Tackling pandemics through a One Health approach

The Quadripartite’s One Health Joint Plan of Action promotes an interdisciplinary approach to tackling global health threats.

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimise the health of animals, plants and the environment. It recognises that the health of humans, animals, plants and the wider environment are closely linked and interdependent.

One Health diagram, showing the interdependence of humans, animals and the environment.

Around three quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals. COVID-19, as a likely zoonotic disease, showed how pathogens can emerge from animals with the potential to create a deadly pandemic. As World Organisation for Animal Health Director-General Dr Monique Eloit said:

“Using a One Health lens that brings all relevant sectors together is critical to tackle global health threats, like monkeypox, COVID-19 and Ebola. It all starts with ensuring the health of animals. It all starts with ensuring the health of animals. Animal health is our health – it is everyone’s health.”

It is highly likely that we will face a comparable, or increasingly serious disease threat, driven by factors such as continued population expansion, urbanisation, increase transport, land-use change, climate change and intensification of food systems and habitat loss.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, said:

"Everyone has the right to a clean and healthy environment - the foundation of all life on Earth. The current pandemic unequivocally demonstrates that the degradation of nature is driving up health risks across the board. Efforts by just one sector or specialty cannot prevent or eliminate infectious disease and other complex threats to One Health."

Responding to international requests to prevent future pandemics and to promote health sustainably through the One Health approach, the Quadripartite organisations developed the One Health Joint Plan of Action (OH JPA) to promote an interdisciplinary approach to tackling global health threats. It aims to mitigate challenges to One Health implementation - such as technical, institutional, and professional barriers, as well as sustainability concerns, competing priorities and funding deficiencies.

Supported by the Fleming Fund, the OH JPA brings together decades of work by the Quadripartite to address risks at the human-animal-environment interface.

It aims to decrease the impact of global health threats by 2026, through:

It does this primarily by:

Reiterating the importance of using a One Health approach, World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

“It’s clear that a One Health approach must be central to our shared work to strengthen the world’s defences against epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19. 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.”

The Food and Agricultural Organisation Director-General, QU Dongyu, said:

“One Health should start from proper land management and stopping deforestation, which will help people and their animals in the surrounding environment. We need all sectors working closely together to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation measures."

The OH JPA is approved by the four Quadripartite organisations and welcomed by each of their member countries. The plan should be used as a central resource for global health programme implementation and management, and for policy makers within the One Health sectors.

The Quadripartite are currently co-developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for the first five years, with targets linked to the action plan’s deliverables. Achieving these targets will contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This article has referred to data from the Global Burden of Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) study, supported by the Fleming Fund. The report is available here.

For more information on the emergence and spread of zoonotic disease, please see this article from WHO.

More Like This

To mark One Health Day, we revisit the holistic concept spanning human, animal, and environmental health, which is one of the Fleming Fund’s guiding principles.

What do climate change and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) have in common? The World Health Organization states that climate change is one of humanity’s biggest health threats, and this is exacerbating another – the spread of drug-resistant superbugs. Ecosystem disruption can also be a catalyst for emerging infectious diseases that may subsequently lead to pandemics, increased use of antibiotics, and a rise in AMR.