Prof. Wanda Markotter on the global commitment of One Health

Posted on November 04, 2021

The Global Governance Project, supported by the World Health Organization, has launched the “Health: A Political Choice” publication in October 2021 to reflect and discuss the challenges and solutions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Pretoria’s own Prof. Markotter, who co-chairs the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) with Prof. Thomas Mettenleiter of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute in Germany, is a contributor to this publication and has highlighted the importance of following and expanding the One Health approach.

As ongoing studies are linking the COVID-19 pandemic to a zoonotic origin, the need to focus on concerning health interactions at the human-animal-environmental interphase is once again in the spotlight. The OHHLEP is tasked to assess the health risks at the human-animal-environmental interphase and will identify scientific evidence, and provide advice on the required actions and effective collaborations necessary for preventing future pandemics. Prof. Markotter and Prof. Mettenleiter state that the OOHLEP initiative “is critical in transforming One Health from a concept into concrete policy. It will provide evidence-based recommendations for global, regional, national, and local action that is practical.”

They further state that the call for a One Health approach “is not only about pandemic preparedness and prevention but is in fact much more far-reaching. Commitment to implementing it successfully will create a healthier ecosystem for all, addressing several other concerns such as biodiversity loss, climate change, food security, and social inequalities”. Such an approach expands on the traditional approach to One Health thus making it more holistic.

The University of Pretoria, through support from UNICEF and Future Africa, has heeded this approach to One Health by embarking on several transdisciplinary projects which address the aforementioned concerns. These projects are packaged in clusters that address current human challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic through mentoring, resource sharing, capacity building, youth empowerment, and women empowerment in the sciences. Stemming from these clusters is UP One Health which has brought together several different disciplines within and outside UP to collaborate in research that seeks to find and act on practical solutions for communities. These include projects that assess the continued risk of COVID-19 in the environment, create community awareness on zoonotic infections, create sustainable food solutions, and practically engage legal and socio-economic challenges within communities.

As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, puts it “The pandemic has exposed the consequences of years of underinvestment in public health and pandemic preparedness, even in countries with some of the most advanced medical systems.” We cannot downplay the level of interconnectedness between people and natural systems, and the associated challenges at both ends. The practicality and action-minded approach of the OHHLEP will help to seek solutions to these challenges in preparation for the next pandemic.


- Author Tedson Nkoana
Published by Tlaishego Nkoana

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