In securing global or planetary health, human beings have been the center of attention. In the early 1990s, Zakob Zinsstag, a veterinary epidemiologist raised the par and described One Health as a more evolved concept of public health that encompasses the health of animals and environmental concerns as well calling the attention of intersectoral approach. This does not necessarily relegate ecological and veterinary views from the former public health approaches. But his main interest was to streamline and propagate the idea that scientific knowledge of health across the board: human, environment and animals share similar principles and that there should be an integrated approach to secure it. In fact, it is safely assumed that the understanding of One Health system could be embedded within the concept of EcoHealth, a larger abstraction that captures health in social-ecological systems. For this very reason, One Health is also endemic in its approach as ecological variation may entail different forms of adaptations too.
One Health nevertheless as a wholistic approach has been considered a boon for its economic package. Research have shown that integrated surveillance-response systems of human, domestic animal, and wildlife that shares monitoring data and maintains clear channel of communication lowers the cost of addressing any outbreaks in the ecosystem. For example, zoonoses such as brucellosis (contagious and costly disease of ruminant animals that can also affect humans in areas like fetus formation) and rabies (deadly virus that can spread to people from saliva of animals like dog) can be controlled and eliminated if animal reservoir is also a prioritized point of examination instead of only treating affected people. This approach will cut the financial burden incurred from the prolonged epidemiological research. The 21st century approach to health therefore is largely influenced by this One Health approach as it is deemed to be inclusive or wholistic and yielding in its outcome.
In the One Health India Conference 2019 in New Delhi, it draws on the World Bank Group One Health Operational Framework (WBG 2018) data showing that zoonotic diseases account for more than one billion cases and a million deaths per year. The WBG 2018 report thus highlight the need to invest in biosecurity giving equal attention to the intersections of health requirements that will generate shared benefits to animals, human and environment. After the series of Covid19 pandemic waves, the curtain raised by One Health approach has become even more relevant today, calling all stakeholders: policy makers, vets, doctors, administrators, influencers and common man among others to proactively engage in promoting and securing the world’s EcoHealth system. With this backdrop, ICMR in March 2019 established the Centre for One Health, later transitioning into National Institute of One Health. The national budget 2021-2022 too made a specific mention about its priority of One Health for the first time.
In Ukhrul’s context, it may be proper to say that, it simply elaborates on the idea that understanding the interlinkages of yonchak mao (biotic diseases/pathogens causing the wilting and drying of parkia speciosa or yonchak or stink bean), har mao (poultry diseases/flu), and mi mao (pandemic) among others can translate into securing an intersectoral approach to One Health. In the year 2013, scientist from the Rain Forest Research Institute Dehradun had remarked about yonchak tree becoming endangered, causing loss of around Rs 292 crore as its tender pods are traded which is considered a delicacy with medicinal property and its wood are used for making paper pulp. In early 2021, the governor of Manipur acknowledged the waning status of yonchak arong and the crippling economic consequences it entailed, especially on the poor. She also applauded the scientific community at Central Agricultural University, Manipur for identifying the cause of wilting yonchak arong. The tree is found to be gradually killed by insects. It has been logically assumed that the birds that prey on the insect on parkia tree must have dwindled due to human interventions. Pointing out similar trend of interlinkages, the Centre for Science and Environment claims that the growing antibiotic-resistance in humans is also because of large-scale indiscriminate use of antibiotics in poultry industry to cull bird flu. And evidences have been established about the zoonotic origin of human coronavirus.
In the 6th World One Health Congress in 2020, experts however had ruminated on the thought that if the scientific understandings of medicine and health are still confined within the academic walls. To enable this knowledge to be easily accessible, multi-stakeholder’s involvement accounting the multi-dimensional requirement of One Health system becomes vital. For example, to prevent yonchak mao, instead on only using insecticides, stringently implementing the shooting ban of birds during their nesting season may be more meaningful. Regarding the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, public could be made aware of the provision of the Bureau of India Standard about public food safety and carry out drives to check ethical business dealings. The scientific and erudite leaders may be implored, that it may be more fruitful to mobilise local influencers like NGOs and civil societies to elaborate on the need to be vaccinated, instead of merely asserting the scientific claims which may make little sense to many.
Not to be emulated but as an exemplar, even in advanced country like US, people have to be coaxed with a chance to win a lottery and a bear in exchange for a vaccine. The One Health approach reveals the necessity to recognise the variation in anthropogenic adaptation even in terms of psychological patterning when it comes to accessing the benefits of scientific advances. So, with the support of the government, if there is collaboration among the various fields of scientific experts and local influencers, not just in case of vaccination drive but even in other walks of life the debate of means and ends concerning scientific advances may be greatly allayed and even realising One Health may not be a far-fetched idea for Ukhrul.
Shimreisa Chahongnao, PhD student of International Studies at JNU, New Delhi. Views are personal.