U.S. Sens. Smith, Young Renew Bipartisan Push to Improve Public Health Preparedness with Coordinated “One Health” Approach

WASHINGTON, D.C. [3/18/21]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) are continuing their bipartisan work to improve public health preparedness by ensuring federal agencies advance a “One Health” approach—the idea that human and animal health are linked, and that they should be studied together—to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks.

We know from the current COVID-19 pandemic—with CDC confirmation that the virus originally came from an animal—that it is vital to make sure our nation is prepared for the future. The Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act would improve coordination among those studying animal and human health by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Agriculture Department (USDA), and the Department of Interior (Interior) to adopt a One Health framework with other agencies. U.S. Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-OR 5) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the House today.

“We sadly are all too familiar with how outbreaks take a real toll on families and our economy. I’ve pushed adopting a ‘One Health’ approach since I served as Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, and now I’m continuing that work in the Senate while we all navigate combatting COVID-19,” said Sen. Smith, a member of both the Senate Health and Ag Committees. “We need to recognize the connection between human, animal and environmental health so future preparedness efforts meet the needs of all people, all ages, and in all communities.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how we must focus our efforts on better understanding the connection between animal and human health,” said Sen. Young. “Instituting a One Health framework at the federal level will help us to improve our knowledge of diseases like COVID-19 so we can best prevent, prepare, and respond to future pandemics and outbreaks.” 

“Over the last year, we have all experienced firsthand the strong correlation between animal health and human health,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, the only veterinarian currently serving in the United States Congress. “This unique relationship has often been overlooked in how we work across government agencies to address these shared diseases. Beyond the current pandemic, rabies, salmonella, West Nile Virus, and avian flu are all examples of diseases that we see in animals before they are passed onto humans, and can be fatal in both. This bill is an important step to improve preparedness, coordination, and communication between veterinarians who work with animals every day and federal agencies who respond to health outbreaks.”

“COVID-19 has further revealed the strong correlation between human health and animal health. A ‘One Health’ approach will ensure America is better prepared to combat disease outbreaks before they become widespread amongst species,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is a devastating example of why this legislation is so critically important. In order to successfully deal with threats like this in the future, we must take an integrated approach to solving the public health and food security threats that are emerging at the intersection of humans, animals and the environment. Better coordination among the different agencies and secretariats involved in health and agriculture will help leverage their strengths and make them more effective,” said Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Chief Executive Officer.

 “As we have learned from COVID-19, influenza, Zika, the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and many other infectious threats,  human, animal and environmental health are interconnected and One Health strategies are critical.  The Infectious Diseases Society of America supports this important legislation to strengthen our surveillance, research and workforce to better prevent, prepare for and respond to outbreaks,” said Barbara D. Alexander, MD, MHS, FIDSA; President, Infectious Diseases Society of America; Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Duke University School of Medicine.

“COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the need for our nation to take a One Health approach to disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Douglas Kratt, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President. “Animals, humans, and the environment are more interconnected than ever, and the bill reintroduced today is an important step to fully implementing One Health principles into our public health approach. The AVMA urges Congress to pass the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act so we can better prepare, detect, and respond to zoonotic diseases in the future.”

“Local health department professionals understand that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment and that a ‘one health’ approach is necessary to truly protect health. The Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act acknowledges the critical role of partnerships between the local, state, and federal levels to develop a comprehensive One Health framework. We appreciate the leadership of all the policymakers who recognize the need for this approach in order to protect the public’s health,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, MBA, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

The Advancing Emergency Preparedness One Health Act would:

  • Advance workforce development related to preventing and responding to disease outbreaks in animals and humans;
  • Improve coordination between federal agencies studying human, animal health, and the environment; and
  • Foster understanding of the connections between human, animal, and environmental health.

In addition to working to author and pass historic legislation to provide COVID-19 relief to families and businesses, Sen. Smith continues to hear from Minnesotans about the need to combat African Swine Fever, Chronic Wasting Disease and Lyme Disease. In Willmar, Minn. Sen. Smith met with livestock producers and veterinarians at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Laboratory and heard folks talk about the importance of identifying and monitoring emerging diseases. And more recently, Sen. Smith worked across party lines with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to get their bipartisan bill to improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for tick-borne diseases signed into law as part of a government funding package.