SWITZERLAND —The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling upon global leaders to intensify their commitment and efforts to invest in the “One Health” approach, which seeks to address common threats impacting the health and well-being of humans, animals, plants, and the environment as a unified system.

In recognition of the eighth annual “One Health Day” celebrated each year on November 3, the WHO has joined community organizations to raise awareness about the significance of the One Health approach.

This approach centers on understanding the interplay between human actions and policies and their impact on the health of animals and the environment.

One Health Day offers a platform for individuals to educate themselves about the intricate connections between human, animal, plant, and environmental health.

The One Health approach is a proven strategy for policymaking and cross-sector collaboration with the goal of preventing zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, enhancing food safety, and maintaining sustainable food production.

Additionally, it aims to reduce antimicrobial-resistant infections and address environmental concerns, all of which collectively contribute to the betterment of human, animal, and environmental health, among other vital areas.

The One Health approach fosters cooperation among various stakeholders, including veterinarians, doctors, epidemiologists, public health practitioners, wildlife experts, and community leaders.

This collaborative effort transcends traditional boundaries and enables a concerted response to major health threats.

Global health challenges

The world faces numerous health challenges linked to the climate crisis, water contamination, food safety, and increasing disease outbreaks.

For example, air pollution results in seven million human deaths annually and US$3 trillion in losses.

Antimicrobial resistance contributes to five million human deaths each year, with an expected economic loss of up to US$100 trillion by 2050.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an estimated six million human deaths by 2022, accompanied by over US$3.5 trillion in economic losses.

Leading the charge for the One Health approach is the Quadripartite collaboration on One Health, consisting of WHO, FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).

In October 2022, the Quadripartite introduced the One Health Joint Plan of Action (OH JPA) for 2022-2026, serving as a framework for advancing and sustaining One Health practices.

Additionally, a guide on implementing the OH JPA at the national level will be launched in December this year to provide practical guidance for countries on adopting and adapting the OH JPA.

One Health is not merely a concept but a sustainable way of coexisting on our planet, akin to a lifestyle. Individuals can contribute in various ways, such as preserving wildlife in their natural habitats and abstaining from wildlife trading.

Other actions include following prescribed antibiotic treatments as directed by healthcare professionals, ensuring pets are vaccinated, and reducing carbon-intensive transportation by walking or biking for short trips. Everyone plays a role in the One Health approach.

Economic advantages of One Health initiatives

Beyond saving lives and promoting well-being, One Health initiatives offer substantial economic benefits.

According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank, One Health endeavors could contribute at least US$37 billion annually to the global community.

Remarkably, investing in One Health requires less than 10% of this amount. For instance, adopting a One Health approach to prevent deforestation could generate ancillary benefits of US$4.3 billion through reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, emphasized, “A One Health approach makes public health sense, economic sense, and common sense. It’s evident that safeguarding and enhancing human health is intrinsically linked to the well-being of animals and the planet on which all life depends.

“We welcome the growing global political consensus on One Health, and we are dedicated to assisting countries in translating the One Health concept into impactful action.”

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