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The G7 must recognise animal health’s importance to One Health

Strengthening animal disease surveillance from the community level upwards is a vital component of operationalising One Health.

On 3-4 June, health ministers of the G7 met to agree actions in crucial areas of global health. In their communiqué, they expressed strong support for the One Health approach to reduce the risk of another pandemic, recognising that human, animal, and environmental health are interlinked.

The Action for Animal Health coalition welcomes this support, in particular the emphasis on prevention of zoonotic outbreaks, their commitment to work more closely with their climate and environment counterparts, as well as the acknowledgement that One Health should be central to plans on health security and future resilience.

However, the communique is light on how these commitments will be put into practice. One Health recognises the interlinkages between human, animal and environmental health, yet chronic underfunding of animal health systems and a shortfall in the veterinary workforce has limited the capacity of animal health professionals to fully realise the potential of One Health initiatives – despite their willingness and expertise in this area. Professionals face a lack of access to essential veterinary medicines and vaccines, and animal owners face barriers in accessing veterinary services.

Additionally the G7 ministers call on all governments to ensure transparency and sharing of data on zoonoses. However, there are significant capacity gaps in the animal health workforce and disincentives for animal owners, for instance, confiscation or culling of animals with no compensation, that mean disease outbreaks may not be reported or are underestimated. Surveillance must be strengthened at all levels, including at community level, where disease outbreaks could be spotted early.

The Action for Animal Health coalition is calling on the G7 to put words into action by agreeing a global financing mechanism that supports One Health initiatives with strengthening animal health systems prioritised. As well as preventing pandemics, strengthening animal health systems as a part of implementing One Health will also improve food security, reduce poverty and ensure good health and wellbeing. One Health is a global public good that needs to be funded as such.