From ONE Nation G7 to ONE Health

I watched the summit very closely looking for any clues as to the G7 nations’ stance surrounding the One Health initiative.  We are delighted that the summit saw a breakthrough in recognising the vital importance of One Health and the direct impact that it has on all our lives – human, animal and environmental.  So, what is One Health and why is it so pivotal to our lives right now as we have been suffering from a global pandemic? To quote the World Health Organisation:

‘One Health is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combatting antibiotic resistance (when bacteria changes after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).’

One Health is at the heart of ACTAsia’s work with children’s education, veterinary training, fighting zoonoses and our work in recognising the vital importance of the interdependence of humans, animals and the environment. Currently we are very focused on the human aspect and One Health is saying that we are all in this together.

Never could this be more relevant than in today’s Covid19 world. Conspiracy theories abound as to the origins of coronavirus but the current scientific consensus is that the virus is most likely of zoonotic origin, from bats or another closely-related mammal.  Since 1918, seven pandemics have caused the deaths of, in aggregate, over 70 million people. Each of these pandemics started with a virus that spilled over from animals, mainly from wildlife, to people. By clearing rainforests, trading wildlife, and raising domestic animals in close proximity to wildlife, we are creating more opportunities for viruses with pandemic potential to spread – which is ultimately spilling over to humans.

Whilst the vaccine rollout is continuing apace worldwide, world leaders need to recognise that the most likely threat for new pandemics comes not from humans, but largely from animals and what we have done to them and their natural habitats. This is why One Health and its message that our interaction with nature has far reaching implications is so vital to all our lives and why the move by the G7 summit in recognising its importance is momentous. Our planet literally depends upon it. 

So much of ACTAsia’s work is related to One Health and our educational programmes are in line with One Health initiatives. Since the outbreak of Covid, we are finding that nations – and individuals – are finally starting to take One Health seriously. Covid19 has shown how a virus can easily migrate from animals to people.

An example of the work ACTAsia has been doing towards a One Health world, is the implementation of a veterinary training programme, Train the Trainer (TTT). This programme helps to promote fundamental standards in the treatment of companion animals in China. Veterinarians learn best practice across a range of areas through a course of workshops, including the importance of vaccinations to control rabies Through this programme, ACTAsia is able to educate vets in best practice and help to put a stop to rabies and other zoonotic diseases that spread from the animal world into the human world.

Our TTT programme is a welcome initiative throughout China, especially in second and third tier cities where clinics for companion animals are still a relatively new idea. Once certified, vets are encouraged to take their new knowledge and share it with colleagues through peer-to-peer training. This way, ACTAsia can reach many more practising professionals than they could train first-hand in order to advocate best practice across the country.  In fact, several leading experts, in promoting the One Health initiative, also confirm that more support is needed from the veterinary communities globally. That’s why we have placed so much emphasis on the importance of One Health into our TTT training programme this year.

I am so excited that ACTAsia has recently been recognised by the UN for Good Practice for our Caring for Life children’s education programme. It is hoped that by educating our future caretakers of the planet that they will show compassion towards animals, nature and our greater environment thereby adopting a One Health approach.

ACTAsia’s campaign for promoting fur-free fashion is also contributing to One Health initiatives.  Mink farming, for example, poses a huge risk of zoonotic disease spreading through the animal community and potentially taking a hold on human lives. Our UN award winning Consumer Education programme will help to raise global awareness about the dangers of using fur within the fashion industry. I am always surprised by how unaware people are on the ramifications of purchasing a fur garment. The fur industry has significant impact on animal welfare, the natural world and – by virtue of the inter-dependence between them all – our own health.