Experts in Pacific human, animal and environmental health, along with partners from across the region, discussed ways to coordinate their efforts to better address regional and national health risks during a One Health Consultative workshop in Fiji.
The workshop, which took place in Denarau Island in Nadi on 13 April, was organised by the Pacific Community (SPC) through its Public Health and Land Resources Divisions, in collaboration with partners of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN).
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Honourable Alexander O-Connor, Assistant Minister for Health and Medical Services in Fiji, highlighted that ‘The One Health approach represents a regional and national paradigm shift in how we do business. It entails an all hands on deck approach to addressing emerging public health threats that do not respect the borders of human health, animal health and the environment.’
SPC Deputy Director General, Ms Audrey Aumua, stressed the interrelationship of health risks across disciplines noting that ‘Over the past few decades about 75 per cent of newly identified infectious diseases have originated in animals and then evolved to become risks for humans. A multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary effort must be taken to fully address these emerging and re-emerging public health threats.’
The workshop focused in building relationships at regional and national levels and highlighting the benefits of closer cooperation. Dr Marine Giard, Head of Health Surveillance Office in French Polynesia Department of Health, said ‘The workshop has allowed us to meet our colleagues from Animal Health, establish better relations and open the door to closer cooperation in the future.’
Discussions were held to identify and prioritize key national and regional diseases of interest, research needs and capacity gaps. In the coming weeks, participants will follow up on these discussions to help shape One Health related initiatives for the Pacific and continue to explore ways to create an enabling environment for coordination of the One Health approach in addressing the specific priorities identified by countries.
SPC’s Director of Land Resources, Jan Helsen highlighted the importance of closer cooperation and identified some possibilities for immediate knowledge exchange saying, ‘One of the first steps towards an integrated One-Health Approach from an Animal Health perspective could be by tapping in to existing national and regional networks such as the Animal Health Communication Forum, Pacific Animal Health Laboratory Networks.’
SPC and PPHSN partners are committed to support Pacific countries with the implementation of coordinated One Health activity packages. Funding support will be essential to ensure sustainable efforts at regional and national levels and donor agencies have indicated interest to provide financial assistance.
This initiative is part of a new project for the strengthening of PPHSN capacities, implemented by SPC and funded by the Agence française de développement (AFD), in collaboration with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).
Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information and Communication Officer, SPC Public Health Division, [email protected]