Cattle herded home in the evening in Mozambique

Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A group of research experts associated with the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium have called for a system-based ‘One Health’ approach to help catalyze better preparedness and surveillance that are informed by cross-disciplinary approaches.

One Health is a globally recognised approach established to promote the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines, working locally, nationally and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

Writing in an Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Rapid Response Briefing titled Zoonoses – From Panic to Planning (January 2013), the researchers also note that One Health could help “accelerate research discoveries, enhance the efficacy of response and prevention efforts, and improve education and care”.

However, realigning policy to embrace One Health requires a shift in focus from the current disease-centred approach to one that considers the whole system and takes into account human health, animal health and ecosystems.

Over two-thirds of all human infectious diseases have their origins in animals. The rate at which these zoonotic diseases have appeared in people has increased over the past 40 years, with at least 43 newly identified outbreaks since 2004. In 2012, outbreaks included Ebola in Uganda, yellow fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rift Valley fever in Mauritania.

Zoonotic diseases have a huge impact – and a disproportionate one on the poorest people in the poorest countries. In low-income countries, 20% of human sickness and death is due to zoonoses. Poor people suffer further when development implications are not factored into disease planning and response strategies.

A new, integrated ‘One Health’ approach to zoonoses that moves away from top-down disease-focused intervention is urgently needed. With this, we can put people first by factoring development implications into disease preparation and response strategies – and so move from panic to planning.

The briefing is lead authored by Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). She leads ILRI’s research team on animal health, food safety and zoonoses as well as a research component on prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

Citation: Grace D, Holley C, Jones K, Leach M, Marks N, Scoones I, Welburn S and Wood J. 2013. Zoonoses – From panic to planning. IDS Rapid Response Briefing 2. IDS (Institute of Development Studies), Brighton, UK.