COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of an integrated “One Health” perspective in evaluating how anthropogenic activities drive the emergence of novel zoonotic (animal) pathogens and provide the conditions for zoonotic outbreaks to achieve epidemic scales. One Health is a trans-disciplinary approach that identifying health threats at the human-animal-environment interface and acting upon them.
Historically, the One Health research agenda has been mostly orientated towards continental Africa and Southeast Asia. But parts of the world, such as the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil, are a rapidly evolving focus points for emerging zoonotic pathogens, because of land exploitation and climate change. These same pressures are causing novel and increasing interactions between humans and domesticated animals with wildlife. New levels of contact provide more opportunities for zoonotic disease transmission; and, in the absence of a robust local healthcare system, there is insufficient protection to prevent small outbreaks from expanding to epidemic proportions.
The future expansion of China through the Belt and Road initiative means it will be increasingly important global actor in strengthening One Health systems in a variety of countries. But even if this was not the case, China in itself is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with nearly 36 of the global biodiversity hotspots, a veritable cauldron of viral evolution that requires and deserves deep international study. ...
... What prevents epidemics becoming pandemics is the strength of national health systems. The failures in preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic were systemic and specific. Likewise, the alarming and growing threat of anti-microbial resistance speaks to the need for serious cooperation to tackle the roots of this problem through a One Health approach. But global health security remains insufficiently country centred, and technical support is often disconnected or inappropriate for local policymakers. Joint country programs through Western-Chinese cooperation would provide not only significant confidence building platforms but also real focus at a time when global health has been seen by many as nationalistic and (neo)colonial. ..."