Higher Education Council urges Universities to imbibe ‘One Health’ approach in academics

The multi-sectoral concept involves a scientific study of human-animal-environmental interactions.

Kerala State Higher Education Council Vice-Chairman P.M. Rajan Gurukkal has urged Universities to align their academic programmes with the ‘One Health’ approach.

Gaining traction in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of other zoonotic diseases to global health, the multi-sectoral concept involves a scientific study of human-animal-environmental interactions.

The approach came into public discourse after its presentation in the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide (TZG) that was jointly developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in 2019.

Prof. Gurukkal found immense significance for the notion at a time when Kerala witnessed a grim COVID-19 scenario with the State government enforcing a lock down in a bid to rein in the pandemic. A few years ago, the State had also battled a Nipah virus outbreak whose origin was subsequently traced to infected fruit bats in Kozhikode.

“Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent the problem. The onus is on all sectors including public health, animal health, plant health and the environment to ensure their professionals, be it doctors, scientists, environmental engineers, urban planners or natural resource managers, were aware that same microbes infect animals and humans in the shared ecosystems. They must be insightful into linkages between ‘One-Health Approach’ and the current techno-economic developments,” he said.

The eminent academician also felt Universities and research institutions ought to orient their graduates in tune with the concept to instil knowledge on human-animal-environmental interactions and consequences harming one another. Powerful drivers like climate change, population growth, land diversion, deforestation, and environmental alterations lead to volatility among humans, animals, and microbes. This predicament had potential to generate a zoonoses vector ecology, he cautioned.

According to him the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (KVASU) and Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) have major roles to address the life-threatening challenges emerging at the human-animal interface. Human-wildlife conflicts cause the emergence and re-emergence of many diseases.

“It is heartening that the State government is seriously considering the Higher Education Council’s advice to create a Wildlife Science faculty at KVASU to promote of research on the Western Ghats Forest and Tribal interface from the ‘One Health’ perspective. Indeed, this will help focus human development interference with the wildlife that often transgresses the symbiotic boundary and prevent the outbreaks of zoonoses,” Prof. Gurukkal said.

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