One Health Collaborations in Tamil Nadu rabies control initiative: lessons for the future

A recent assessment of rabies in Tamil Nadu conducted by RCZI demonstrated one such model for intersectoral collaboration. Rabies is one of seven neglected endemic zoonoses identified by the WHO.
In India, human deaths due to rabies account for nearly 50% of the global burden. In spite of documented disease burden and
availability of effective interventions, India does not have any integrated control program for rabies. Tamil Nadu is the first state in India to implement rabies control interventions among human and animal sectors throughout the state. We therefore, propose it as a
test case for successful implementation of One Health strategies.

Intersectoral collaborations between animal, wildlife and human health sectors in research, training and interventions remain the cornerstone of one health framework. Collaborations between the human health and animal health sectors have been demonstrated as being essential for combating neglected and emerging zoonotic diseases in the 21st century. Such collaborations promote efficiency by allowing judicious use of limited resources and can be more effective than stand-alone interventions by addressing a broader range of risk factors. More importantly, collaborations like these promote innovations by fostering exchange of ideas across different sectors.

Therabies interventions in Tamil Nadu were implemented separately by six different departments in both rural as well as urban areas. These comprised of general interventions like public health surveillance and implementation of dog licensing rules. Targeted interventions included waste management and animal birth control and vaccination (ABC-AR) in urban municipalities, state-wide health promotion campaigns and widespread availability of human anti-rabies vaccine at all public health facilities. Despite the absence of a structured rabies control program, multidisciplinary district and state-level coordination committees facilitated coordination and exchange of information from the different sectors.

The Tamil Nadu rabies control initiative demonstrates the importance of a strong political commitment and a culture that promotes systemic innovations in implementing complex multi-sector One Health interventions. Key enablers of rabies control policies in Tamil Nadu included clearly defined roles and responsibilities of agencies, coordination mechanisms at all levels.

Intervention models such as the Tamil Nadu rabies control initiative demonstrate the importance of having knowledge transfer mechanisms that promote technical efficiency and more informed decision making. Most importantly, these mechanisms will allow us to design intervention models that move away from traditional compartmentalised structural approaches and design interventions that are more sophisticated in their collection and use of information.
Click here to access RCZI report on Rabies