A ‘One Health’ approach uniting human, animal and environmental health will be needed to prevent the next pandemic, a report has found.
The joint report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) said COVID-19 is part of a rising trend of diseases such as Ebola, MERS and Rift Valley fevers that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population.
In the last century there have been at least six major outbreaks of novel coronaviruses. And in the two decades before COVID-19 zoonotic disease cost an estimated economic damage of USD 100 billion. Some 60% of known infectious diseases and 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
Zoonotic diseases are on the rise due to a range of issues and the authors have highlighted seven key drivers including climate change, which has already been shown likely to increase the frequency of pandemics.
The other driving factors listed in the report are increased human demand for animal protein, unsustainable agricultural intensification, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, increased travel and transportation, and changes in food supply.
UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said: “The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead.
Andersen added: “Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.”
The report, ‘Preventing the next pandemic - Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission’, argues further outbreaks can be avoided as long as governments around the world take decisive action using a ‘One Health’ approach and have put forward ten recommendations (below).
‘One Health’ is not a new idea and builds on other experts’ work, including that of the Tripartite Alliance between the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the World Health Organisation.
“We were warned that the current pandemic was a matter of if, not when. It is a human failing that we predict but do not prepare. Now we must become more proactive to avoid another pandemic and address endemic zoonotic diseases. This means recognising that human health, animal health and planetary health cannot be separated, and planning our responses accordingly.”
• Invest in interdisciplinary approaches including One Health
• Expand scientific research into zoonotic diseases
• Improve cost-benefit analyses of interventions to include full-cost accounting of societal impacts of disease
• Raise awareness of zoonotic diseases
• Strengthen monitoring and regulation associated with zoonotic diseases - including food systems
• Incentivise sustainable land management practices that preserve habitats and biodiversity
• Improve biosecurity and control, identify key drivers of emerging diseases in animal husbandry and encourage proven management and zoonotic disease control measures
• Support sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes
• Strengthen capacities among health stakeholders in all countries
• Use the One Health approach in land-use and sustainable development planning, implementation and monitoring