“One health”: in prevention and preparation for pandemics

& ldquo; Only one health: in pandemic prevention and preparedness

This is not the first time that we have talked about the exchange of infectious agents between humans and animals. The origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the Huanan Seafood Market, located in Wuhan, China, is just one example of the possibility of disease transmission between humans and animals. This is the consequence of the One Health approach, based on the idea that human and animal health are interdependent and linked to the health of the ecosystems in which they coexist. How important is the One Health approach to pandemic prevention and preparedness?

We have long known that animals and humans live together in common environments that influence their mutual health. This concept, dubbed 'One Health' in the early 2000s, highlights the interconnectedness and interdependence of animals, humans and ecosystems.

In some cases, these common environments provide an opportunity for the exchange of infectious agents between species. Zoonoses are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans or vice versa; many infectious agents have the ability to adapt to a new host.

Important changes in our global ecosystem (urbanization, population growth, intensification of agriculture, etc.) are modifying the interactions between animals, humans and the environment, which favors the emergence of new zoonoses. Thus, about three quarters of emerging infectious diseases in humans are of animal origin.

The animal origin of the Covid-19 pandemic is not certain, but its zoonotic nature is well known. It has forced us to collectively realize that human health is not independent of the health of animals (domestic and wildlife) and our shared environment. There is only one health, that of all living organisms that are part of a planetary ecosystem, which, when altered, puts us all at risk for future pandemics.

I am the co-author senior of a guidance note submitted with the Pandemic Treaty proposal and which explains the central role that an equity-oriented “One Health” (OH) approach could play in pandemic prevention and preparedness.


It is increasingly recognized that certain gaps, such as a lack of information exchange between sectors, in local, national and global governance contribute to the emergence and re-emergence of diseases of animal origin. A vast collaboration has been underway to remedy this for a few years now.

A tripartite collaboration for the One Health approach has been created between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Organization of Health (WHO), to which is added the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). This is one of the high-level initiatives most likely to consolidate the adoption of the One Health approach in programs and policies for health for all living things and for sustainability at the global level./p>

First developed to counter the development of antimicrobial resistance, the collaboration published a guide for the control of zoonoses, and this, before the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This new collaboration has resulted in the creation of a High Level Expert Group on the One Health Approach (OHHLEP) which published a new definition of this approach on December 1.

New definition of the “one-health” approach

The new definition of the approach specifies that it is integrated and comprehensive, and aims to balance and sustainably optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems.

It recognizes that it cannot be considered the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants and the environment in isolation.

The approach must involve multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at different levels of society.

The common objectives are to fight against threats to health and ecosystems, to work together to promote well-being and to act on climate change. In doing so, we must meet the collective needs for drinking water, energy, clean air and nutritious food.

” One health “, essential part of the treaty on pandemics

The WHO mobilized by presenting a proposal for the establishment of a treaty on pandemics during a special session of the WHA (World Health Assembly) held from November 29 to December 1, 2021.

The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO. A treaty is a legally binding instrument under international law. An international treaty on pandemics would enable WHO member countries to build national, regional and global capacities and resilience in the face of future pandemics, by improving prevention, surveillance, alert mechanisms and reactions.

My co-authors and I have seen limited integration of the “One Health” principles. into current international treaties and regulations and recommend its inclusion in a future pandemic treaty. We also explain how this would complement and strengthen connectivity (the agility to link, communicate and coordinate) between existing international agreements. We recommend the development and implementation of a universal scale for assessing the implementation of the “One Health” approach. and its success.

The inclusion of “One Health” in a pandemic treaty will help ensure inter/transdisciplinary and multi/intersectoral collaboration. It will require strong commitments to knowledge creation and sharing with support from the international community.

We also recommend the creation of a permanent global structure to ensure its funding and implementation, much like it has been done for biodiversity and against climate change.

A treaty on pandemics integrating “One health” would make it possible to advance prevention and preparation for pandemics and human, animal and environmental health. It would contribute to the protection of biodiversity and would also make it possible to reduce risky activities and generate significant savings both in money and in human and animal life.

During his closing speech to the assembly special, on December 1, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said: “We are humanity. We have a planet. We have health. ”

A treaty incorporating the importance of the One Health approach in the prevention and preparedness for future pandemics at all levels of government, in research, as well as in the organization of interventions is a major step forward. 'planetary scale.

What about Canada?

Canada already has an interdisciplinary action research network called Global 1HN. It aims to strengthen Canadian leadership in improving global governance of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

Canada's adherence to a pandemic treaty incorporating the One Health approach is proving to be an essential step in the right direction to protect not only the health of Canadians, but also that of the living beings who live in them. surround and influence global governance.

Hélène Carabin, Canada Research Chair and Full Professor, Epidemiology and One Health, Université de Montréal and Caroline Kilsdonk, Research Advisor, Groupe de zoonotic epidemiology and public health research, Université de Montréal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 & ldquo; Only one health: in the prevention and preparation for pandemics

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