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World Livestock 2013
Changing disease landscapes

10 March 2014 The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently published a significant report on the global shifts in animal disease dynamics entitled World Livestock 2013: Changing disease landscapes. Following on from the first in the series, World Livestock 2011: Livestock in food security (FAO, 2011), this new publication focuses on the challenges posed by the growing number of pandemic threats and emerging diseases of animal origin. It also elaborates on the persistent zoonoses and high impact livestock diseases that place a direct threat on the food and income security of rural- and livestock-dependent communities.

Changing disease landscapes is an analysis of the numerous and complex global factors behind the ongoing animal-to-human pathogen shifts, in a bid to examine why and how pathogens of animal origin have become major global health threats and what might be done to mitigate these threats. By using the term "disease landscapes", the publication references a combination of ecological, physical, economic and social factors that drive disease dynamics and influence the interplay between pathogen, host and environment.

Changing disease landscapes is explored using the Pressure–State–Response framework. This approach helps to analyse disease dynamics in their agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts and to clarify the link between human action and disease. The publication articulates: (i) the global factors (Pressure) that contribute to the emergence, spread and persistence of pathogens; (ii) the resulting disease (State) and its impact; and (iii) the Response required.

The expanding human population is becoming ever more reliant on animals for food, increasing pressures on livestock production and on the natural resource base. The report details the economic, social and demographic changes that impact the earth's natural resources and contributes an analysis of factors driving today’s global disease landscapes. These include: (i) changing farming and food supply systems; (ii) rapid livestock intensification; (iii) shifts in land use; (iv) increased global travel and trade; (v) climate change; and (vi) persistent poverty and inadequate public and animal health systems. These global trends affect livestock production and increase the potential for diseases to emerge, grow and spread from animals to humans.

In the report, FAO advocates a paradigm shift in risk assessment that endorses proactive and interdisciplinary approaches in order to mitigate disease impacts. This will mean fewer infected cases over time through robust early warning, detection and response mechanisms. The report also promotes the One Health perspective to investigate the interplay between environmental factors, animal health and human health, and to bring health professionals, veterinary specialists, sociologists, economists, ecologists and communication experts together in health risk management and preventive action. The One Health approach is rapidly gaining in relevance and acceptance, but an international policy and institutional support will be necessary to achieve the required paradigm shift in global health management.

Global health threats are anticipated to continue unless structural solutions are found and more effective action is taken to address the variety of underlying causes. "World Livestock 2013: Changing disease landscapes" serves as a call for a global effort to restore health protection with greater emphasis on building social and agro-ecological resilience, strengthening health systems and developing safety practices at the grassroots level. By integrating global health within the broader set of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, FAO is working to explore synergies across health and development sectors and collaborate with national public and private structures.


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FAO chief veterinarian Juan Lubroth discusses the report


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