Strengthening One Health implementation and investment in Southeast Asia

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The world is confronted with pressing global challenges—in particular, health issues—stemming from the intersection of the humans, animals and the ecosystem. This requires a collaborative One Health approach by sectors that recognize this interdependency, working together through coordination and communication.

Despite increasing awareness of this need, challenges persist in One Health implementation and investment. Supporting regional efforts is crucial to enhance global responses by avoiding duplication and maximizing synergies.

In recognition of regional responses to global health challenges in Southeast Asia—recognized as a hotpot for many novel and re-emerging zoonotic diseases worldwide—the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN) organized a two-day workshop in Bangkok from 19 to 20 December 2023.

The workshop brought together 38 participants from seven countries to exchange experiences related to One Health operationalization and investment at both national and regional levels. Participants represented not only ministries, government agencies, universities and research institutions, but also donors, international and regional organisations, and national One Health platforms of the countries. The workshop was co-funded by the CGIAR One Health Initiative and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)–CGIAR Innovate for Food and Nutrition Security Regional Program.

In opening remarks, Appolinaire Djikeng, director general of ILRI, shared the challenges in implementing the One Health approach despite advocacy efforts from the One Health Quadripartite, governments, donors and scientific communities. He emphasized that limited investments hinder the implementation of One Health, and that One Health has been an important to CGIAR food systems research, with strong collaborations with partners in Southeast Asia for over 10 years.

Wacharapon Chotiyaputta, senior veterinary expert, Department of Livestock Development, Thailand, shared examples of initiatives to strengthen regional One Health responses, including the development of tools for monitoring and evaluating international collaborations, enhancements in legislations within the ASEAN Charter, and the organization of regional workshops to translate One Health principles into practice.

In his keynote address, Gyanendra Gongal, senior public health officer at the World Health Emergency Programme, World Health Organization Regional Office for Southeast Asia in New Delhi, and regional Quadripartite coordinator in the Asia Pacific region, stressed the importance of a One Health strategy. He shared the Quadripartite One Health Joint Action Plan, a resource that could support the development of a strategy for the region.

Resource mobilization

Group discussions highlighted current and potential investors in the One Health domain. In Thailand for example, current national investors include the government—primarily the Ministry of Public Health—and Standard Chartered Bank.

Participants discussed strategies for engaging investors, which included ongoing dialogue between implementing partners and investors. High-level symposiums were also highlighted as a mechanism to facilitate this engagement. The pivotal role of the private sector in potentially funding One Health initiatives in the region was underscored.

Regional collaboration

Group discussions uncovered existing mechanisms for regional collaboration such as knowledge sharing platforms, including online courses, documents, networks, fellowships, staff exchanges, symposiums, conferences, and meetings. Ways of supporting key policy frameworks such as international health regulations, performance of veterinary services, disease notification systems, data-sharing platforms, digital networks, and the Quadripartite alliance were also discussed.

Participants highlighted the need for enhanced engagement from governments and the private sector, as well as more experience sharing. Emphasis was also put on creating a comprehensive map of ongoing activities, increasing visibility of existing initiatives, and developing joint activities.

Discussion suggested that ASEAN can play a more important role in promoting, coordinating and promoting the operationalisation of the One Health approach in the region.

Next steps

Hung Nguyen, co-leader of the animal and human health program at ILRI and lead for the CGIAR Initiative on One Health, closed the workshop by calling upon partners to continue sharing experiences and working together to create a joint action plan to enhance One Health implementation and investment in Southeast Asia.

Tongkorn Meeyam, deputy project director of SEAOHUN, said ‘the outcomes of the workshop would be shared with local partners, allowing One Health to be better translated in practice.’

The workshop concluded with a reflection on key discussions and promising pathways to advance regional One Health initiatives in Southeast Asia.

Access the workshop report and video.

Written by Chi Nguyen, Steven Lam, Sinh Dang-Xuan, Fred Unger, Thanh Nguyen, Tongkorn Meeyam and Hung Nguyen-Viet

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