A new paper published in Frontiers in Public Health and co-authored by One Health Trust’s Aditi Sriram applied Shiffman and Smith’s political prioritization framework to understand zoonotic disease prioritization in India. The researchers conducted interviews with Indian policymakers and disease management experts to investigate zoonotic disease management in the context of the four components of the framework: 1) the strength of the actors involved in prioritization; 2) the power of the ideas they use to convey the issue; 3) the political environment; and 4) the characteristics of the issue itself. Interviews with key informants revealed that India lacks nationally ratified disease prioritization guidelines. Instead, state governments must determine disease priorities based on the community’s needs. One informant noted that this approach to disease prioritization allows state governments to have strong ownership over their regional disease management policies. National- and state-level informants generally concurred that zoonotic prioritization is largely sectorally driven, meaning that the human and animal health sectors may each view a zoonosis with varying levels of importance. Other interviewees noted that while some organizations may wish to collaborate with other sectors, overstretched staff and limited resources prevent joint prioritization of disease.

The study also showed that media coverage spurred the political visibility of many zoonoses, but often obscured diseases affecting low-income and otherwise vulnerable populations in India. Limited zoonosis incidence data collected from these communities also results in a lack of credible indicators of the absolute burden of disease, posing a significant barrier for disease prioritization.

Utilizing a One Health approach to the prioritization of zoonoses, which inherently involves the human and animal health sectors, can help boost political awareness of these diseases. Effective prioritization will require cross-sectoral collaboration, a strengthened science-policy interface, and increased disease surveillance in vulnerable populations.

Read the full article here.