India’s One Health Mission
Syllabus: GS2/ Health, Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Arising out of their Design & Implementation
- India is currently preparing for a ‘National One Health Mission’ which can help India respond better to health crises.
About One Health Approach
- One Health is a holistic approach to problems that recognises the interconnections between the health of humans, animals, plants, and their shared environment.
- An early articulation can be found in the writings of Hippocrates (460-367 BC), who contemplated the relationships between public health and clean environments.
Significance of One Health Approach
- Link with Zoonoses:
- Human population growth, urbanisation, and industrialisation have compounded the damage to biodiversity and ecosystems.
- These harmful environmental changes are linked to zoonoses – diseases shared between animals and humans.
- Researchers have estimated that 60% of emerging diseases that can infect humans are zoonotic in nature. They include bird flu, Ebola, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis.
- Issues of antimicrobial resistance:
- Humankind has also become beset by major issues of antimicrobial resistance, food safety and security, and the control of vector-borne diseases.
- Taken together, these issues warrant both the intersectoral management and the efficiency that characterises the One Health strategy.
- Minimising resource requirements:
- One Health minimises resource requirements across sectors.
- An important way it does this is by encouraging coordination across governmental units, including the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Environment, and Science and Technology.
- Taking a One Health approach allows researchers to, for example, share their laboratories and findings, and ultimately make decisions that lead to resilient, sustainable, and predictable policies.
- Economic benefits:
- The economic benefits of One Health are understood in contrast to the cost of managing a pandemic with a non-One-Health approach.
- An assessment of the G20 Joint Finance and Health Taskforce estimated the latter to be around $30 billion a year.
- On the other hand, estimates by the World Bank have indicated that the former would cost $10.3 billion to $11.5 billion annually.
India’s One Health initiatives
- COVID-19 initiatives: The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2023 highlighted the importance of adopting a One Health approach. Since COVID-19, many interventions based on the One Health model have been launched worldwide.
- Standing Committee on Zoonoses: The Government of India established its ‘Standing Committee on Zoonoses in 2006 under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
- The purpose of this committee was to provide the Union and the State governments guidance and recommendations on challenges related to zoonoses.
- But the pandemic provided a real boost to this topic; India has also floated a number of initiatives in this direction since then.
- Consortium on One Health: The Department of Biotechnology launched India’s first consortium on One Health in 2021.
- It brings together 27 organisations from several ministries and plans to assess the burden of five transboundary animal diseases and 10 select zoonotic diseases.
- One Health pilot project: In 2022, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairy (DAHD) – in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Confederation of Indian Industry – launched a One Health pilot project in Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
- This initiative intends to strengthen intersectoral collaborations through capacity-building, with the goal of improving livestock health, human health, wildlife health, and environmental health.
- National One Health Mission: India is also currently preparing for a wider ‘National One Health Mission’ to be spearheaded by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor.
- The idea behind this mission is to coordinate, support, and integrate all existing One Health initiatives in the country.
Suggestions to switch to a One Health approach
- Communication: Basic mechanisms for communication between various ministries and/or sectors are required.
- The focus is on keeping the important stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the One Health transformation, and helping them meet regularly and review progress.
- Collaboration: After initiating communication between the relevant sectors, sector members need to exchange their knowledge and expertise in order to translate ideas into short-term interventions.
- Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of different sectors in zoonoses management is crucial in this stage.
- For example, to manage a zoonotic disease, collaboration means assessing and lowering disease risk, surveillance, building capacity at different institutions, research, and public outreach.
- Coordination: The activities carried out during this stage are usually routine and long-term. Initiatives to achieve One Health in this stage are spearheaded by a national or a subnational agency (so that it has the authority and the resources to coordinate several ministries).
- India’s forthcoming ‘National One Health Mission’ would be an appropriate example of this stage.
- Integration: A policy framework that helps the relevant sectors to efficiently share resources and streamline their current programmes is essential.
- India’s national and subnational programmes – such as MoHFW’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and DAHD’s Livestock Health and Disease Control scheme – are currently not integrated with other sectors, resulting in uncoordinated, ad hoc initiatives.
- To reap all the advantages of a One Health approach, India should move beyond short-term collaborations and create an integrated, science-based environment.
- Certain samples like blood, tissue, faecal matter, and effluent water are also expensive and come with ethical implications, and an integrated system that deals with them can prove especially beneficial.
- In such a system, researchers from various disciplines should be able to use laboratories as necessary and generate the requisite inputs will go a long way to meeting major challenges with the One Health approach.
Daily Mains Question
[Q] Analyse the significance of the One Health Approach to meet major global health challenges. Suggest a transformation process for India to switch to a One Health approach.