G20 Ministers of Health reaffirm the urgent need to address global health under a One health approach

©World Organisation for Animal Health/M.A Bidirinis Rivero
The Health Ministers of the G20 countries met in Rome on 5-6 September 2021 to discuss ways to improve multilateral cooperation in order to better prevent, detect and respond to global health risks and emergencies. At this occasion, the Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr Monique Eloit, reminded the key OIE’s contributions towards more sustainable global health systems.

The G201 this year is hosted under the Italian Presidency and focused on three main pillars of action: People, Planet and Prosperity. In the framework of global health, the G20 aims to lead an effective international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to anticipate future health crises by building more resilient health systems. After this recent meeting, the G20 Ministers of Health released a Declaration reiterating the importance of operationalising the One Health approach, an objective also highlighted during the Global Health Summit last May and in the “Rome Declaration”.

Recent global health news has indeed well-illustrated the need to address health issues through a multilateral approach, as well as the linkages between human, animal and environmental health. Yet, beyond the COVID-19 crisis, many other issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, the sustainability of food systems, climate change and biodiversity should be addressed under a One Health lens. As underlined by the G20 Health Ministers, the One Health approach must be encouraged and implemented at all levels, whether national, regional or global. To foster this cooperation, the technical leadership of the Tripartite+ Alliance composed of the OIE and its partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as well as of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is a core element.

Building a global One Health Strategy

 The G20 Health Ministers furthermore called for collaborative multisectoral action meant to increase surveillance, strengthen prevention, preparedness, and response to health threats. Enhanced political commitment towards higher and more sustainable investment is needed in order to best tackle the risks emerging at the human-animal-environment interface. They expressed their support to develop a joint WHO, OIE, FAO and UNEP strategy on One Health and contribute to its effective implementation. The four partners are already working together on several global initiatives, such as the recently created One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) which will support them in development of a long-term strategic approach to reducing the risk of zoonotic pandemics and a correlated action plan.

An excellent example of a current health challenge which needs to be addressed under the One Health approach is antimicrobial resistance. While the Ministers called for a prudent use of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants, they also acknowledged the various intersectoral initiatives currently in place through the framework of the Tripartite+ Alliance. They welcomed the establishment of the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which includes Heads of States and Ministers from the G20 countries and seeks to strengthen the political momentum on antimicrobial resistance and improve visibility of the subject among policy leaders. They also recognised the OIE Global Strategy, among other international programmes, as one of the key tools to accelerate actions against antimicrobial resistance across the world.

Ensuring a coordinated and collaborative response to disease threats

The use of technologies and tools which enable the establishment of early warning systems to track diseases, including those with pandemic potential was highlighted by the Ministers. In this regard, systems which can integrate data from across human, animal and the environmental sectors are more and more needed. In this context, the renovated World Animal Health Information System, OIE-WAHIS launched earlier this year will bring a key contribution to the provision of enhanced data analysis of the animal health sector and to allow interoperability with other digital health tools.

Beyond powerful tools, there is a strong need for countries to commit to coordinated actions built upon a powerful and competent workforce. The Heath Ministers reaffirmed in their Declaration, their commitment to the investment of a well-trained health workforce through capacity building opportunities which are critical in a pandemic response, as well as daily health management. In this regard, the OIE training platform, which contributes to create One Health learning opportunities in parallel to the WHO Academy, was applauded for its initiative and promising future.

With the strong support of its Members, the OIE is well placed to have a key role in the strengthening of global governance mechanisms and structures to respond effectively to future emergencies and avoid disasters. As Dr Eloit underlined in her speech, “by breaking silos, as well as by promoting an intersectoral collaboration between Departments at national level, our respective commitments at global level will be impactful. It is our common responsibility to succeed in tackling the current pandemic as well as to prevent the next one.”  The OIE stands ready to play an active role in global dialogue and engage with the international community to ensure comprehensive resilience.

[1] The G20 members are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Spain is also invited as a permanent guest