Data Stories
“One Health” Approaches are Key to Preventing Pathogens from Spreading from Animals to Humans

Today, nearly two-thirds of known pathogens and three-quarters of newly emerging pathogens are zoonotic—meaning they spread from animals to humans. This dangerous trend toward disease spillover from animals to humans can be traced to a host of modern-day factors, including increased human encroachment on wildlife territory, land-use changes that increase the rate of human–wildlife and wildlife–livestock interface, and climate change.

Because human, animal, and environmental health are intertwined and must be effectively addressed together to prevent the spread of infectious disease, the Global Health Security Index assesses countries’ adherence to a One Health approach. The results are not encouraging:

  • Fewer than 30% of countries demonstrate the existence of mechanisms for sharing data among relevant ministries for human, animal, and wildlife surveillance.
  • Fewer than 8% of countries demonstrate a cross-ministerial department, agency, or similar unit dedicated to zoonotic disease.
  • Only 51% of countries offer field epidemiological training programs that explicitly include animal health professionals, although a much larger number (80%) offer an applied epidemiological training program.
  • 62% of countries have not submitted a report to the World Organisation for Animal Health on the incidence of human cases of zoonotic diseases for the past calendar year.
  • The majority of countries are facing land-use changes, measured by percentage change in forest area, which could affect the risk of emerging zoonotic disease.

As a way forward, countries must embrace a One Health approach as part of pandemic planning and national disaster preparedness and response efforts. Authorities should identify an agency and grant it authority to coordinate training and information sharing among human, animal, and environmental health professionals, and decision makers should consider infectious disease risks when developing policies and plans related to climate change, land use, and urban planning.