If a medically sound person suddenly falls ill within 48 hours of visiting the hospital, or a medically unsound person falls ill within 30 days post-treatment, then both categories of persons can be said to have contracted Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs). Everyone who visits the hospital environment is susceptible to this outcome, including health workers who cater to the sick. And depending on the pathway, HAIs could fall within any of the following disease categories: catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, hospital-acquired pneumonia, or clostridium difficile.
Hospital-acquired infectious diseases such as measles, Ebola, HIV/AIDs and COVID-19 are very costly to the individual because of the opportunity cost of treating them (e.g. productive time spent earning income)and the financial costs incurred. The nation’s economy is also greatly affected. For instance, the United States spends about $33 billion yearly treating HAIs, while the United Kingdom spends an estimated £774 million yearly. In addition to the monies spent on treatment, the country’s resources are also tapped, in terms of diversion of healthcare worker time away from other public health threats.
Although HAIs are preventable, e.g., frequent hand washing and practice of good hygiene at hospitals, the prevalence – as data suggests – is still high. Hence this calls for an effective management system, which takes into account the available resources of a country.
The One Health Approach
The One Health is a developing strategy for tackling public health challenges. It is a tool that health professionals are proffering as a lasting solution to public health situations such as HAIs and other diseases. The reason being that there is a commonality in the whole scenario, which is our eco system. First of all, most, if not all, of these diseases and infections are transmitted from animals or the environment to humans through a bacterial, viral or fungal attack: Ebola, Monkey pox, Malaria, the recent Covid-19, e. t. c., are caused by viral infections originating from animals within our ecosystem. Within the eco system is where these exchange happens. Taking into consideration all the components of the eco system – people, animals, plants and the environment – ensures that nothing is left out in designing a remedy for diseases and infections. And in the spirit of “Leaving no one behind”, the One Health tool suffices at this time.
Secondly, given the mutating behaviour of viruses in certain circumstances, One Health approach is imperative. Currently, the organism causing Covid-19 is reported to have jumped from an animal to a host and is now being described as an ‘emerging zoonotic infection’. Therefore, we do not have just Covid-19 to deal with but also its variant occurrence, Omicron, which has been described by the WHO as a ‘variant of concern’.It is, therefore, imperative for our future and safe preservation of our environment to change our public health approach and adopt more lasting measures such as the One Health approach. This is going to help achieve the desired public health order. The One Health approach ensures a multi-sectorial coordination in handling public health issues.