Shri Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary, Department of Livestock and Dairy Production, Government of India, updates Viveka Roychowdhury, on the urgent need to strategically operationalize the One Health approach in India
Experts predict an increased emergence of zoonotic diseases / infections based on the past incidence of bird flu, swine flu and, more recently, Nipah and Zika virus outbreaks. India is also endemic for malaria etc. What are the initiatives of the Indian government to predict, detect and prevent such epidemics?
Global health faces a massive threat posed by zoonotic diseases and emerging infections, which have caused colossal economic damage over the past two decades. It is estimated that 1.7 million viral species circulate among wildlife and 50 percent of them have the potential to cause human infections.
Therefore, controlling zoonotic pathogens at the animal source is not only essential for animal health, but also for building healthy nations and people. In this area, the Department of Livestock and Dairy Production (DAHD) has taken the initiative to implement an effective One Health Program by establishing a Single Health Support Unit (OHSU), which develop a systematic approach to effectively manage animal health and reduce the incidence of disease nationally and globally. It will contribute to the establishment of a robust animal health surveillance system, thus preventing spillover to humans.
In addition, the Department has implemented programs to control critical diseases of a zoonotic nature affecting humans chronically. Together with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, we are developing the National Action Plan for Various Zoonotic Infections in India, which would lead to the eradication of dreaded diseases. In addition, DAHD has worked closely with the Office of the Senior Scientific Advisor of the Government of India to develop an end-to-end virtual platform for the livestock sector, and also aims to create a unique identification number. (UID) for animals and their registration. the Animal Health and Productivity Information Network (INAPH), which will contribute to real-time surveillance and active investigation of livestock diseases.
Global agencies are propagating the One Health concept, the aim of which is to balance the health of people, wild and domestic animals, as well as flora, fauna, etc. What is India’s policy on this front? What are the implementation timelines and milestones and are these practical realities, given how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the development, implementation and, most importantly, the application of these policies?
The ‘Special Livestock Sector Package’, which focuses on animal health and infrastructure development – announced by the Indian government on July 14 – is a big step forward towards the effective implementation of ‘One health.
The Department-initiated “One Health India” program is uniquely prepared to work with all sectors – public and private – including livestock health, human health, wildlife health, environmental health, technology and safety. finance; in order to complement each other while working together. We plan to not limit the program to scientific experts only, but to be open to policy experts, local knowledge, practitioners, citizens and all relevant stakeholders to gain their valuable feedback and expertise.
Essentially, the One Health concept recognizes that animal health and human health are inextricably linked. Therefore, the One Health approach will contribute to the timely detection, mitigation and restriction of public health emergencies (e.g. COVID-19) and the prevention of endemic zoonotic infections.
What are the prevention and risk mitigation strategies to avoid future pandemics in terms of public health preparedness, etc.?
Operationalizing the One Health approach requires leveraging the cooperation and strengths of various sectors – both public and private – including livestock, human health, wildlife, environment, technology and finance. to develop solutions to these local, national and international challenges.
All sectors affected by One Health should move forward in a structured manner to address these cross-links and successfully prevent the spread of disease to the human population. In addition to this, there is also a need to encourage a policy environment that allows for basic capacity building in order to respond to identification challenges.
I believe that scientific intervention as well as cross-learning between experts from various professional fields will help to effectively implement the One Health concept in the country. This will introduce a new dimension in the understanding of areas of action among scientists and researchers to analyze the gaps and fill them by adopting global best practices adapted to Indian conditions to achieve one health in India in its true sense.
What is the role of the medical fraternity in these strategies, besides having to deal with a sudden increase in the burden of patients as we see in the current COVID-19 pandemic?
It has been seen in the recent past that various health-related challenges with enormous socio-economic impact across the world are emerging. These include the emergence of new contagions, the re-emergence of existing infections that are sometimes overlooked, the discovery of antimicrobial resistance at the human-animal-environment interface or an effect of climate change on vector-borne diseases and vector epidemiology.
In addition, the expected demand for animal protein worldwide will double by 2050. Over the coming period, the per capita availability of animal protein in high income countries is expected to increase slowly (1.8 grams per person per day, or three percent). The gap in animal protein consumption between high- and middle-income countries is also expected to narrow by 4%, reaching 30 grams per person per day by 2030.
In addition, growing food security issues due to changing food preferences and global warming are of great concern to various sectors which cannot be effectively addressed by remaining confined to respective professional silos.
It is therefore incumbent on the medical fraternity to come together and develop response mechanisms by identifying research gaps and following a synergistic approach. If the experts collaborate and strategically implement the One Health concept in India, then the protection of people, pets, wildlife, plants and the environment will be a final result.