The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the world’s global health security networks, says a new four paper Series published in The Lancet. The Series authors argue we must implement a ‘One Health’ approach globally, with human, animal and environmental health organisations working together to prevent, monitor and respond to public health emergencies.
In The Lancet Series on One Health and Global Health Security, the authors call for greater investment in the One Health approach, especially for preventive and preparedness interventions for health emergencies. Clear evidence exists of the benefits in terms of the number of human and animal lives saved and financial savings resulting from closer cross-sectoral cooperation. Billions of US dollars per year are required to make a real impact on prevention and preparedness globally – a small fraction of the cost of responding and recovering from a global health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
A global analysis of One Health Networks reveals gaps and disparities in geographic distribution and partnership structures with more networks active and headquartered in Europe and North America than other regions. The Series argues the One Health movement must break free from power structures centred in high-income countries to establish more egalitarian global networks that address the breadth of issues and serve communities most affected by emerging and existing health security threats. Additionally, priorities for funding must move beyond subsidies and grants for a development and academic industry based in high income countries, to focus more closely on measurable technology transfer and self-sufficiency in LMICs.
The Series also found that environmental organisations are often missing from the design and agenda setting of One Health Networks which limits the extent to which a full One Health approach is being practiced. Authors call for One Health approaches to involve more environmental health and community organisations to better integrate environmental, wildlife and farming issues into addressing challenges relating to disease spill over and the threat of future pandemics.
Dr. Osman Dar, Chatham House, London & an author on the Series, says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into much sharper focus the interconnectedness of human health, animal health, and the state of the environment, and the catastrophic impact of underestimating threats that emerge at this interface. As countries, seek to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, adopting integrated One Health approaches with a full consideration of its underlying principles will be key to achieving meaningful progress and building back better.”