On 24 August 2021, about 60 stakeholders from government, research and academia across India gathered virtually to discuss a proposed new CGIAR initiative to protect human health through a One Health approach. It is one of more than 30 new initiatives being developed by CGIAR to implement its 2030 research and innovation strategy.
All initiatives will operate by co-identifying challenges and research foci with key partners, and by co-designing, co-creating, and co-learning with these partners throughout the innovation process.
The development of the One Health initiative is being led by a team of scientists from four CGIAR research centres — the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 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.
Stakeholders discussed how the One Health initiative can deliver more impacts and better address challenges to ensure sustainable solutions that will improve human health in the future and ensure that there is an integrated response to local demands.
The meeting was opened by Dieter Schillinger, deputy director general of ILRI. He introduced the CGIAR 2030 research and innovation strategy to the participants noting its unified governance under which various research centres will be working together through the proposed initiatives to harness capacities including the One Health initiative.
Trilochan Mohapatra, secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and director general, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) emphasized the importance of One Health issues from local to global levels, requiring that we define and refine strategies encompassing agriculture, environment and health sectors. He believed that the CGIAR One Health initiative would help stakeholders better understand the current situation of zoonoses, AMR and food safety in India and bring in solutions not only for India, but from India to other countries.
He said the initiative should bring partners together to forge a partnership of win-win cooperation.
Participants were introduced to the initiative’s background, objectives, and research packages by Hung Nguyen, co-leader of ILRI Animal and Human Health program. He explained that the initiative aims to improve the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), foodborne diseases and zoonoses in seven target countries. The proposed research will take place through five work packages:
- Food safety
- Environment – water and wildlife interfaces
- Economics, governance and behaviour
The zoonoses work package aims to tackle the emergence and spread of zoonoses with epidemic and pandemic potential at the interface of wildlife, livestock, and people through surveillance, identification of high-risk behaviors and geographies. This package includes innovations such as data-based zoonotic disease emergence risk mapping, and development of diagnostic assays and streamlining of zoonosis surveillance and control services.
The food safety work package aims to reduce the burden of foodborne disease with a focus on animal-source and other perishable foods in traditional markets. The initiative aims to support value chain actors and facilitate good food safety practices.
Arshnee Moodley, leader of the ILRI-hosted CGIAR Antimicrobial Resistance Hub introduced the AMR intervention package that aims to reduce the spread of AMR from livestock, fish and crop production systems through reduced and better-targeted antimicrobial use, surveillance and a better understanding of the environment as a reservoir for AMR. The design team proposed to generate more evidence on how livestock and fish production and farm profits are affected by reducing antimicrobial use while implementing alternative herd and fish health approaches. ICT-based tools will be used to enable related stakeholders to address diseases without using antimicrobials.
Mahesh Jampani of IWMI then introduced the work package on environment with a focus on water and wildlife interfaces. This package aims to improve land use and water management for reducing health risks, primarily from agriculture and aquaculture. The package will work out a strategy for the adoption and replication of good practices for the safe use of water from farm to fork in informal context. In addition, business models would be trialled for resource, recovery and reuse if animal waste.
The final package of economics, governance, and behaviour package will test the effects of capacity building, incentives, and monitoring on the behavior of value chain actors and government personnel.
Participants then formed groups to discuss and refine the idea and proposals.
Regarding zoonoses control challenges, participants stressed the poor disease surveillance and reporting systems, low awareness and capacities of actors, inefficient collaboration and coordination among related sectors and the lack of political commitment and investment as key barriers. Prioritized interventions to address these challenges include capacity development in epidemiology and lab systems, strengthening surveillance systems, improving risk communications, and using systems approaches to surveillance, diagnosis, preparedness and response and simulation exercise to test the functionality of the plan.
Stakeholders in the food safety group highlighted challenges including poor hygienic conditions and the lack of cold chains, low level of meat inspection and poor hygiene in slaughterhouses, poor awareness and capacity among stakeholders of all levels, and missing real time data on foodborne diseases. They recommended some interventions such as applying good agricultural husbandry practices, using a new so-called Good Nutritional Practice approach to balance the food safety systems, robust surveillance system, strengthening food inspection, raising awareness on food safety for all actors throughout the value chains, and enhancing cooperation between institutions and authorities engaged in food safety management.
Stakeholders in the group on AMR identified the lack of real time data on antibiotics use (AMU), free availability of antibiotics without prescription, inefficient tracing and tracking of AMU in different production sectors, lack of diagnosis and vaccines for aquatic animal diseases leading to overuse of antibiotics and lack of data on economic impacts and burden of AMR as key challenges. The suggested a set of interventions that include facilitating coordination among national partners for better data sharing, designing context specific interventions, generating data and evidence on AMR and AMU and raising awareness on best management practices and farm biosecurity.
Stakeholders also discussed ways to ensure the inclusion of various groups in the implementation of the initiative. Participants proposed some actions including targeting women, unorganized market actors, migratory population, marginalized farmers and landless labourers, and tribal communities. Capacity development, application of technologies and using mass media are among suggested ways to engage these groups throughout the lifecycle of the program.
In his closing remarks, Shri Atul Chaturvedi, secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying emphasized that operationalizing a One Health approach requires leveraging the cooperation and strengthens of diverse sectors – both public and private. This includes livestock health, human health, wildlife health, environmental health, technology and finance to develop solutions to these local national and global health challenges. He noted all sectors relevant to One Health need to come forward in an institutionalized formal mechanism for harmonised efforts in addressing these cross-linkages to successfully prevent spill-overs of diseases to people. Besides these, there is also a need to encourage a policy environment which enables core capacity building in order to respond to emerging infectious diseases challenges.
He concluded that India needs to strengthen its pandemic response mechanisms by enhancing capacity to prevent, detect, respond and recover.
Habibar Rahman, ILRI regional representative for South Asia closed the meeting by thanking all participants and the organizing team.
If approved, the CGIAR One Health initiative will start in January 2022 and run for an initial three years.