Strengthen health emergency preparedness with one-health approach, expert urges FG

By Abujah Racheal

A Public Health expert, Dr Gabriel Adakole said that as the country recovers from COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government should strengthen health emergency preparedness based on One-Health Approach.

Adakole told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Monday in Abuja, that the country could rebuild resilient health systems and equitable society that would ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and social protection mechanisms for all.

NAN reports that One-Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems.

It recognises the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent.

The approach mobilises multiple sectors, discipline and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for healthy food, water, energy, and air.

The expert said the country has had some experiences in implementing One Health approach.

“The National Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Avian Influenza and the National Technical Committee on Avian Influenza set up in Nigeria in 2005, involved multidisciplinary staff from multiple ministries, (including agriculture and health), communicators and industry players.

“The One-Health approach gave rise to a successful multi-sectoral emergency action plan that led to the elimination of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 in the country in 2006,” he said.

According to him, in spite of all progress with One Health in the country, the 2020 review by the International Livestock Research Institute identified gaps in implementation.

This included lack of awareness among policymakers and the public of One Health issues such as hygiene, biosecurity and antimicrobial resistance.

“Other gaps included the inadequate contribution of financial, human and material resources by the governments and lack of One Health policies, guidelines and strategic plans in the country.

“The review also identified weak linkages and unhealthy rivalry between various sectors, poor data sharing and communication among relevant sectors and a paucity of data about zoonoses to guide One Health policymaking,” he said.

Adakole said that the one health approach was a key ingredient in the fight against present and future pandemics in the country.

“If we can be consistent with this approach, we will make a lot of progress,” he said.

He said there was need for connectivity among all stakeholders to bring about efficiency, cost-effectiveness and optimal result in public health.

“The areas of work in which a One-Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses and combatting antibiotic resistance.

“One Health can be achieved through joint efforts in clinical care through the assessment, treatment and prevention of cross-species disease transmission.

“Until we stop to politicise the one health concept in Nigeria, our approach to emergency preparedness for emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases will continue to be distorted and it will yield little or no result,” he said.

Adakole called on stakeholders to propose a framework to guide the embedding of One-Health practices across the country.

“Raising awareness and increasing understanding of One Health at all levels of society is critical.

“Advocacy, communication and social-mobilisation strategies should be intensified to ensure buy-in by policy makers, the public and thus catalyse collaborative and proactive One Health action.

He explained that strong governance and leadership were required across all One Health sectors in the country, with inter-ministerial, multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration, as coordinating mechanisms to improve data sharing and limit territoriality.

Adakole said that economic interventions, political agreements and social-justice policies that targeted addressing socioeconomic inequities driving conflicts across the country would support SDG 10 – reduced inequalities.

“Only by fully implementing One Health approaches will the country, and indeed humanity, effectively and sustainably prevent and respond to epidemics and achieve global health and food security,” he said. (NAN)