One Health is an emerging platform that emphasises the interconnectedness of the health of people, animals and our shared environment. The One Health approach encourages disparate professionals across sectors to collaborate and tackle emerging infectious diseases through research, biosurveillance, detection and containment.
Held on 13 July at NUS University Town, the One Health and Outbreak Surveillance Symposium brought together many local and international experts to share about their experiences and valuable learning points in implementing One Health projects in Singapore and the region. Invited speakers include a veterinarian, medical officer, public health officer, policymaker, computer scientist, geographer, virologist and epidemiologist.
The event was jointly organised by the School’s Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research (CIDER)and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), in partnership with the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency of Singapore (NEA). Over 300 participants and stakeholders were in attendance at the symposium and dialogue sessions.
The guest-of-honour, RADM (Dr) Tang Kong Choong, Chief of Medical Corps of the Singapore Armed Forces, gave the opening address. He shared that the military is exposed to tropical diseases endemic in other countries by virtue of their unique training and operating environments, and recognised the importance of greater integration and collaboration to establish an integrated and strong national outbreak response system.
Dr Yap Him Hoo, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Regulatory Programmes & Operations) and Director-General of AVA, highlighted how the One Health agencies in Singapore—comprising MOH, NEA and AVA—have worked together to bring about steady progress in areas such as surveillance, risk assessment and protocols in effective crisis response and management.
On keeping up with the rapid evolution of pathogens and the ever-changing environment, Professor Teo Yik Ying, Dean, spoke about how academic institutes can facilitate the development of practical solutions to improve the health of the population through research.
The first plenary speaker, Professor Dirk Pfeiffer, Chair Professor of One Health, City University of Hong Kong, highlighted an evidence-based risk assessment for appropriate policy changes and interventions to control outbreaks. While challenging most of the time, it remains very critical for an effective risk management. As such, policymakers need to acknowledge different knowledge states for event occurrence and consequences to make the most reasonable policy or intervention at a specific time of an outbreak.
The second plenary speaker, Professor Wang Linfa, Director of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS, shared that bats are a reservoir of fatality-causing viruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Nipah virus, Hendra virus as well as the newly discovered swine acute diarrhoea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV). As there are potentially more to be discovered, Prof Wang added that there is a need to strengthen our biosurveillance and research efforts on animal-human interaction to detect potential emerging outbreaks.
Concluding the symposium, Dr Vincent Pang, Director of CIDER, reiterated the need for an integrative biosurveillance system of animal (including poultry) and human cases to effectively detect potential disease outbreaks, especially with changing environmental factors. He also advocated for more research efforts to understand the impact of legislation for wildlife preservation and ecotourism on One Health.
1st row from left: Dr Wilson Tan (Programme Head of Vector-borne Diseases, NEA); Mr Derek Ho (Director-General of Environmental Public Health Division, NEA); Dr Yap Him Hoo (Director-General & Deputy CEO of Regulatory Programmes & Operations, AVA); RADM (Dr) Tang Kong Choong (Chief of Medical Corps, SAF); Prof Teo Yik Ying (Dean, NUS SSHSPH); Prof Dirk Pfeiffer (Chair Professor of One Health, CityU); A/Prof Vernon Lee (Director of Communicable Diseases, MOH); COL (Dr) Chow Weien (Chief Naval Medical Officer, SAF); Dr Tan Lee Kim (Deputy CEO of Corporate & Technology, AVA); A/Prof Ng Lee Ching (Director of Environmental Health Institute, NEA)
2nd row from left: Mr Pream Raj (Assistant Director of Surveillance, Epidemiology & Response, MOH); A/Prof Wang Yi-Chen (Department of Geography, NUS); Dr Sophie von Dobschuetz (Veterinary Epidemiologist, FAO); Dr Debapriyo Chakraborty (Senior Research Scientist, EcoHealth Alliance); Prof Wang Linfa (Professor and Director, Duke-NUS Medical School); Dr Marc Ho (Deputy Director of Public Health Intelligence, MOH); Dr Anthony Mounts (Country Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vietnam Office); Dr Huangfu Taoqi (Deputy Director of Animal Health Laboratory, AVA); Dr Roman Carrasco (Department of Biological Sciences, NUS); Dr Vincent Pang (Director of CIDER, NUS SSHSPH)
(Photo source: AVA)