Coordinated "One Health" Approach Would Improve Public Health Emergency Prevention and Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/30/19]— U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said today that coronavirus (COVID-19) is highlighting the urgent need to better understand the links between human, animal and environmental health, and that she is urging senate leaders to take up her bipartisan legislation to improve the nation’s preparedness to deal with future outbreaks that originate in animals.

Sen. Smith said her bipartisan measure, the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act, would ensure that federal agencies advance a “One Health” approach—the idea that human, animal and environmental health are all linked, and should be studied together. She introduced the measure in 2019 with Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) to improve preparedness and response to diseases like coronavirus.

In a letter to Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Sen. Smith and a bipartisan group of her colleagues said that coronaviruses, including COVID-19, originate in animals. But they can mutate and pass from animals to humans and then from human to human.  

“Given the significant and far-reaching social and economic consequences of zoonotic diseases, it is critical that we prioritize a One Health approach in the next coronavirus response package. Successful public health preparedness and response efforts require the cooperation and coordination of the human, animal, and environmental health communities – as well as improved coordination across the federal government," wrote the senators  

Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) joined Sen. Smith in sending the letter.

You can read the letter here or below.

April 29, 2020

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer,  

As the Senate considers legislation relevant to the coronavirus pandemic, we ask that you consider moving S. 1903, the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill would create a national One Health framework to facilitate coordination among federal agencies around zoonotic disease prevention, preparation, and response. As the world responds to the coronavirus pandemic, we need to consider how we can best prepare our country to prevent similar pandemics or outbreaks from occurring in the future—and a One Health framework would be an invaluable preparedness tool.

The current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic illustrates the importance of understanding the links between human and animal health, and how a One Health approach is essential to our knowledge of these diseases. One Health is the idea that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are inextricably linked. Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, originate in animals—like camels, civets and bats—and are usually not transmissible to humans. However, a coronavirus can mutate and pass from animals to humans and then from human to human, as was the case with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in the early 2000s. Most of the first known cases in December 2019 of COVID-19were traced to the Chinese city of Wuhan and this virus is believed to have originated in bats.

The Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act would help to improve our knowledge of diseases like COVID-19 by coordinating federal efforts in preventing and responding to human and animal health emergencies through a One Health framework. This framework would be developed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of Agriculture, and other relevant agencies to advance workforce development related to prevention of and response to pandemics or outbreaks; improve coordination between federal agencies who study human and animal health and the environment; and advance scientific understanding of the connections between human, animal, and environmental health. Further, agencies would draft recommendations for how the federal government can adequately prevent and prepare for potentially devastating pandemics or outbreaks in animals and humans.

Given the significant and far-reaching social and economic consequences of zoonotic diseases, it is critical that we prioritize a One Health approach in the next coronavirus response package. Successful public health preparedness and response efforts require the cooperation and coordination of the human, animal, and environmental health communities –as well as improved coordination across the federal government. The Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act would help advance this goal. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Issues