New Delhi: Seeking to address the rapidly growing challenges our healthcare systems are currently facing, over a hundred healthcare professionals have joined hands with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) under the “Doctors for One Health” initiative. It acts as a network for these esteemed professionals to collectively endorse the perspective of integrated healthcare – termed ‘One health’ by the WHO – highlighting the undeniable connect between the environment, human and animal health. As its first undertaking, the collective has submitted a petition to the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan urging him for Enactment and Enforcement of Rules to prevent future recurrence of global pandemic such as SARS-CoV-2.
The initiative – bringing together professionals from renowned institutions such as AIIMS New Delhi, Lady Harding Medical College, Maulana Azad College among others – not only acts as a network to endorse One Health for the world, but also urges the government for the immediate banning of wet markets, and the enforcement of harsher rules and closures of slaughterhouses that do not follow FSSAI guidelines and rules under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001.
Welcoming the endeavour, Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) states: “The One Health approach is not only a smarter and more holistic approach to adopt, but – with the unified voice of Indian healthcare professionals – is also one that presents a compelling and powerful catalyst for change. The goals of the collaboration facilitate a safe and sustainable world free of zoonotic viruses, as well a revamped, more robust health infrastructure.”
Dr Mini Khurana, MBBS, Lady Harding Medical College, delighted in this proposition, one unlike she’s seen before in her field, notes: “Perhaps one of the rarer silver linings in the collective gloom of this year has been initiatives like this, and how we are willing to learn and collaborate in trying times. I am proud of the community rallying towards this noble, and necessary cause. One Health requires us to think of animal and human health together.”
Coronaviruses represent a continuous pandemic threat; humans have experienced two coronavirus-related health security crises since 2003. COVID-19 is a recent example of the complex threats of emerging infectious diseases. Emerging infections in humans and animals, along with other threats such as antimicrobial resistance, are difficult challenges to humanity, to a large extent driven by increasing demand for unsustainable animal agriculture. Considering this, the initiative seeks to address unethical animal based consumption, and provide healthy and sustainable plant based consumption alternatives.
“Doctors for One Health” underscores that in order to successfully decrease the risk for a new SARS-CoV-2 outbreak or an outbreak of a similar virus, a ‘One Health’ approach is crucial. The implementation of WHO’s One Health measures will likely reduce the risk of emerging zoonotic viruses of pandemic potential in the future. These measures may include not only implementation of legislations but also collaborative interdisciplinary control measures between agricultural and public health sectors. The interdisciplinary One Health approach represents an attempt to deal with such complex problems engaging professionals from many disciplines such as human, veterinary, and environmental health, as well as social sciences.
A strong and firm government response underpins change, as it helps both legitimize and enforce what needs to be done. The petition submitted to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare specifically demands:
Enforcement of rules regarding wet markets and meat markets which are a hotbed of diseases
Focus on One Health and not just market forces: End unsustainable intensive farming of livestock
Stronger Enforcement of Ban of Wildlife Consumption
Closure of all slaughterhouses that do not follow FSSAI guidelines and rules under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001