Protecting Human Health Through a One Health Approach


COVID-19 is the sixth zoonotic pandemic since 1980. The frequency and severity of these events is increasing as people encroach on wildlife habitats, and livestock and fish production systems intensify. Animal production systems are reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens, which are responsible for 60% of human communicable disease cases. Two thirds of global antimicrobial use, the key driver of antimicrobial resistance, is in livestock production. Antimicrobial resistance causes 700,000 deaths annually and is projected to kill 10 million people every year by 2050. Trade of animals and animal-source foods at increasing scales multiplies the magnitude of health and economic risks. Livestock generate 85% of global animal fecal waste, leading to environmental degradation and human exposure to waterborne pathogens. Foodborne disease takes a toll comparable to that of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, but receives a small fraction of the investment from international donors.

Solving these challenges requires both overcoming institutional barriers to cross-sectoral collaboration and stronger evidence on the importance and cost-effectiveness of incorporating One Health principles into management of food systems.


This initiative aims to demonstrate how food systems can be redesigned based on One Health principles along the entire value chain to benefit human, animal, and environmental health.

Through implementation research conducted in partnership with national governments, this Initiative will develop structures for and build experience in cross-sectoral integration. Research conducted through this Initiative will improve zoonotic disease surveillance and shed light on behavioral barriers to adoption of practices for the management of zoonotic disease, antimicrobial resistance, and food safety risks. By demonstrating the added value of One Health interventions, the Initiative will make the case for national governments and development partners to scale up investment.

This will be achieved through:

  • For emerging zoonoses: research on disease ecology, particularly at interfaces of contact among livestock and people.
  • For endemic zoonoses: evaluation of interventions that strengthen animal health services, including ICT-based diagnostic and disease reporting systems for small-scale farmers, for impact on disease prevalence and cost-effectiveness.
  • Generation of new evidence on the contribution of livestock and aquaculture to microbial and antimicrobial pollution in water, and on incentives for farmers to reduce such pollution. This evidence will be fed into watershed management planning processes.
  • Strengthened focus on government action to develop, implement, and scale standards that are achievable for small-scale informal sector value chain actors and enforceable by regulatory bodies.
  • Testing of interventions that enable farmers to improve herd and fish health via improved nutrition, vaccination, biosecurity, and diagnosis to guide treatment, reducing farm-level antimicrobial use and resistance in livestock and aquaculture.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Evidence, co-generated with stakeholders and integrated into prioritization processes, on: how interactions between wildlife, livestock, and people lead to emergence of new zoonoses and persistence of endemic zoonoses; the effects of production and trade intensification on zoonotic disease transmission; and management of these risks.
  2. Reduction in foodborne disease in at least two primarily informal and traditional food value chains through improved practices of value chain actors, due to a combination of capacity building, incentives, and non-punitive enforcement. Interventions developed, implemented, and evaluated in coordination with national governments.
  3. Reduced irrational antimicrobial use and reduced prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in animal source foods through improved herd and fish health in at least one country. Reduced environmental contamination of antimicrobial residues and antimicrobial resistance genes through improved on-farm waste management practices. Greater knowledge of the role of wildlife and environmental reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance.
  4. Evidence on microbiological water pollution from livestock or aquaculture, and the role of water as a conduit and reservoir of antimicrobial residues and antimicrobial resistance genes, informs management planning for at least one major watershed.
  5. Interventions based on One Health principles, designed to reflect the constraints and incentives of small- and medium-scale food system actors, are evaluated for cost-effectiveness, and results are communicated to governments and international donors to inform future investments.



Reducing the prevalence of foodborne diseases, zoonoses, and infections resistant to antimicrobials directly improves human health. Reducing the diarrheal disease burden improves key nutrition outcomes including stunting and wasting.


Mitigating zoonoses, foodborne disease, and antimicrobial resistance helps reduce poverty, as the poor disproportionately suffer from these issues.


Women and youth are involved in surveillance of zoonoses, and uptake of disease mitigation and food safety measures. Reducing illness reduces the burden on women of caring for the sick.


Improved manure management through composting and use of bio-digestors reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces deforestation, and improves plant health and crop yields through higher quality organic fertilizers. It also reduces environmental contamination by pathogens, antimicrobial residues, and antimicrobial genes.


Strategies for the prevention of new zoonoses—such as limiting human encroachment on and fragmentation of wildlife habitats, and replacement of indigenous wildlife with animals evolved to co-exist with people—benefit environmental health and biodiversity.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline
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Header photo: Goats at Poline Achieng’s farm. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.