Global Health: Avoiding the Next Pandemic, Adapting to Global Warming

This is one of the new medical challenges of tomorrow: integrating our relationship with the environment into our understanding of human health. Deforestation, urbanization, displacement of wildlife, degradation of ecosystems, farm health and, increasingly, global warming… Being able to understand these multiple interconnected environmental factors to improve health care, that is what the concept of ” One Health” or, in good French, “One health only”.

Close to the attentive ears of the President of the Grand Est Region, Jean Rottner, guest of the Global Health day-event co-organized by Science and the Future – Researchfour experts have come to outline the prospects for tomorrow’s health.

Participants in this round table:

– Jean Rottner, President of the Grand Est Region.
– Benjamin Roche, Director of Research, co-director of the PREZODE international program for the prevention of zoonotic diseases at the Institute for Research and Development (IRD).
– Frédéric Keck, Director of Research at the Laboratory of Social Anthropology, CNRS-Collège de France-EHESS.
– Benoît Miribel, Secretary General of the “Sustainable Health for All” Foundation.
– Mathilde Pascal, Project Manager Climate Change and Health, Public Health France.
– Vanina Laurent-Ledru, Chief Executive Officer, Fondazione S – Il Collettivo Sanofi. Agitate, Innovate, Orchestrate Health (Vulnerable Populations)

“We have to land the concept of global health, which has been hanging a bit up until now”, attacks Benjamin Roche. In fact, once we said that all health (environmental, animal and human) is connected, we haven’t made much progress. The IRD researcher is involved in an ambitious international program, PREZODE, aimed at creating a system for monitoring and therefore preventing emerging viruses. “Today we have four times more epidemics in the world than in the last century”remember the scientist, “essentially zoonoses, these pathogens that pass from animals to humans: AIDS, Ebola, avian or swine flu, Zika…”

This ambition is on the rise after three years marred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Launched at the One Planet Biodiversity Summit in January 2021, at the initiative of Inrae, IRD and Cirad, the program is now supported by nearly 170 partners, including 16 governments. Benjamin Roche is already pleased to have finalized the development “in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, of a first territory united by a ‘One Health’ strategy in a coherent way”. All that remains is to test it… and adapt it to other outbreaks of zoonotic emergency.

An emergency for all participants: “In increasingly close and physically connected populations, we have a perfect cocktail for pathogen species hopping, with pets as bridges facilitating the emergence of zoonoses”details Benjamin Roche. “We are racing towards a world where we will experience repeated pandemics”warns.

Adapt to global warming

Anthropologist Frédéric Keck also notes that this necessary reform of “One Health” in human medicine is moving from the global level to the territorial level, a sign that the ambitions are materializing. “We need to be able to create sentinel territories, both in Southeast Asia and West Africa in particular. This is what is being done on a different scale for avian flu in France, where the Vendée and the Gers, producing regions of poultry, they therefore act as sentinel territories.”

Same story with Benoît Miribel, general secretary of the “Sustainable Health for All” foundation. The man on the ground who led Action Against Hunger, in particular, calls for broader operational implementation in health policies. Almost a reform: “You have to realize that every time you act on this or that factor, something changes in the environment. When you green a city, you have to anticipate a change in local biodiversity (rats, insects, etc.).”

Another environmental factor essential for our health: global warming. Mathilde Pascal thus recalls that the multiplication of heat waves is accompanied by an excess of mortality, that the fires favored by drought are also factors of air pollution. “For our health, not only must we do everything to slow global warming, but we must already adapt to this new climate and the extreme events that accompany it. Because unfortunately, so far, we are not at all on a trend to maintain a viable future “continues the manager of the “climate change and health” project at Santé Publique France.

Vanina Laurent-Ledru, CEO of the very young S. Foundation (created within Sanofi) has come to shed light on the means to finance this adaptation to climate change. “We need to support communities where the effects of change are greatest today, freeing up funding.” Thus, faced with the proliferation of increasingly deadly floods, “we funded a hospital ship to reach vulnerable populations”. Finally, Jean Rottner insists on underdeveloped mental health, a poor relative. Especially today that the health crisis has left its mark, especially among young people.

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