Risk Anywhere Is Risk Everywhere
Human activity is the main driving force behind new, emerging, and re-emerging diseases. Most pathogens that are infectious to humans are zoonotic – in other words, they cross over from animals to people.
As human societies extend their footprint and encroach on natural habitats, they disturb the ecological equilibrium, which results in the spillover of animal microbes into human populations. Growing demand for animal-sourced foods has increased the number of livestock on farms, creating more opportunities for crossover of pathogens. Every year, these diseases cause more than 1 billion human infections and 1 million deaths.
The pace of EID outbreaks has increased at an average annual rate of 6.7 percent from 1980 and is compounded by the global movement of goods and people, which enables local outbreaks to spread worldwide. Diseases know no boundary; the next pandemic may already be on the horizon.
Confluence of Nature and Neglect
COVID-19 sparked a global health, economic, and societal emergency unlike any other in recent history. It killed more than 6.3 million people as of June 2022, with true mortality being possibly three times higher and numbers continuing to rise. The IMF projected the cumulative output loss from the pandemic through to 2024 to be about $13.8 trillion.
The business-as-usual approach to pandemics has been based on containment and control after a disease has emerged. Not only is this short-sighted, but it is also costly and reactive. Meanwhile, there is chronic underinvestment in disease prevention in many countries. And while many of the benefits of prevention accrue at the national and global levels, the costs tend to be borne locally for interventions such as reducing forest fragmentation and deforestation, monitoring wildlife health, and enhancing the biosecurity of livestock farms.
Pandemic Prevention Is the Ultimate Investment for Humanity
Prevention is a global public good that requires an integrated, risk-based approach to prioritize spillover hot spots, ensure compliance with international health standards, and promote country ownership. The good news is that these investments are highly effective: actions to prevent disease outbreaks carry an estimated rate of return of up to 86 percent, and most of these actions will result in significant co-benefits.
Putting Pandemics Behind Us: Investing in One Health to Reduce Risks of Emerging Infectious Diseases explores the One Health holistic investment framework that will help governments, international organizations, and donors direct financial resources to prevent pandemics. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and successful implementation will require a set of interventions that speaks to the national and local context.
One Health is an integrated approach that supports a wide range of sustainable development objectives with significant co-benefits in areas such as agriculture, food production, and environmental protection. For example, a One Health approach to prevention by reducing deforestation would generate ancillary benefits of $4.3 billion from lower carbon dioxide emissions.