One Health Economics

The impact of emerging infectious disease on public health is both clear and well documented. However its burden often reaches well beyond the sphere of human health. Epidemics often also have significant negative impact on agricultural production, trade, and travel for the region directly affected and may extend further still than man-made borders. It is this impact which creates a strong incentive for a whole-of-society approach to tackling disease threats.

Disease management is typically viewed as the responsibility of the health sector. Yet considering the wide economic impact of outbreaks and the multi-sectoral benefits of disease prevention is perhaps the best way to encourage nations to move away from a reactive approach to pandemics. Considering the economics of “One Health” may be a wise tool in convincing countries and communities of the benefits in moving toward improved risk assessment and management.

In February 2017, EcoHealth Alliance and the World Bank convened the workshop “Prevent, Prepare, and Respond: Economics of One Health to Confront Disease Threats” in partnership with USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats-2 program and the European Cooperation in Science & Technology Network for Evaluation of One Health. The workshop built on the World Bank’s 2012 “People, Pathogens, and Our Planet” report on the economics of One Health which suggested high returns on investment in pandemic risk mitigation. This time around, EcoHealth Alliance, the World Bank, and their partners brought together experts in economics, ecology, public health, data science, and human and veterinary medicine to explore various solutions by which to assist country-level zoonotic disease management decisions.

The workshop’s discussions articulated a need for a systems approach to capture multi-sectoral disease risks and impacts, as well as systematic inclusion of the environment sector to more fully assess possible short and long-term consequences. Understanding direction and magnitude of impact–even when economic data are not available–may promote more informed decisionmaking. The workshop’s findings are reflected in the World Bank’s “Operational Framework for Strengthening Public Health Systems at the Human-Animal-Environment Interface.”

“One Health Economics” reinforces the wider work of EcoHealth Alliance and its partners on the economics of emerging infectious diseases, including economic optimization modelling and country-level cost-effectiveness studies. With economic impact used as a common value measure across sectors, the findings of this work may be particularly relevant to assist finance ministers, parliamentary bodies, and donor agencies in optimizing resources across multiple sectors to inform national and local action planning and investments for health security and other key sustainable development priorities.

Access the full workshop report here.

Read the World Bank blog on ‘One Health Economics for healthy people, agriculture and environment