UN health, agriculture agencies launch One Health action plan

The UN’s four key health and agriculture agencies today launched the first-ever One Health Joint Plan of Action, “a framework to integrate systems and capacity so that we can collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats,” Good Day BIO reports.

“One Health is the main approach for addressing the complex health challenges facing our society, such as ecosystem degradation, food system failures, infectious diseases, and antimicrobial resistance,” says the joint statement from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO), and World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH).

One Health involves taking a holistic approach to the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

The One Health Joint Plan of Action offers a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing collaboration, communication, capacity building, and coordination equally across all sectors in charge of addressing health issues at the interface between humans, animals, plants, and the environment. It was created through a participatory process.

Contents of the One Health Joint Plan of Action

According to the WHO, “the five-year plan (2022-2026) focuses on supporting and expanding capacities in six 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; and
  • the environment.

This technical plan of action is supported by research, industry standards, and current recommendations. It covers a range of initiatives that work to enhance one health at the international, regional, and local levels. One of these initiatives is the creation of a forthcoming implementation guide for nations, global partners, and non-state entities like civil society organizations, trade associations, universities, and research institutes.

Why it’s important

We face a rising number of health threats increasingly linked to our relationship with animals and the environment, and made worse by climate change—from the worst bird flu outbreak in the U.S. in years to the growing risk of the next pandemic being caused by drug-resistant bacteria as well the risk of an emerging disease we may not even know about yet.

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

“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,” added FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

Biotech solutions to help address the situation include tools like gene editing crops to withstand disease and climate change, or addressing soil salinization.

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