As September 28, 2023 draws nigh, the day marks the 17th World Rabies Day, with the theme “All for 1, One Health for all”. Do you know that your health is closely connected to the health of the animals around you, plants, and the environment? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Human health is one of the most important factors influencing economic development in any economy.
In many developing countries with inadequate health insurance, the bulk of health care expenditures is done through out-of-pocket payments, made at the point of need. Ill-health can have economic implications through multiple channels, such as, direct costs for consultancy fees, laboratory tests, drugs, hospital admission; and indirect costs, such as loss of man-hours, debility, transportation costs and foregone earnings for patients and their care givers. The concept of animal health covers animal diseases, as well as the interplay with human health, environmental protection, and food safety. Preventing and controlling diseases in animals grows economies, bolsters local communities, and improves the health of vulnerable populations, especially the young and elderly. Sick animals are unproductive, by taking a proactive approach to maintain good animal health, we can secure a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply at this time of rapidly growing global human population.
Furthermore, healthy animals are able to produce more offspring, which leads to increased economic activity, and convert food into valuable by-products like milk and meat more efficiently. With the recent ‘state of emergency’ on food security announced by the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led government in Nigeria, the need to maintain good animal health cannot be overstated. Animals can sometimes carry harmful germs, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that can spread to humans, causing self-limiting or severe and life-threatening illnesses. These are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. Importantly, rabies, avian influenza, Ebola virus disease, swine influenza and anthrax are ranked as the top five priority zoonoses in Nigeria. Others include bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis, cysticercosis, echinococcosis, leishmaniasis, and human African trypanosomosis.
To maintain animal health, provide your animals with a good diet, fresh water, proper housing, and plenty of exercise; isolate sick animals, and control new animals, animal products, vehicles and persons coming in and out of farms. Consult with veterinarians and para-veterinarians as they play critical role in optimising the physical and behavioural health and welfare of animals. They contribute to prevent, treat and control diseases, which can affect individual animals or entire animal populations. Additionally, keep up with vaccinations, deworming, and parasite control regimens. Humans and animals are often affected by many of the same diseases, environmental issues, and other health threats. Environmental health is a key part of any comprehensive public health system that focuses on the relationships, between humans and their environment; promotes human health and well-being; and fosters healthy and safe communities. It addresses all the physical, chemical, biological, and cultural factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviours. Factors that affect environmental health and safety include, but not limited to, lack of access to health care, inadequate infrastructure, poor housing, poor water quality and sanitation, air and noise pollution, chemicals and radiation, poor waste management, vector control, deforestation, built environments, urban expansion, climate change and natural disasters, and other global environmental issues.
Humans depend on, adapt, and modify the environment positively or negatively to fulfill their own needs – food, water, timber, and natural gas. What we put into the environment is eventually cycled back to us. For instance, environmental pollutants find their way back through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink, causing respiratory diseases, heart diseases, and some types of cancer. People with low incomes are more likely to live in densely-populated and polluted areas, and have unsafe drinking water. Children and pregnant women are especially prone and also at higher risk of health problems. Clean air, stable climate, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, safe use of chemicals, protection from radiation, healthy and safe workplaces, sound agricultural practices, health-supportive cities and built environments, and a preserved nature are all prerequisites for good health.
The most positive human impact to help protect our environment, is the reversal of environmental destruction through remedial actions. These include cutting down on what we throw away by practicing the three R’s of recycling – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; volunteering for cleanups in our communities; conserving water; improving energy efficiency by reducing the usage of electrical appliances; reducing carbon emissions from cars and generators; ceasing the misuse and overuse of chemicals and pesticides; maintaining a healthy ecosystem such as cordoning off sensitive ecosystems and planting trees; shopping wisely; growing our foods locally; and passing environmental protection laws. The benefits of living in a healthy community include better physical and mental health, stronger community support, cleaner environment, and more holistic educational opportunities.
Prof. Fabian Leendertz, the Founding Director of the Helmholtz Institute for One Health (HIOH) in Greifswald, Germany, restated that we cannot look at human health in isolation. It is closely linked, intertwined, interrelated, and interdependent on the animal world (domestic and wild animals), plants, and the wider environment. As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future, Nigeria needs to play its role as the Giant of Africa, in One Health. I join millions of Nigerians to congratulate and welcome the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate; Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Sen. Abubakar Kyari; Minister of Environment, Dr. Ishaq Salako; and the other new ministers on board, as they steer the ship of their various ministries. It is high time an integrated and unifying approach is adopted, to sustainably balance and optimise the health of humans, animals and the ecosystem. The Yorubas say “irorun igi ni irorun eye”, and “bi ara o a ba ro okun, ara o le ro adie;” simply saying “the peace/stability of a tree/line gives peace to the bird perched on it,” We must learn to intercede for and work with one another. If the nation is comfortable, we will also be in comfort. Ire ooo (goodness)!
Dr. Adenubi, an Associate Professor and Veterinarian, is a columnist with FarmingFarmersFarms, +2348025409691, email@example.com