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World Food Day Q3 2021

Investing in One Health to prevent the next pandemic

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Petmal

Franck Berthe

Senior Livestock Specialist, Agriculture Global Practice, the World Bank

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already cost the world millions of lives and trillions of dollars. It did not have to be this way.

Future pandemics can be prevented by recognising that animal and human health are interconnected and bound to the health of the ecosystems they share. One Health needs to be the foundation for health security because it considers the interdependence of human, animal and environment health all at once, providing added value over other solutions that are implemented independently. 

Five of the six last public health emergencies of international concern link back to animals, One Health brings a potent solution to health security. 

Future pandemics can be prevented by recognizing that animal and human health are interconnected and bound to the health of the ecosystems they share.

Ensuring everyone is protected 

Health security is about protecting people from threats to their health, not only because it is an equitable thing to do, but because with infectious diseases true health security can only be achieved if everyone is protected. Diseases know no borders.

The bottom line is that One Health is a global public good. All countries must adopt a One Health approach to pandemic prevention. It’s not a “nice to have”, but a “must have”. However, it is not reasonable to expect that individual countries – especially lower-income countries – will prioritise their own resources for this purpose. The current country demand-driven model falls short on delivering critical global public goods such as One Health.

Finding a solution 

A financing mechanism for One Health could provide countries with a dedicated source of additional resources to protect biodiversity, limit environmental degradation, improve animal health management, support healthy food systems, integrate surveillance and enhance coordination to prevent and prepare for emerging infectious diseases. 

Lower-income countries would be eligible, provided that their specific situation, risks and vulnerabilities are assessed and they have a credible costed prevention and preparedness plan. 

As the G20 focuses on ways to prevent and better prepare for future pandemics, now is the time to bring such a mechanism to life. 

Ahead of future pandemics 

We are today in the position to finish the job that was left unfinished during the SARS and Avian Influenza crises, break the cycle of panic and neglect and start building an infrastructure for One Health. 

As for food systems, which host so many drivers of emerging infectious diseases, One Health offers a concrete step toward reducing their footprint so that the way we raise food, use land and feed ourselves contributes to global health, rather than harming it. 

One Health is core to the food systems transformation that so many are calling for and will be critical to building a food system that is better for people, economies and the planet.

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