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©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Strengthened early warning systems are urgently needed to reduce the risk of global health crises

21/01/2022

World experts met to identify essential components of a One Health Intelligence System for early warning and risk assessment.

Improved early warning systems are needed to reduce the risk from unknown emerging zoonotic diseases – those diseases that can spread between animals and people. This message was shared with participants at the One Health Intelligence Scoping Study (OHISS) External Advisory Group (EAG) workshop hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO), also known as the Tripartite, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The workshop brought together 65 stakeholders from across various sectors to introduce the OHISS and gather information on best practices for multisectoral data and information sharing systems at national and international level, to strengthen data integration, analysis, risk assessment and reporting. Participants included technical experts from the EAG, the OHISS team, and the Tripartite and UNEP.

The COVID-19 crisis has emphasized the need to be better prepared for future pandemics to reduce the risk to global health security. Preventing a future pandemic or ensuring a more effective response depends on systems for early warning and identification of changing risk factors, including systems integrating information from multiple sectors. 

Therefore, the OHISS aims to review existing information systems and develop a global One Health intelligence framework for improved early detection and risk assessment. This rapid alert system will allow the capture of real-time data and better protect global health security against emerging threats.  

A One Health approach

Zoonotic pathogens can emerge at any time, threatening all societies' health and well-being, including economies. As the health of humans, animals, plants and the wider environment are closely linked and interconnected, the data and information collected and assessed for an effective One Health intelligence framework will need to be broad-based to enable early warning of emerging threats.

An estimated 60 percent of human pathogens originated in animals – about three-quarters of which are of wildlife origin. A One Health approach can improve early detection and rapid response to potential threats at the human-animal-environment interface while protecting biodiversity.

By collecting and sharing epidemiological data and laboratory information across sectors and borders, countries will more effectively anticipate and respond to plant, animal and foodborne disease outbreaks.

Addressing health threats at the animal-human-ecosystems interface

The Tripartite and UNEP are increasing their collaboration to support and mainstream the implementation of the One Health approach globally. Within the context of One Health, FAO, OIE, WHO and UNEP work to support Members to strengthen monitoring, surveillance and reporting systems at the regional, national and local levels to prevent and detect the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, animal and zoonotic disease emergence and control disease spread.

The workshop is an essential step towards a more joined-up One Health intelligence system, significantly enhancing global detection, assessment and response to shared health hazards.

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