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Infectious disease threats in focus at Uppsala Health Summit

2017-06-02

Despite remarkable gains in health over the last century, infectious diseases remain a major threat. Alarming reports on outbreaks of Zika, Ebola or avian flu serve as reminders of the gravity of the situation. At the high-level meeting Uppsala Health Summit, international experts will gather from different sectors to discuss how to reduce the threats.

Around 75 percent of all new infectious diseases are zoonotic, which means they are naturally transmitted between people and animals. Due to a number of interrelated drivers such as intensified animal production, climate change, population growth and our international travel, the risk of outbreaks is increasing. Antimicrobial resistance adds a serious extra dimension.

There will always be new epidemics, but we need to get better at managing the threats, which otherwise risk having shattering consequences for individual patients, families and society at large.

The situation varies in different parts of the world. In high-income countries, we need to be prepared for at the worst large, but mostly temporary outbreaks. In low-income countries, where health systems are fragile and many live under a constant pressure of endemic disease, the outbreaks are more difficult to manage.

Uppsala Health Summit 2017 will address how to meet the threats from new and emerging infectious disease using One Health, an approach that focuses on the close link between the health of humans, animals and the environment. According to the One Health concept, veterinarians, public health experts, medical doctors, biologists, ecologists and social scientists need to work together to prevent, detect and control the spread of disease.

The meeting aims to develop proposals on how global and local management structures may change to better address the threats in a sustainable way by applying a One Health approach.

The programme will contribute perspectives and experiences from different parts of the world and different sectors, for example research, industry and policy. Inspiring lectures will be mixed with workshops.

“The threats of zoonotic infectious disease affect us all, regardless of where we live on our planet. We want to gather important actors for a concrete discussion about what we can do to be better prepared. There will always be epidemics, but there are ways to reduce their impact so that fewer people suffer,” says Anders Malmberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Uppsala University and chair of the Uppsala Health Summit steering committee.

Speakers at the summit include Dr Pierre Formenty, team lead in the WHO Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens Team; anthropologist Dr Paul Richards, author of Ebola: How a people’s science helped end an epidemic; Peter Dazsak, Director of the NGO EcoHealth Alliance, which leads research into ecosystems, wildlife health and solutions that promote conservation and prevent outbreaks; and the Chief Veterinary Officer of The Netherlands, Christianne Bruschke, who will share their country’s One Health approach.

“One Health is the only sustainable approach that can protect us from infectious disease and fight antimicrobial resistance. We need to create a culture around collaboration, a joint effort that does not operate in silos and that does not stop at country borders, much like the infections themselves,” says Marianne Elvander, former State Epizootologist in Sweden and chair of the programme committee for Uppsala Health Summit.

At the 2017 meeting, four scholarships will be announced for journalists who would otherwise not be able to attend. The purpose of the grant is to contribute to more informed reporting on the threats of infectious disease. The grant will enable up to four international journalists to participate in the conference.

Read more about this year´s Uppsala Health Summit.

Uppsala Health Summit is a collaboration led by Uppsala University, including the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala Region, the Medical Products Agency, the National Veterinary Institute, the National Food Agency, Uppsala Monitoring Centre, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare – Forte, the City of Uppsala and the network Worldclass Uppsala.


Some background on One Health:

The 2009 outbreak of H1N1 led to the establishment of a Tripartite Alliance between the OIE, WHO and FAO in 2010, emphasising the One Health concept to help countries confront health risks at the human–animal interface. Since then, the One Health concept has received increasing recognition from policy makers and researchers all over the world, particularly as an approach to antimicrobial resistance.

As a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, the WHO called a ministerial meeting in Senegal in 2016 which resulted in the endorsement of a communiqué on how to address zoonotic diseases and other related public health threats with a One Health approach.

Several One Health initiatives and networks are active across the world to ensure cross-sectoral coordination, communication and data sharing mechanisms between researchers and practictioners. The Network for Evaluation of One Health (NEOH) enables quantitative evaluations of One Health activities and receives support from the EU.