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WHO urges for investment in One Health for better health of people, planet

by Haruna Gimba
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By Haruna Gimba with agency report

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls on world leaders to increase political commitment and action to invest in the “One Health” approach to prevent and tackle common threats affecting the health and well-being of humans, animals, plants and environment together.

Today, WHO is joining community organizations observing the eighth annual “One Health Day” campaign to attract global attention to the importance of the One Health approach. One Health relies on understanding how human actions and policies could affect animal and environment health.

The One Health Day provides everyone with an opportunity to educate themselves on the connections between the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment.

One Health is a proven approach to policy-making and cross-sector collaboration to prevent zoonotic and vector-borne diseases from emerging and re-emerging, ensuring food safety and maintaining sustainable food production; reducing antimicrobial-resistant infections; and addressing environmental issues to collectively improve human, animal and environmental health, among many other areas.

It creates opportunities to mobilize the whole of society so that veterinarians, doctors, epidemiologists, public health practitioners, wildlife experts, community leaders, and people from different sectors can work together without silos to tackle major health threats.

In addition to saving lives and promoting well-being, One Health actions offer huge economic benefits.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank estimate that One Health efforts could bring at least $37 billion per year back to the global community.

And investing in One Health requires less than 10% of this amount. For example, a One Health approach to prevention by reducing deforestation would generate ancillary benefits of $4.3 billion from reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

“A One Health approach makes public health sense, economic sense and common sense,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“It’s obvious that we can only protect and promote the health of humans by protecting and promoting the health of animals, and the planet on which all life depends.

“We welcome the increasing political consensus on One Health globally, and we are committed to supporting countries to translate the One Health concept into action that makes a difference.”

Health impacts of climate crisis, water contamination, food safety and increasing disease outbreaks are among some of the greatest challenges humanity and the planet are facing today.

For example, air pollution leads to 7 million human deaths with $3 trillion losses every year.

Antimicrobial resistance-related issues lead to five million human deaths every year, with an expected economic loss of up to $100 trillion by 2050.

The estimated scale of human deaths from COVID-19, a recent emerging disease, was six million by 2022, with more than $3.5 trillion economic loss.

Among international organizations, the One Health approach is led by the Quadripartite collaboration on One health, which includes WHO together with FAO, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).

In October 2022, the Quadripartite launched the One Health Joint Plan of Action (OH JPA) (2022-2026), as a framework for action to advance and sustainably scale up One Health.

Further to this, a Guide to implementing the OH JPA at national level to provide practical guidance to countries on how to adopt and adapt the OH JPA will be launched in December this year.

One Health is a sustainable way of living together on this planet, it can be seen as a lifestyle.

Individuals can help contribute in many different ways: by ensuring wildlife remain in their natural habitats and not participating in wildlife trading; following antibiotic treatments prescribed by health professionals and completing your dosage as prescribed; by practicing healthy pet habits and ensuring pets are vaccinated; avoiding carbon intensive transit, trying more walking or biking for short trips — all can help. Everyone has a role to play in One Health.

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