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Delivering on global health promises – what can a One Health approach offer? Reflections for the World Health Summit

5 November 2019

Last month, at the UN General Assembly, global leaders launched a new vision for global health – a Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All (GAP). The Plan, representing unprecedented collaboration on health between 12 multilateral agencies, emphasises action to increase efficiency and streamline support to countries to deliver universal health coverage and the health-related SDG targets. This is a welcome initiative that attempts to tackle the fragmentation that can often characterise development programmes. However, the Plan overlooks an important approach that is ideally-placed to achieve precisely those objectives: One health.

A One Health approach, which is a “collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment” (CDC), completely aligns with the ambitious and inspirational aims of the GAP, and offers great opportunities to translate these aims into concrete impacts. Here are three examples:

  1. Joint collection of human and animal health data offers opportunity for cost savings, exchange of skills between sectors, better use of analytical capacity and importantly, long-term surveillance. It can also improve prioritisation and target of resources for greatest impact – a key focus of the GAP.
  2. Integrating approaches and resources across sectors can reduce programme costs (for example, joint animal and human vaccination), increase cost effectiveness, sustainability and system strengthening, another GAP objective.
  3. Leaving no one behind is a key objective of the global development agenda, health included. A One Health approach, which is oriented towards respecting people’s livelihoods and cultural considerations in relation to health and the uptake of healthcare services, can be more effective than standard healthcare services at reaching hard-to-reach and ‘resistant’ groups.

So what can be done?

The SCI Foundation is a proud member of the Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network (NNN), home to over 80 not-for-profit organisations working in 100 countries who together mobilise over half a billion USD to support endemic countries to tackle NTDs. It is increasingly focused on issues that cut across all disease areas supporting and advocating for joint action across different sectors.

A One Health working group has recently been established, to ascertain how the approach can be used to target a broader range of zoonotic diseases within NTD programmes and ensure that the investments made in NTDs are used most effectively to build sustainable systems. The group will develop advocacy and programme intervention tools for countries and NGOs, building collaboration with key global agencies to develop a strategic approach. We hope that the NNN can become a robust community of practice around One Health for delivering the forthcoming Global Roadmap on NTDs 2021-2030, while building the profile of One Health as fundamental to achieving the GAP and broader development goals.

The opportunities are clear – it is now time to take action.