What was the aim of the One Health EJP programme and how was ANSES involved?
The project's main focus was on putting the "One Health" concept into practice. Health risks today have no borders, meaning that health issues need to be addressed in a more holistic way. The "One Health" approach seeks to highlight the close links between human health, animal health and the environment, and the need to address them through an integrative approach that reaches across these three components.
The aim of the programme was to acquire new knowledge on diseases known as zoonoses, which can pass from animals to humans. The EJP's work mainly focused on foodborne diseases, those with major implications regarding antimicrobial resistance, as well as emerging diseases.
ANSES was responsible for the overall coordination of the programme, and worked closely with the Belgian public health organisation Sciensano on the coordination of scientific activities. To do this, it drew on its considerable experience organising large-scale European research projects over the past two decades. The coordination team were responsible for the legal, administrative and financial management of the programme.
In terms of scientific contribution, the Agency participated through several of its laboratories in 24 collaborative projects and four theses funded by the One Health EJP. It was the coordinator for six of these projects and theses.
Most of the research projects were completed in late 2022, so what still remains to be done?
This year, the results will be assessed by an external scientific panel and will then be more fully exploited, mainly through publications in scientific journals.
The project has led to a wealth of results and achievements: bacterial strain collections, pathogen genome sequences, detection methods, surveillance procedures, etc. It will take time for the various national and European participants to assimilate and use these results, given the vast scope of the project and the volume and diversity of the available output.
Presenting the One Health EJP's scientific results to stakeholders has only just begun. A conference to present the main lessons from the programme and discuss the challenges ahead in implementing the "One Health" concept will take place in Brussels from 19 to 21 June 2023.
How has the EJP helped to put the "One Health" concept into practice?
The One Health EJP is unique in that it began by carrying out an in-depth study of the specific research needs at European level, in close collaboration with stakeholders in order to be able to meet these needs. The objectives were therefore defined with food safety risk assessors and managers, whether national bodies such as ministries, or European ones such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) or European Environment Agency (EEA).
By putting the "One Health" concept into practice, the One Health EJP is one of these European public initiatives that has succeeded in bringing together researchers from the human health, food safety and animal health sectors. It has also helped raise awareness among communities about the "One Health" approach and the need to stop working in silos to ensure cross-sector collaboration and meet the health challenges of today and tomorrow. The example of the COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent and obvious illustration of this need. The "One Health" concept is now becoming more embedded and operational, but changing the paradigm will not happen overnight!