Experts convened by IICA and USDA share success stories in promoting a One Health approach in Latin America and the Caribbean
San Jose, 21 September 2023 (IICA). Experts in public, animal, plant and environmental health from the public and private sectors of the Americas, in addition to the agriculture industry, academia and international cooperation agencies, shared success stories in implementing the One Health approach with a view to growing its effective operationalization in the countries in the region.
Practical initiatives on One Health—an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems—were presented at a high-level event organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) with the support of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
At the event dubbed “One Health in the Americas: The importance of inter-institutional collaboration in the hemisphere and its rural communities”, representatives from 11 entities shared success stories from four regions of the Americas (North, Central, South and the Caribbean) and from Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.
“With this we want to see how to incorporate the One Health approach holistically, collaboratively, consistently and coherently as a strategy to enhance synergies in agrifood systems between stakeholders in order to improve health, production, sustainability and food quality; considering the rural communities of the Americas as the ultimate beneficiaries of this joint effort”, explained José Urdaz, Program Manager, Agricultural Health, Safety and Agrifood Quality (AHFS), at IICA.
Intersectorality and knowledge: Keys to dealing with zoonosis
Diana Guillén, President of Argentina’s National Service for Agrifood Health and Quality (SENASA), presented her country’s experience in eradicating aphthous fever (also known as foot and mouth disease), which two decades ago affected several countries in the region with grave economic and health implications and whose elimination required a clear interrelationship between sectors.
Cathy Furness, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), shared that the country created a network of experts in animal and plant health and food safety to compound knowledge and drive intersectoral collaboration on challenges related to agricultural health and food safety as part of their efforts to incorporate the One Health approach.
From Colombia, Marcela Rodríguez, representative of the National Poultry Producers Federation (FENAVI), shared their experience in establishing an intersectoral board to mitigate antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
AMR occurs when genetic changes in microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) cause them to develop a resistance to medication that was once effective in eliminating them, such as antibiotics, fungicides and antivirals.
For her part, Natalia Cediel, associate researcher and professor with the University of La Salle, Colombia, detailed the success of a pedagogical exercise in which the empowerment of rural women through resources, training and social well-being has had a real impact in terms of One Health.
The ministries of Environment, Agriculture and Health of Costa Rica presented the country’s experience in matters of risk management, animal management in disasters and the development of a good farming practices handbook for pineapple production.
Additionally, an in-depth discussion centered on the experience of Guatemala in the Environment, Climate Change and Health project, which enabled the training of over 150 people in 14 municipalities to address health problems, with plans to guarantee public health.
For the United States, Heather Fowler, Public Health Veterinarian with the National Pork Board, presented the actions being carrying out in the area of African swine fever and the management of sick animals following various strategies involving aspects of safety, public, community and environmental health, animal welfare and farm workers.
Armando Hoet, Director of the Veterinary Public Health Program at The Ohio State University, shared what the institution has been doing at the hemispheric level on One Health and AMR alongside IICA in terms of the design, review and implementation of surveillance plans in different countries of LAC, involving different stakeholders and associations with the ministries of Health and Agriculture and representatives of the private sector and pharmaceutical industry.
Roberto Navarro from Mexico’s National Service for Health, Food Safety and Food Quality (SENASICA) presented the work being done in his country to control Venezuelan equine encephalitis and on the subject of avian flu, which led to the development of technology and expertise for controlling these and other diseases with increased integration between sectors and transparency between stakeholders.
Through a regional lens
Jaime Romero, AHFS specialist at IICA, shared his experience in Peru in the treatment of neurocysticercosis (a parasitic infection), and with COVID-19 in the Andean region, in a process of identifying problems and determining the priorities for the agriculture, environmental and health sectors.
Similarly, Gavin Peters, CEO of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), presented on the One Health, One Caribbean, One Love project, which trained over 20 specialists from 15 countries in the region to be champions of the One Health approach.
Manuel Sánchez, Coordinator of the Area of Epidemiology at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), shared the success story of an intersectoral investigation on avian flu in the region that convened members of the public health sector, veterinarians, lab experts from international agencies and PAHO/WHO collaborating centers, in addition to a study on cutaneous leishmaniasis (infectious diseases that affect the skin and mucous membranes).
“All of these experiences will serve as examples and guidelines to identify the determining factors of success as well as existing challenges to better promote the One Health approach in the Americas”, commented José Urdaz.
José Urdaz, Program Manager, Agricultural Health, Safety and Agrifood Quality, at IICA.