The GCRF One Health Poultry Hub was delighted to welcome Dr Parvinder Maini, Scientific Secretary, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, to the opening ceremony of its final all-Hub meeting in New Delhi, where she delivered an inaugural address focusing on the importance of One Health.

Hub Director Professor Fiona Tomley (left) with Dr Parvinder Maini, Scientific Secretary, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.

In her address, Dr Maini emphasised the growing significance of the One Health approach, particularly in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This understands the interconnectedness of animal, human, environmental and ecosystem health and seeks to achieve best health for all through promoting effective and efficient intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration across the human, animal, plant and environment domains.

Since early 2019, the Hub has employed a One Health approach to identify factors influencing health risks associated with intensification of poultry production. These include avian influenza – which has epidemic and pandemic potential, bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, and also the growing threat from antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Undertaking fieldwork in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat in India, as well as in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, the Hub’s objective has been to inform the development of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable policy and interventions that will result in improved health for people, animals and societies.

Participants at the One Health Poultry Hub Final Hub Meeting

The final all-Hub meeting brought together more than 80 researchers from many disciplines, including the social and natural sciences, to consider their findings and integrate them. Others joined the proceedings online.  The meeting comprised two days of oral and poster presentations, hands-on workshops and discussions to finalise and start to integrate findings across all Hub work packages. A third day was dedicated to high-level panel discussions with key external stakeholders.

See the Hub Final Meeting posters

The research outputs of the Hub come at an opportune moment as the framing of India’s One Health Mission is receiving finishing touches. India’s recent G20 Presidency also made very specific inputs to the contemporary global health agenda, with One Health as a central theme in that process.

Dr Maini, in her inaugural address, discussed challenges faced in poultry production, such as avian influenza (bird flu), which poses economic, biodiversity and zoonotic risks.

She praised the multidisciplinary approach of projects such as the One Health Poultry Hub in bringing about long-lasting change for disease control and improving coordination among stakeholders.

A keynote address via video from Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chairperson, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and former Chief Scientist, World Health Organization (WHO), spoke of the realisation that zoonotic infections are a growing threat in terms of epidemics and pandemics. She noted the increasing rate of jumps of viruses from animals to humans in the past few decades and said the trend is likely to continue.

Dr Swaminathan spoke of the importance of the influenza monitoring and surveillance networks, coordinated by the WHO, and of learning from past mistakes in the preparation of the post-COVID 19 WHO pandemic treaty now being negotiated.

Hub Deputy Director Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Chow Tak Fung Professor of One Health and Director of the Centre for Applied One Health Research and Policy Advice at City University of Hong Kong, gave the keynote presentation, entitled ‘One Health for tackling real-world complex challenges’. Urging a wider embracing of systems thinking, he said: “Don’t jump on the pathogens, think about the systems.”

He called for researchers to embrace even greater multisectoral engagement and decision making – and above all to embrace nature. “We’re not separate from nature, we’re part of it,” he said, adding that transformation of the food system was for food security and food safety for human eing – but to protects nature.

Hub Director Professor Fiona Tomley, of the Royal Veterinary College, noted that we were living in “interesting and scary times”, with disease threats high. However, the pandemic had had positive as well as negative effects, including demonstrating the ingenuity of technical developments, such as diagnostics and the ability to roll things out at speed but also reminding us  that not all challenges have technical solutions.

Other honoured guests for the opening ceremony included Professor Satish Chandra Garkoti, Rector of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Mr Takayuki Hagiwara FAO Representative in India.

Professor Rajib Dasgupta, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Hub Director Professor Fiona Tomley presided at the ceremony.

Complex challenges

See the slides for Professor Dirk Pfeiffer's keynote presentation, One Health for tackling real-world complex challenges