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Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Sens. Smith, Young introduce One Health legislation to combat disease outbreaks

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U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced a bill that would improve coordination among government agencies when studying animal and human health to prevent disease outbreaks.

Specifically, the Advancing Emergency Preparedness Through One Health Act would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Agriculture Department (USDA), and the Department of Interior (Interior) to adopt a One Health framework with other agencies. It is based on the idea that human and animal health are linked and should be studied together to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks.

“We sadly are all too familiar with how outbreaks take a real toll on families and our economy. I’ve pushed adopting a ‘One Health’ approach since I served as Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, and now I’m continuing that work in the Senate while we all navigate combatting COVID-19,” Smith, a member of both the Senate Health and Ag Committees, said. “We need to recognize the connection between human, animal, and environmental health, so future preparedness efforts meet the needs of all people, all ages, and in all communities.”

The Advancing Emergency Preparedness One Health Act would foster understanding of the connections between human, animal, and environmental health and improve coordination between federal agencies studying these areas. It would advance workforce development related to preventing and responding to disease outbreaks in animals and humans.

“The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how we must focus our efforts on better understanding the connection between animal and human health,” Young said. “Instituting a One Health framework at the federal level will help us to improve our knowledge of diseases like COVID-19 so we can best prevent, prepare, and respond to future pandemics and outbreaks.”

U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Over the last year, we have all experienced firsthand the strong correlation between animal health and human health,” Schrader, the only veterinarian currently serving in Congress, said. “This unique relationship has often been overlooked in how we work across government agencies to address these shared diseases. Beyond the current pandemic, rabies, salmonella, West Nile Virus, and avian flu are all examples of diseases that we see in animals before they are passed onto humans and can be fatal in both. This bill is an important step to improve preparedness, coordination, and communication between veterinarians who work with animals every day and federal agencies who respond to health outbreaks.”

Johns said a “One Health” approach will better prepare America to combat disease outbreaks before becoming widespread.