In October 2022 the WHO, as part of a wider Quadripartite, launched a One Health Joint Plan of Action. The Quadripartite includes the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the WHO, and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). The plan aims to “create a framework to integrate systems and capacity” in order to “prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats”. The initiative hopes to improve human health but also animal, plant, and environmental health. Sustainability will also be at the forefront of its mission.
The One Health Joint Plan of Action (OHJPA) was developed through a “participatory process” and offers activities to “strengthen collaboration, communication, capacity building, and coordination” across all sectors. It is a 5-year plan addressing 6 key areas:
- One Health capacities for health systems,
- Emerging and re-emerging zoonotic epidemics,
- Endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical, and vector-borne diseases,
- Food safety risks,
- Antimicrobial resistance,
- The environment
It is “informed by evidence, best practices, and existing guidance”. Covering actions to advance One Health at all levels, the document includes the development of an “upcoming implementation guidance”. Operational objectives include:
- Providing a framework for collective and coordinated action to mainstream the One Health approach at all levels,
- Providing upstream policy, legislative advice, and technical assistance to help national targets and priorities,
- Promoting multinational, multi-sector, multidisciplinary collaboration, learning and exchange of knowledge, solutions, and technologies.
“It also fosters the values of cooperation and shared responsibility, multisectoral action and partnership, gender equity, and inclusiveness.”
The importance of One Health
The WHO describes One Health as the “main approach” to addressing “complex health challenges” that we are facing. These include ecosystem degradation and antimicrobial resistance. WOAH Director General Dr Monique Eloit believes that it is a “lens” that brings together “all relevant sectors”. This is “critical” in the fight against global health threats.
“Animal health is our health”.
The Director-General of FAO, Qu Dongyu, echoed the importance of starting with the environment.
“We need all sectors working closely together to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation measures”.
For UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, a “clean and healthy environment” is the “foundation of all life on Earth”. She referred to the “current pandemic” as demonstrating that the “degradation of nature” increases health risks “across the board”. However, this can’t be tackled by one sector alone. She hopes the Joint Plan of Action will “drive down health risks through an integrated approach to human, animal, and environment health”.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reflected that a One Health approach will be “central” to strengthening our defences against disease.
“That’s why One Health is one of the guiding principles of the new international agreement for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, which our Member States are now negotiating.”
To hear more about One Health approaches in vaccine development at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington 2023 get your tickets here.