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What is One Health Concept & how it can help prevent future pandemics ?

What is One Health Concept & how it can help prevent future pandemics ?


  • GS 3 || Science & Technology || Health & Medicine


  • The concept of One Health is being recognized as an effective way to combat health issues at the human-animal-environment interface, such as zoonotic diseases. To encourage such interdisciplinary collaboration, the concept of ‘One Health’ was proposed. It is used by international organizations tasked with zoonoses control (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies, etc).

Why in the news?

  • The Department of Biotechnology under the Ministry of Science and Technology recently established the country’s first One Health consortium.

What is One Health Concept?

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) introduced the term “One World-One Health” in 2007 along with 12 recommendations (the Manhattan Principles) that focused on establishing a more holistic approach to preventing epidemic disease and maintaining ecosystem integrity.
  • One Health vision derives its blueprint from the agreement between the tripartite-plus alliance comprising the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
  • It is a component of India’s National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Wellbeing.
  • The overarching purpose is to encourage collaborations in research and sharing of knowledge at multiple levels across various disciplines like human health, animal health, plants, soil, environmental, and ecosystem health in ways that improve, protect and defend the health of all species.

Need and Significance of the One Health Concept

  • Growing Importance: It has grown in importance in recent years as a variety of factors have altered interactions between people, animals, plants, and our environment.
    • The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of ‘One Health’ principles in infectious disease governance, particularly efforts to prevent and contain zoonotic diseases around the world.
  • Human Expansion: As human populations continue to grow and expand into new geographic areas, close contact with animals and their environments create more opportunities for diseases to spread between animals and humans. More than 65 percent of contagious diseases affecting humans are zoonotic or animal to man in origin.
  • International Travel and Trade: Because of the increased movement of people, animals, and animal products as a result of international travel and trade, diseases can spread quickly across borders and around the world.
  • Viruses in Wildlife: Scientists have discovered over 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife, many of which are likely to be zoonotic.
    • This means that unless pandemics are detected in time, India will face many more pandemics in the future.
    • Another type of disease, known as “anthropozoonotic” infections, spreads from humans to animals.
    • The transboundary impact of viral outbreaks such as the Nipah virus, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Avian Influenza in recent years has reinforced the need for us to consistently document the links between the environment, animals, and human health.
  • Disruptions in environmental conditions and habitats can create new opportunities for diseases to spread to animals.

Way forward

  • Holistic Collaboration: Because of their multidisciplinary nature, One Health initiatives necessitate collaboration across ministries, navigating tacit institutional hierarchies, and allocating leadership roles. One Health consortia necessitates the cooperation and active participation of individuals, communities, and society.
    • Furthermore, there is a need to cultivate champions in various sectors who can agree on common goals. In terms of political, financial, and administrative accountability, this will encourage innovation, adaptation, and flexibility.
  • Developing Guidelines: Creating best-practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operations (e.g., inspections, disease prevalence assessments), as well as mechanisms to operationalize ‘One Health’ at every stage, all the way down to the village level.
  • Controlling zoonotic pathogens –The most effective and economical approach is to control zoonotic pathogens at their animal source.
    • It calls not only for close collaboration at local, regional, and global levels among veterinary, health, and environmental governance but also for greater investment in animal health infrastructure.
  • Establishing Institutional Mechanisms: Several cross-cutting efforts are already underway in India to develop protocols for a database of zoonotic disease research.
    • However, there is no single agency or framework that brings together all interdisciplinary sectorial players under a single umbrella to advance the ‘One Health’ agenda.
    • As a result, a proper institutional mechanism for implementing the One Health concept must be established.
  • Developing Research facility- The need of the hour is to scale up such a model across the country and to establish meaningful research collaborations across the world.
    • Health, veterinary, agriculture, and life science research institutions and universities can play a lead role.
    • India needs to scale up such a model across the country and establish meaningful research collaborations across the world.


  • Because of agricultural systems that result in uncomfortable proximity of animals and humans, developing countries like India have a much greater stake in strong One Health systems.
  • This makes a compelling case for bolstering veterinary institutions and services. Any further delay could pave the way for the emergence of new communicable diseases.

Mains model Question

  • As India battles yet another outbreak of a deadly zoonotic disease (Covid-19), increased awareness and investment in meeting ‘One Health’ targets is critical. Discuss