset, and if governments invest adequately in ALL health systems, there will be a greater opportunity address challenges at the interface between humans, animals and ecosystems.