Whether it has to do with a governmental institution or with a private organization – the decision to shift or adjust policies is never taken lightly – and the implementation of the One Health approach is no different. Though doing so may seem logical or even tempting to some country leaders, especially during a global pandemic, it has to be backed up by many factors – with the financial one being one of the most crucial of them.

Is the One Health approach actually good for the economy and society? What are the benefits of adopting such an approach, and why should stakeholders keep an eye on initiatives of this kind? In the following chapter we will answer these questions.

Health Economics

When talking about health economics, one usually refers to issues concerning efficiency, effectiveness, value and behavior in either producing or consuming healthcare – or health in general. Nevertheless, the term “health economics”, in its current, conservative view, still takes only the financial aspects of human health into account – and fails to see the bigger picture by including other environmental or veterinarian factors.

Zoonotic diseases, responsible for approximately 70% of the illnesses known to us today, have a much greater cost than just hospitalization costs or private loss of income. COVID-19 showed us that the cross-sectoral impacts are colossal, and range from public organizations all the way to privately owned businesses – and everything in between. The World Bank had already declared that not only the Coronavirus recession has seen “the fastest, steepest downgrades in consensus growth projections among all global recessions since 1990” – but the damages to potential output and even labor productivity are going to have long-term impacts, and will probably be felt for multiple decades to come.

Economic losses with correlation to zoonotic diseases are massive. With the current pandemic still very much happening, we can cautiously rely look at previous calculations: a study conducted by the World Bank in 2012 has conservatively estimated that the costs of a couple of zoonotic diseases spread worldwide between 1998-2009 added up to the staggering number of $80.2 billion (6.7 billion U.S. dollars annually, on average). Another estimation indicates that the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) may decrease the world GDP by approximately 3.5% every year by 2050. With those statistics in mind, one should take into account that COVID-19 has much more financially devastating impacts on the global economy than all of the previous epidemics mentioned combined (the Asian Development Bank estimated that COVID‐19 could cost the global economy between $5.8 and $8.8 trillion).

These challenges all lead to the undeniable conclusion that the decision-making procedures in the health sectors need to change, and rapidly. The One Health approach prides itself on not only acting differently, but thinking of creative solutions from a wider perspective. Instead of classically asking “what can we do?”, One Health gives an integrated, cross-sectoral and holistic response to the question “what needs to be done?”.

Economic Benefits of One Health for Corporate Stakeholders

The dynamic reality and the costs of the existing health sectors all raise the question: could One Health policies decrease the expenses of the current situation significantly, and not only benefit corporate stakeholders – but also attract new ones?

The One Health Commission states loud and clear – yes, effectiveness and efficiency are the two main pillars of the approach. Leaning on integrative, holistic risk management of the future health challenges, the financial benefits of it reside in its ability to prospect and prevent, or at least critically reduce the cost of health problems emerging and re-emerging – and respond to them better and faster.

From a societal point of view, One Health policies intend to prompt solutions to both real-time and future problems. Getting faster and better solutions can stop or prevent challenges in multiple fields: a tangible remedy for global warming, for example, will be beneficial for both the animal habitat, initially, but will also be helpful later on with human migration problems, hence reducing the ecological footprint and saving all the costs involved.

One Health strategies also suggest spreading the resources differently, and even combining infrastructure or skill sets to utilize underused resources. Additionally, those resources can be equalized and offered to people and animals living in geographically isolated or disadvantaged areas. A good example for spreading resources can be found in  programs like the one of the Fogarty institute, offering scholars and fellows a one year mentored program to conduct clinical health-related research at various NIH sites in Africa, Asia and South America, and aims to “advance data science, catalyze innovation and spur health discoveries”. That way, both the researchers get hands-on experience, and on the other hand, problems from different fields of life in those areas get specific answers.

One more economical benefit of the One Health approach has to do with cost-sharing. Instead of handling similar health problems individually at different times, a collaboration between sectors guarantees a faster remedy and a reduction of the logistic costs by 15% – from the research stage and up to the implementation and trouble-shooting ones.

Stakeholders investing in One Health initiatives will not only affect the disease impact and costs, but will also help with controlling the overall costs of diseases better, and preventing avoidable losses of both human life and livestock. Building stronger, healthier ecosystems will also lead to better economic growth. From their point of view, and according to the CDC – where these avoidable losses and economic opportunities are greater than the general costs – an investment is certainly worthwhile.