The COVID-19 pandemic, but also other disease outbreaks of animal origin such as SARS and Ebola, and their dramatic societal and economic costs show the importance of applying a One Health approach across sectors, as a matter of urgency.
The science is clear that pandemics of zoonotic origin are directly related to the increased human/wildlife interface caused by land-use change, in particular the destruction of intact ecosystems; deforestation and forest degradation; and the role of urban markets in live wild birds and mammals and wildlife farm. Recent studies show that the single most effective and cost-effective way to prevent pandemics is to avoid pathogen spillover to humans, wildlife, and other animals in the first place, referred to as pandemic prevention at source.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) initiated and remains a leader in the One Health approach, and has more than 100 years of hands-on veterinary expertise, including disease surveillance, and groundbreaking scientific research on the health-environment nexus. In 2004, WCS convened the first 'One World, One Health' symposium in New York City, which was attended by health experts from around the world. The Manhattan Principles were formalised. In October 2019, a mere two months before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the global economy and severely impacted our societies, WCS and the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) co-hosted a follow-up conference titled 'One Planet, One Health, One Future' which brought together members of academia, government, policy, and civil society from nearly 50 countries to forge the Berlin Principles, capturing the threat to society if we continue to ignore the interconnected issues relevant to human, animal and environmental health. In 2023, WCS was an initiator and co-host of the 'Breaking Barriers' event that took place in Berlin, as a follow-up event that convened decision-makers and implementers across environmental, animal and human health sectors, to consider key aspects of implementation of the environmental aspect of a One Health approach.
WCS is currently implementing several integrated One Health initiatives across the globe:
- Operationalising Wildlife Health Surveillance in Southeast Asia - click here
- Wildlife Mortality Monitoring Network in the Republic of Congo - click here
- A One Health Approach to Wildlife Trade and Policy in Viet Nam - click here
- Integrated livestock and wildlife disease surveillance in Mongolia - click here
- Integrated management of vicuñas in the protected area of Apolobamba - click here
WCS developed the WildHealthNet tool, which facilitates data integration from the environment-health nexus with existing public health networks, and bridges and builds capacity across national and regional administrations. The WildHealthNet enhances detection and mitigation through four key elements: building networks with existing government structures, providing targeted trainings, implementing novel technologies, and a response guided by data analysis. Read more
The European Union (EU) is stepping up efforts in the One Health area, notably through the seven-year Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Programme, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) funded by the EU with co-funding from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency (AFD).
For more information about WCS’s work on health, please visit: oneworldonehealth.wcs.org