Has the European Region embraced the One Health approach in the fight against antimicrobial resistance?

Each year, 33 000 people in Europe and 700 000 people worldwide die as a result of infection with drug-resistant bacteria. WHO/Europe advocates the One Health approach as the only viable solution to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The One Health approach brings together different disciplines in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment. Because many of the same microbes infect both animals and humans, and because we share living environments, one sector alone cannot stop AMR.

According to the latest progress overview, available in the report “Monitoring global progress on addressing antimicrobial resistance”, work on multisectoral plans and surveillance systems has been significant.

In the WHO European Region, 32% of countries were in the highest category: all activities are implemented and functioning on a national scale and plans are actively monitored and updated. Globally, just 19% of countries were in that category. In the last year, 5 countries have moved into the highest category and others are steadily improving.

Action starts with good planning

Every country in the Region either has or is developing a national action plan for AMR with a range of measures to help stop or at least slow this serious threat. These measures may include the development of guidelines for medical professionals on how to use antibiotics and which drugs to use in different situations. They may also involve legislation restricting sales of antibiotics and improving the quality of laboratories and surveillance systems.

In developing their action plans, countries have been encouraged to use the One Health approach as an overarching guiding principle. One Health plans facilitate intersectoral coordination in line with national plans and policies to, for example:

  • reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescription and consumption in both human and veterinary sectors; and
  • stop infections from occurring in humans and animals in the first place with improved hygiene measures and vaccination.

One Health is not an optional extra – it is a basic requirement

Dr Danilo Lo Fo Wong, Programme Manager for Antimicrobial Resistance at WHO/Europe, says: “The European Region does deserve a round of applause – most countries are making great efforts to plan effectively and take action. Yet not all countries have a functioning One Health coordination policy or plan. Given the complexity of AMR, One Health is not an optional extra – it is a basic requirement at the national and international level.”

“One Health does not mean that all sectors need to be involved in every aspect of dealing with AMR, but that all sectors together need to make sure that all aspects of AMR are addressed,” he continues. “This means that all need to know their role and assume their responsibilities. World Antibiotic Awareness Week is an opportunity to celebrate successes and to reflect on what still needs to be done to fight AMR.”

WHO/Europe operates within its 53 Member States to implement the One Health approach by:

  • advocating that decision-makers in all relevant sectors place AMR high on the agenda;
  • supporting the development of comprehensive national action plans;
  • working alongside national counterparts to improve national AMR data collection; and
  • facilitating intersectoral coordination in line with national plans and policies.