The Global Burden of Animal Diseases – A Global Data Program with a Difference
The Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) program is being developed by a group of international collaborators led by the program director Professor Jonathan Rushton, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. GBADs will create information on the economic burden of livestock diseases to support animal health decision-making focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In my role as Project Manager, I am supporting our collaborators in their implementation of the rollout of GBADs between 2020-2025. GBADs is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.
Why do we need GBADs?
Livestock are critical for ensuring human health and maintaining livelihoods. Livestock health and productivity are negatively impacted by the presence of endemic and emerging diseases, increasing the amount of resources needed to maintain these animals, which in turn increases competition for land, air and water. In response, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested globally on disease mitigation in order to improve livestock health and productivity, yet a systematic process to determine the burden of animal disease on the health and wellbeing of people is not available. It is unknown how the burden is apportioned between smallholders and the commercial sector, by region and gender. Consequently, decision makers lack the information to accurately assess whether their investments target the animal health issues that have the most significant impact on human wellbeing.
What will GBADs produce?
GBADs will curate simple metrics to allow comparison of the burden of animal health issues within and between farming systems, species, regions, countries, and even socio-economic status and gender. As a model for this work, we draw inspiration and lessons from the Global Burden of (human) Disease (GBD) program that developed the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) metric. GBD 2017 included more than 38 billion estimates of 359 diseases and injuries and 84 risk factors in 195 countries and territories, and incorporated input from 3,676 collaborators from 146 countries and territories. GBD has redefined the way the global community assesses human disease priorities and plays an important role in support of resource mobilization and allocation.
Tried and tested methods
The methodologies we will employ aren’t new – population and production system evaluation lead by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australia will build on an existing BMGF investment, LiveGaps, which focuses on specific regions and production systems. With GBADs support this work will be scaled up to make global assessments.
Farm and system level economic data are required to build farm enterprise budgets. These can be assessed in the context of the Health Loss Envelope (production loss and expenditure on treatment and control) allowing us to put a clear boundary around maximal losses due to health and production issues. This is akin to the GBD assigning a standardized life expectancy against which to measure the contribution of human diseases to a combined DALY.
The time is right for the animal health sector to develop and adopt a standardized disease classification system, and we are working with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and others to learn from examples in human health such as the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD). A common language (ontology) for animal health conditions will allow GBADs to attribute the Health Loss Envelope in a way that can be compared across geographies and production systems.
So what’s new?
- The population and biomass estimations will allow us to calculate the value of livestock we have across the world and provide an important denominator when examining the burden of animal disease.
- Our use of the Health Loss Envelope defines a boundary for the burden and includes both production loss and expenditure related to both infectious and non-infectious animal health problems as well as issues such as nutrition, water problems, and predation. It will enable us to focus on the broader elements of health and welfare of the animals we maintain to feed and clothe us.
- The combination of the burden estimates with the investment in livestock allows a ratio to be developed that will be comparable across different regions, species and production systems.
- The linking of burdens of animal disease to livestock owners will provide an opportunity to shine a light on the animal health conditions that truly matter to the farmers on the ground, with the potential to create a platform for increased investment in animal husbandry, nutrition and welfare alongside the more traditional investments in vaccinology and therapeutic agents.
- Where data and models allow we will also provide information on the burden of disease across producers, livestock industries, consumers and the environment.
What are the next steps in the coming 5 years?
The following core outputs of GBADs will identify the deficiencies of the animal health system and offer solutions to support the needs of smallholder farmers, commercial operations and society as a whole.
- Country, sector and animal disease specific case studies
- Best practice guide on population estimates, production system classification and livestock production parameters: a basis for a FAO and FAOSTAT Guide
- Burden of Animal Disease at a global, regional and national level: a new website providing information to guide animal health decision-makers
- Draft of a best practice standard for the economic assessment of animal health: the basis for a chapter in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code
- Education and Communication package: the importance of animals in society, sensitization of GBADs outputs and sustained use of GBADs methods
What does this mean for our blog audience?
- We want to create links with existing and new field-based projects
- We would like to develop a common framework for the collection of economic parameters
- Our analytics platform will also accept and process data in many different forms that fall outside of a defined framework meaning we won’t need to re-write your data collection protocols in order to collaborate
And what does this mean for the future of animal health decision making?
- Provide information for evidence based investment plans in animal health systems
- Allow allocation of resources to key social, economic and environmental problems
- Support high quality evaluation of existing animal health investments demonstrating the value of animal health systems
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