In her presentation, Ilka Herbinger, WWF-Germany, took these ideas further, exploring the concept of eco-health, also with particular focus on the great apes.
“Although diseases can spread from apes to humans, the reverse is also possible,” she said. “Given the endangered situation of these animals, it is important that we do all we can to safeguard against so-called reverse zoonosis, or the transmission from humans to animals.” For these reasons, a series of practices, such as the wearing of masks, keeping to a distance of 7 metres or more, and keeping a dedicated change of clothes for periods of time spent within the apes’ habitat, have been implemented for eco-tourists and park guides and wardens alike.
Such eco-tourism ventures that also involve taking care of the health and livelihoods of the local people, seem to be successful in maintaining the populations of these highly endangered animals – another advantage of taking a holistic One Health/eco-health approach.
Ab Osterhaus, chair of the One Health Platform Foundation, and professor/researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany, rounded off the session presentations by introducing the One Health Platform.
“The One Health Platform,” informed Osterhaus, “is a strategic forum of stakeholders and a reference network that aims to enhance understanding of and preparedness for current and future outbreaks of zoonoses, emerging infectious diseases in humans and animals, and antimicrobial resistance.” Among its objectives is to provide a forum for researchers, early career investigators, governmental and non-governmental institutions, international organisations and the private sector to foster cross-sectoral collaborations; to identify and prioritise One Health research gaps; to disseminate the results and insights of existing and new One Health research projects; to establish an information reference centre for the One Health community; and to facilitation interactions and promote education and training, including between the research community and in the policy arena, to enhance awareness of the value of the One Health approach.
Among the issues raised in a discussion by WHS attendees crowded into the workshop, were the need to build local capacity in One Health research, including the development of dedicated courses, such as at the masters level, to give students a holistic overview of the ideas inherent in the One Health approach.
Rajae El Aouad, director of the National Institute of Hygiene of Morocco and member of the Hassan II Academy of Sciences and Technology, who coordinated the monitoring of avian influenza viruses across Morocco, also advised IAMP, the One Health Platform and other partners to gather evidence and develop case studies regarding the economic benefits of the One Health approach. This would not only convince donors to fund more cross-disciplinary research, she said, but also convince policy-makers to take recommendations on board.
A member of the audience who declared himself to be from the German media, also recommended to reach out to the press, as the One Health issue carries a powerful message: ‘Fear’ – especially in the light of the Ebola epidemic and the ‘next big one’.
“Reaching out to policy-makers is the key,” confirmed Osterhaus, “and it is for this reason that we had a special session at the 3rd International One Health Congress last March in Amsterdam especially to present the science them. I’m pleased to report that it was very well attended and that we will organize something similar during the 4th International One Health Congress and 6th Biennial Conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health when we meet in December 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.”
(Photographs by Veranja Liyanapathirana)
See also: The One Health Platform: http://onehealthplatform.com/
Further reading: ‘One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches’. Editors: Jacob Zinsstag, Esther Schelling, David Waltner-Toews, Maxine Whittaker and Marcel Tanner. CAB International 2015.