Dr Praveen Malik, Animal Husbandry Commissioner, Government of India in an interaction with Viveka Roychowdhury explains about One Health Framework in detecting the future waves of the COVID pandemic and highlights the role of data collection and analysis in monitoring disease outbreaks
What is the importance of the One Health Framework to detection and containment of future waves of the COVID pandemic as well as other disease outbreaks?
Pandemics have become more frequent and are casting economic gloom over the nations. It is estimated that 60 per cent of human pathogens originate in animals – about three quarters of which are of wildlife origin. One Health Initiative Task Force defines One Health as the collaborative efforts of multiple sectors and disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals, and our environment. Epidemics and pandemics can only be controlled by integrated and coordinated action by the animal, human and environmental health sectors as is envisaged under one health framework. The networking of intersectoral diseases diagnostic laboratories, creating a network of “genomic surveillance” labs having strong bioinformatics team for data analysis and interpretation, operationalising an integrated disease surveillance system for human, animal and environmental samples is always helpful in early detection of the future waves of disease outbreaks. Improved coordination, enhanced capacity of field epidemiology coupled with real time reporting and information sharing across sectors will help respond us to make quick mitigation responses. These detection and response mechanisms amply supported by appropriate communication strategies for wider outreach will help containing not only COVID-19 but also other infectious diseases of human and animals.
Data collection and analysis is essential to monitor disease outbreaks, both in animals or humans. How is India’s mechanism for data collection and disease surveillance being shored up?
Envisioning the importance of information management in animal health system, the department has worked on various fronts. National Digital Livestock Mission (NDLM) has been initiated, which is already building a national surveillance program for livestock health with potential to link wildlife and human surveillance data. NDLM is a digital platform being developed by DAHD with the support of NDDB on the foundation of the existing Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH). The ambitious National Digital Livestock Mission aims to build a digital ecosystem for animal husbandry sector with unique animal ID being assigned to all animals and data capture in central database (INAPH), linked to farmers ID. In addition to NDLM, SOPs for disease testing are being harmonised for all Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RDDLs) / Central Disease Diagnostic Laboratories CDDLs and state diagnostic laboratories. All laboratories would be linked for-real time sharing of generated data by these labs which will be linked to NDLM appropriately. New tools for disease surveillance are being explored which will focus not only on strengthening of existing mechanism but also include approaches like environmental surveillance, disease modelling and disease forewarning mechanisms based on various parameters. A defined sampling frame will be used for active and targeted surveillance of various infections and AMR though the network of laboratories. In case of humans, Integrated Health Information Portal is created that provides real time data for data sharing through NDLM.
What is the investment in setting up a chain of laboratories to analyse the samples quickly?
The investment size would be dictated by the number of laboratories to be set up, distribution of laboratories as per the level of biosafety like BSL-2, BSL-3, or BSL-4; the state-of-the-art equipment in labs, and the IT-infrastructure required for disease data collection, collation, analysis and disease reporting, disease forecasting, and strategizing disease prevention and control programmes. We have got an established network of national referral regional, state, and district level labs which are supported suitable by central and state funds. The DAHD is supporting the Regional Disease Diagnostic Labs and Central Disease Diagnostic Labs for managing this network. During 2021-22, RDDL network was allocated a fund to the tune of Rs 5.50 crore which is likely to be increased during 2022-23 based on actual requirement by the labs.
What have been the Government of India’s approach to implement this project?
The implementation of One Health has been targeted by DAHD under One Health India project which has already been initiated in two states namely Uttarakhand and Karnataka. The project has been started with the financial support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) being the implementing partner. For the effective implementation of the project, One Health Support Unit (OHSU) has been established with dedicated teams for planning and coordination at the central level and dedicated state teams for overseeing the activities in respective states add on with a communication partner. The OHSU will assist in setting strategic activities and provide technical inputs for the creation of the roadmap for National One Health Platform. One Health framework comprises of the domain experts across veterinary science, epidemiology, wildlife, disease diagnosis, laboratory assessor, data standards, and human health sectors. One Health approach involves inter-sectoral coordination among human, animal and wildlife health, enabling better disease reporting through creation and strengthening the one heath laboratory network, and integrating it with the National Digital Livestock Mission, capacity building through customising new training modules and improving the old ones for health professionals, creating awareness amongst the stakeholders for enhancing their active participation by preparation of IEC material, and finally strengthening of biosafety and biosecurity measures for livestock farmers at the farm level. All these interventions will help in efficient surveillance, early prediction, detection, and diagnosis of zoonotic diseases leading to improved livestock and human health, ensuring food safety and nutritional security, managing livestock-human-wildlife interface, better livelihood opportunities to meet SDGs, reduce human diseases and antimicrobial burden and better preparedness for future pandemics.
How is the GoI selecting states and disease areas for implementation of One Health?
The processes for state selection and disease prioritisation in the respective states have been very challenging tasks. The state selection process considered the developing, analysing and interpreting various one health indices (Human-Animal Interaction Index, Ecosystem Health Index, Health Infrastructure Index, and Livestock Disease Diversity Index) for all the states and then calculating the rankings for each state. The disease prioritisation for the respective states was done based on the dynamics of the operational and non-operational parameters which dictate disease emergence as well as help in strategising the disease prevention and control programmes.
How did you design the interventions of One Health?
Designing workable and efficient One Health interventions was a challenging task which required the inclusion of the practices and measures which proved to be a success at the global level and at the same time needed to be very much indigenous and meet the requirements of the One Health pilot in the selected states of India. The quadripartite (FAO-WOAH-WHO-UNEP) working on worldwide cross-sectoral strategy for “One Health” to prevent, detect, control, and eliminate health threats to human originating directly or indirectly from farm animals, also proved to be a great learning path. For designing the interventions our team thoroughly studied the studies conducted in various countries, global best practices being followed for moving towards the goal and ultimately attaining the ambitious vision of One Health. After a rigorous study and mapping finally, we formulated six major interventions including: institutionalising coordination among human-wildlife interface, enabling better disease reporting through creation and strengthening the one heath laboratory network, and integrating it with the National Digital Livestock Mission, capacity building through customising new training modules and improve the old ones for health professionals, creating awareness amongst the stakeholders for enhancing their active participation by preparation of IEC material, and finally strengthening of biosafety and biosecurity measures at the farm level.