The world’s largest publicly-funded agricultural research partnership, CGIAR, is currently developing a series of initiatives to implement its 2030 research and innovation strategy that was launched in early 2021.
The research initiatives are designed to create lasting impact in five key areas:
- nutrition, health and food security;
- poverty reduction, livelihoods and jobs;
- gender equality, youth and social inclusion;
- climate adaptation and mitigation; and
- environmental health and biodiversity.
One of these research initiatives, Protecting human health through a One Health approach, aims to improve the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), foodborne diseases and zoonoses in seven target countries: Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam.
The development of the One Health initiative is being led by a team of scientists from four CGIAR research centres — the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WorldFish — in collaboration with external research partners from Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire, EcoHealth Alliance and the University of Liverpool.
To ensure alignment of the proposed initiative with national priorities, the team convened a series of online consultative meetings with research collaborators to gain insights on the main One Health priorities, challenges, interventions and partner organizations in the respective countries.
The Vietnam meeting, hosted by ILRI, took place on 30 July 2021, bringing together some 90 participants from government ministries, universities as well as national and international research organizations.
In his opening remarks, Vu Thanh Liem, deputy director general, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said the current COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment. People cannot attain sustainable development from the livestock sector without paying attention to ensuring safe food and good health for people. He welcomed feedback and recommendations from stakeholders to make the initiative really meet the needs of Vietnam over the next years.
Dieter Schillinger, ILRI’s deputy director general for biosciences research and development, opened the meeting with a word of welcome and an overview of CGIAR’s 2030 research and innovation strategy that will guide the implementation of the new research initiatives, including this one about One Health.
He mentioned that Vietnam is one of the countries that has embraced One Health approach in tackling transboundary and zoonotic diseases. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam is known as a hotspot for these diseases that not only cause serious damage to human health, livelihoods and the environment, but are also expected to occur more often in the coming years due to intensified livestock production and rapid urbanization. The development of this One Health research initiative is a collaborative process and ILRI is working closely with other CGIAR research centres and external partners from research and academia, including those represented at the meeting.
Hung Nguyen, co-leader of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program, followed with an overview of the rationale of the One Health initiative, citing the need for a One Health approach to tackle the complexity of the global public health challenges posed by the rising incidences of antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses.
He outlined the three main objectives of the One Health initiative, namely to generate evidence for decision-making, evaluate impacts of One Health approaches, and scale up innovations into national policies and programs.
He further highlighted the initiative’s Theory of Change, explaining how the research outputs are expected to lead to specific development outcomes and impact by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The team estimates that between 4 million and 41 million cases of disease will be averted annually through the initiative’s efforts.
The initiative’s research activities are expected to take place through five work packages:
- food safety;
- antimicrobial resistance;
- environment (water and wildlife interfaces); and
- economics, governance and behaviour.
The work package leaders briefly presented the goals of their respective work packages, giving examples of planned innovations.
Bernard Bett, ILRI senior scientist and head of the ILRI-hosted One Health Centre in Africa, outlined the two main objectives of the zoonoses work package: pre-empting the spread of zoonoses at the wildlife-livestock interface and reducing the incidence of zoonotic pathogens associated with poverty. Among other innovations, the work package plans to map the risk of key endemic zoonoses and develop diagnostic kits for surveillance of zoonoses.
Nguyen explained that the food safety work package aims to reduce the burden of foodborne disease in traditional (informal) food value chains, with a focus on animal-source foods and other perishables such as fruits and vegetables. Planned innovations include training and certification of food handlers and traders, promotion of consumer demand for safe food, and behavioural nudges to encourage safe food handling practices.
He noted that AMR is a silent pandemic and many low- and middle-income countries do not have effective surveillance programs, resulting in lack of data on the burden of antimicrobial resistance. The work package on antimicrobial resistance will focus on reducing antimicrobial use (AMU) in crop, fish and livestock production systems and reducing antimicrobial transmission from animals to people through food. Planned innovations include the generation evidence on the economic impact of interventions to reduce antimicrobial use and the development of tools to help farmers use antimicrobials more prudently.
Nguyen explained that the goal of the economics, governance and behaviour work package is to understand the drivers of people’s behaviour within food systems and the impact of policies and governance approaches on this behaviour. An example of an innovation under this work package is a performance management system for government officials responsible for implementing surveillance and enforcing regulations on antimicrobial use or food safety. Another innovation is a system to ensure inclusion of small-scale farmers, traders, food vendors and vulnerable groups so that they benefit from One Health outcomes.
During parallel group discussions on the work packages, participants gave feedback on the main One Health challenges, priority interventions, actions to ensure inclusion and partner institutions in Vietnam.
With regard to control of zoonoses, some of the key challenges identified were the limited capacities of medical and veterinary sectors, weak surveillance systems, budgetary constraints, inefficient collaboration among agencies at different levels, limited evidence on zoonotic disease burdens and illegal animal trading along the long border with neighbouring countries. Suggested priority interventions include raising awareness of the public and high-risk groups on pathogens, applying information and communications technology (ICT) in disease management and reporting, especially for smallholder farmers and actors across the value chains, stronger engagement of the private sector in disease surveillance and control, and promotion of information sharing from both human and animal health sectors on a more regular basis.
Key food safety challenges identified were the poor infrastructure of slaughterhouses and traditional wet markets, inefficient food safety risk communications and low awareness of actors across the value chains on good food safety practices. Priority interventions include introduction a food safety culture which integrates anthropology, psychology, social and food science, improving monitoring at slaughterhouses, developing a comprehensive food safety risk communications strategy, unpacking messages in easy-to-understand ways for the public and capacity development for actors on good food safety practices across the value chains.
Regarding antimicrobial resistance, some of the key challenges are weak monitoring and surveillance systems for the use of veterinary drugs, drug prescription and drug trading, weak agent detection capacity at grassroots level, ineffective intersectoral collaboration in AMR and AMU control and gaps in policies and law enforcement on AMR and AMU. To address these challenges, it is important to develop multi-stakeholder engagement models, raise awareness and develop capacities for stakeholders on AMR and AMU and to generate evidence on the harms and dangers of drug abuse.
Actions to ensure inclusion in these efforts include using bottom-up strategies and community-based approaches and adopting gender-responsive processes that encourage the participation and integration diverse groups of people in the program packages.
Participants also discussed potential partners to work with including government ministries, national and international research organizations, universities, bureau of standards, farmer groups, women’s groups, consumer associations and the media.
In his closing remarks. Dao The Anh, vice president from the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences expressed his appreciation that the One Health initiative can fit well with the livestock strategy to 2030 of Vietnam and help Vietnam to transform its food systems. He noted that the design team should make the One Health approach applicable at the grassroots level.
Once approved, the CGIAR One Health initiative will start in January 2022 and run for an initial three years.
(This blog post is an adaptation of the original post by Tezira Lore, CGIAR scientists and research collaborators from Uganda discuss new One Health initiative)