South Asia Regional One Health Symposium: Resolutions

The Symposium considered needs for strengthening the implementation of a “one health” approach to the management of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases in South Asia and emphasized the crucial importance of adopting an integrated strategy for these diseases, incorporating human health, domestic animal health and wildlife health.

Over 120 participants from seven countries of the South Asia region (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and from international organizations reviewed progress which they have achieved in recent years through national initiatives and the support of external organizations and donors.

Participants expressed their particular appreciation to the European Union, World Bank, and Massey University for the strong support and encouragement which they have provided to strengthen One Health in South Asia through the Animal and Human Influenza Trust Fund administered by World Bank, including the Regional Training Program in Animal and Human Health Epidemiology for South Asia.

This program has provided opportunities for regional cooperative activities including advanced training opportunities for the seven countries and specific zoonotic disease investigations.

Nine regional resolutions were formulated in the One Health Symposium (download the Symposium Resolutions)

Symposium Resolutions

1. Networking, communication and information sharing to strengthen relationships within countries and across the region.

Generate and maintain a common interest in using a One Health approach across the public and private sectors, both within and among countries through supporting the community of people working in human, animal and environmental health for the control of zoonotic diseases. Establish a common set of regional resources that allow for more efficient delivery of health services. This should include a list of institutions and people working in One Health, an automated service to deliver timely information about health news and events, tested Standard Operating Procedures for disease investigation and management, public information brochures, and epidemiological resources for disease investigation. Make full use of Hubnet, a system which was developed within the Regional Training Program in Animal and Human Health Epidemiology for South Asia, as a core resource for regional activities. Seek involvement of other government sectors such as environmental protection and management, wildlife health, crop agriculture and food safety to effectively manage risks to human or animal health. Adopt use of established professional networks and environments such as One Health Hubs and Hubnet that permit efficient identification of existing knowledge and human resources, and that foster collaborative solutions to complex health-related problems. Encourage sharing of information about disease occurrence between the human, animal and environmental health sectors.

2. Advocate for political support of an integrated One Health approach Generate country-specific recommendations for policy makers on integrated control of endemic zoonotic diseases as well as other potential threats to human sustenance, based on scientific data.

Promote risk communication materials that promote public awareness of the importance of zoonotic diseases. Promote a One Health approach to the control of zoonotic diseases. Produce and publish in peer reviewed journals a discussion paper that describes the value of multi-sectoral, regional approach to control of zoonotic diseases citing case studies and existent government and quasi-government structures as examples. This paper should be co-authored by individuals from different countries representing South Asia. Regular orientation of concerned politico-administrative group about activities/ developments. 

3. Evidence-based policy framework Strengthen information systems within each country that can support policy decisions and improvement of surveillance strategies.

Strengthen the evidence-basis that demonstrates the increased value of a multi-sectoral, regional approach to the control of zoonotic and emerging diseases. Establish a method for estimating the total economic burden of zoonotic diseases in a country. This will incorporate systematic reviews of existing data and prospective research that fills the information gaps at both micro- and macroeconomic levels. Robust methods for prioritization of zoonotic diseases will naturally follow. Support One Health initiatives for poverty alleviation and sustainable environmental development. Ensure community participation in the One Health approach.

4. Create a regional strategy for research on zoonotic diseases.

Develop a strategic regional agenda for research on zoonotic and emerging diseases that recognizes the importance of specific transboundary diseases. Complete a systematic review of historical and current research on priority zoonoses that can assist in identification of critical knowledge gaps. 

5. Institutionalise a One Health approach in government.

Develop or strengthen coordinating structures to undertake One Health activities within the existing ministerial structure in each country. 

6. Increase epidemiological capacity across technical departments of the government Increase existing capacity within the government sector in disciplines important to control of zoonotic diseases including sociology, entomology, environmental health, and wildlife management.

Encourage incorporating basic training in the philosophy of One Health into the standard curricula for veterinary, public health, medical, and food preparation/hygiene training programs, including why the approach can provide a more effective means of preventing and controlling disease. Ensure adequate access to postgraduate training in one health approaches to control of emerging diseases. 

7. Enhance One Health surveillance and control of zoonotic and emerging diseases at the regional, national, provincial and field levels.

Strengthen joint surveillance and response systems within and between countries, in particular in areas sharing a common border. Encourage engagement and collaboration between animal and public health institutions at national, provincial and field levels in the areas of zoonotic disease research, surveillance, diagnosis and control.

8. Establish capability and resources to respond to zoonotic disease emergencies.

Strengthen formal standing working groups that include representation of animal, human, wildlife, and environmental health sectors and that are able to be activated in response to zoonotic disease emergencies and ensure sustainable funding for such activities.

9. Leverage existing One Health resources.

Create/update a national and regional registry of disease laboratory resources, including testing capability and capacity of laboratories. Organise and activate a regionally active program of quality assurance practices such as serum banking, monthly testing of reference samples amongst laboratories for priority diagnostic tests, reference organisms, and staff/technician exchanges. Establish a regional working group to optimize vaccine production and utilisation in the region to ensure cost-effective zoonotic disease control programmes. Create a mechanism to identify existing regional Centres of Excellence in epidemiology, wildlife diseases, sociology/anthropology expertise, economics, and other specialities that have application to the control of zoonotic and emerging diseases.