Health: The agriculture ministry is awaiting a final endorsement from the government on the Bhutan One Health Strategic Plan 2016-2020.

The plan is a five-year vision document that will guide all sectors and agencies involved in preparedness and prevention of zoonosis and other public health risks. The document is also expected to outline strategies and action activities for each stakeholder.

The recently released Department of Livestock’s annual report 2014-2015 states that one health means ‘the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and environment.’

Owing to the increasing incidence of emerging and re-emerging diseases globally it was felt necessary to create awareness and advocacy on zoonosis and other public health risks among policy makers and develop a strategic plan for Bhutan, the report states.

National Centre for Animal Health’s programme director (Dr) Kuenzang Dukpa said although various sectors and agencies were working on prevention and preparedness until now, there wasn’t a formal understanding and no formalized working documents.

“We need a formalized working system between various stakeholders and a one health approach is expected to formalize it,” he said.

The strategic plan implementation, which begins next year, is broadly categorized into seven phases.

For the disease surveillance system, (Dr) Kuenzang Dukpa explained that although a disease surveillance system is already in place in each sectors there was no meeting point in the system. One health strategy is expected to strengthen the surveillance system where all information can be shared in real time.

Other major strategies include, disease outbreak preparedness and response, capacity building, collaborative research, communication and advocacy. The wildlife and environment strategy is considered important considering the increasing instances of human coming in conflict with wildlife, which is a major source of diseases.

The annual report also mentions that in recent years, Bhutan has experienced series of zoonotic disease outbreaks such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, anthrax and rabies.

The one health approach is also expected to improve cross-sectoral understanding of the health problems and promote more holistic approach by involving local authorities and communities in the control programs.

The ministries of health and agriculture are still working out the cost of implementing the strategic plan.

Nirmala Pokhrel