‘One health’ approach critical to tackle health inequality and emerging diseases

Aside from the myriad new challenges it introduced, the wide and rapid spread of COVID-19 also revealed long-standing global health inequalities. And while the pandemic may be the most widely publicized example, it is hardly the only case in which those who are already vulnerable bear the brunt of the impact.  

Recently, snake bite was re-declared as a neglected tropical diseaseAccording to the World Health Organization, about 5.4 million snake bites occur each year – even though most of their harmful consequences could be prevented by making safe and effective antivenoms more widely available and accessible. 

Extraction of venom from a Coastal Taipan at the Australian Reptile Park
Extraction of venom from a Coastal Taipan at the Australian Reptile Park. Photo: The Australian Reptile Park/Cove via Reuters Connect

Instead, snake bites result in 1.8 to 2.7 million cases of poisoning. Of these, the majority affect women, children and farmers in poor rural communities in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where health systems are weakest and medical resources sparse. Ultimately, between 81,000 and 137,000 people die, and there are around three times as many amputations and other permanent disabilities each year. 

“This is a great example of how better international and cross-sector cooperation on a One Health approach can make a huge difference,” says Julian Blanc, a wildlife expert with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

‘One Health’ is based on the understanding that human health and animal health are interdependent and linked to the health of the ecosystems in which they co-exist. UNEP’s experts say that greater cooperation – among ecologists, zoologists and public health officials, for example – can help address health challenges and their social and economic impact. Read more…

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