Preventing the next epidemic: IDRC awards nearly $5 million to uOttawa-led collaboration on One Health

Scene from a COVID-19 testing site somewhere in Africa
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has awarded nearly $5 million in funding to the "One Health" project on epidemics to a multi-country research team co-led by Professor Sanni Yaya, Senghor Chair in Health and Development, and Stéphanie Maltais, a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa.

They are collaborating with the following in-country principal investigators on this initiative: Dr. Alpha K. Keita, Deputy Director of the Centre de Recherche et de Formation en Infectiologie and Dr. Abdoulaye Touré, Director General of the Institut National de Santé Publique of the Republic of Guinea; and Dr. Justin M. Masumu and  Dr. Sheila Makiala of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

This project aims to decentralize and operationalize the "One Health" platforms in Guinea and the DRC, both heavily affected by epidemic potential and other endemic  diseases. Over the next three years, these researchers will undertake an environmental scan of One Health governance across the two countries.They will investigate the causes and consequences of emerging infectious diseases on gender and vulnerable groups to strengthen surveillance, information and risk communication systems.

"Recent epidemics like Ebola and the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored Africa's continued dependence on the rest of the world for health care and the deleterious effects on lives and livelihoods. A change of approach and paradigm shift is necessary to effectively address health crises, taking into account the specificities of environments, differences in living conditions of populations and social inequalities in health, not only within the same territory but also between countries," explains Professor Yaya, the Canadian lead on the project.

The researchers believe that contemporary public health issues require actors to go beyond the epidemiological triangle to better understand the complexity of health challenges and to propose appropriate multidisciplinary and multisectoral solutions. This action-research project aims to encourage the social and political will for the promotion of the "One Health" approach. The results will help prevent health crises, mitigate the impact of emerging infectious diseases and better prepare local, national and international responses.

This initiative is an international and multidisciplinary collaboration, bringing together leading experts from six countries: Belgium, Canada, the United States, the Republic of Guinea, Switzerland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The research team includes experts in global health and economics, animal and environmental health, and specialists in complementary fields, including gender and public policy.

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