November 3 is One Health Day, which is a global event that aims to bring attention to the need for a more unifying and holistic approach to address pressing and emerging health concerns for people, animals, and the environment. One Health is an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the connection and interdependency of the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems. This approach requires multi-sectoral collaborations at the different levels of society to address risks to health and the environment. With today’s most pressing health threats such as the emergence of zoonotic diseases, integration of One Health into policies and interventions is crucial to ensure that threats can be addressed from the different facets of the interface.
GIZ’s Regional Fit for School Program supports Ministries of Education in implementing interventions that are aligned with the One Health concept: (WASH, school-based deworming, food safety). Preventing infectious diseases in a school setting can largely benefit from this approach as it recognizes the transmission process from animals to humans and the connection between people, animals, and surrounding ecosystems. In the recently concluded Water and Health Conference in University of North Carolina last October 27, Dr. Vicente Belizario presented in one of the sessions how integration of One Health with WASH in Schools (WinS) can be used to address the threats of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in school settings.
NTDs are a diverse group of health conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, mostly in impoverished communities, and are often associated with poor sanitation and hygiene. With the school-age children as one of the high-risk groups infected by NTDs, the session stressed the importance of school-based deworming programs to prevent the spread of these diseases. Early and regular mass drug administration (MDA) has been found to reduce severe cases and morbidity. However, data from World Health Organization (WHO) shows that coverage of deworming has been decreasing for the past years, which can be partly attributed to the pandemic. Despite implementing deworming in schools, reinfections can still be observed due to the lack of access to proper WASH services and infrastructures. The session also highlighted the importance of having WASH interventions in place, complemented by school-based deworming, food safety measures, and health education.
Through the One Health lens and the application of the Fit for School approach, tangible and practical WinS measures can be implemented within the school’s scope of action. Interventions are focused on maximizing health outcomes of the students by recognizing the connection between human health and animals, and environmental health. With schools as part of the greater community, this can contribute to the overall WASH of the whole community, and ultimately contribute to disease control and prevention for improved health and learning outcomes.
To learn more about the One Health approach, its role in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, and how to implement a One Health approach in schools, watch the Watch the One Health session at the UNC Water and Health Conference One Health: Neglected Tropical Diseases, WASH & WASH in Schools – YouTube