As part of an initiative to strengthen One Health capacity for addressing zoonotic disease threats in Central America, a One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization (OHZDP) facilitator training was held in El Salvador from June 6-10, 2022. The week-long training was hosted by TEPHINET, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) One Health Office and Central America Regional (CAR) Office, and the Executive Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic (SE-COMISCA). CDC’s OHZDP Process brings together representatives from relevant sectors to prioritize zoonotic diseases of greatest concern for One Health collaboration and development of recommendations and action plans for effectively addressing those threats.
El Salvador and Honduras are the first countries in the Central America region to utilize the OHZDP process to advance and strengthen One Health initiatives. Prioritizing zoonoses is a critical step to guiding the development of multisectoral, One Health approaches for prevention and control of diseases.
The head of the Zoonoses Control Program for the Honduran Ministry of Health, Dr. Reina Teresa Velásquez, spoke about the impact of this work on public health in the region, stating, “Zoonotic diseases will be prioritized for an integrated approach that strengthens the public health system, allows optimization of resources and avoids duplication of efforts.”
Twenty-three representatives from the governments of El Salvador and Honduras’ human health, animal health, environmental health, and defense sectors participated in the training, preparing them to facilitate a future national-level workshop where additional representatives will finalize a list of priority zoonotic diseases–and the next steps to address them–for their respective countries. Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) Resident Advisors from Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala also attended as observers to learn more about the OHZDP Process.
Dignitaries from El Salvador and Honduras–including the El Salvador Minister of Health–as well as representatives from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), SE-COMISCA, CDC-CAR, CDC’s One Health Office, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), joined for the opening ceremony to “Inaugurate One Health in Central America.” CDC’s One Health Office Director, Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, provided remarks during the inaugural session, highlighting the impact of zoonoses on global health security and emphasizing the importance of utilizing the OHDZP Process to build national capacity for addressing zoonotic diseases in the region.
“These workshops provide the opportunity to bring all of the relevant sectors together in a country, including those responsible for public health, livestock and agriculture, the environment and wildlife, and all the other One Health partners that should have a voice in deciding which zoonotic diseases are the greatest priority for collective action in a country,” Dr. Barton Behravesh stated.
Following the training, facilitators from El Salvador and Honduras are now collaborating with CDC and TEPHINET to prepare for the national-level OHZDP workshop, which includes both technical and logistical preparations like creating a core planning team, identifying workshop participants (including voting members and advisors), and generating an initial list of zoonotic diseases to be considered for prioritization. The planning team will meet regularly with CDC’s One Health Office and TEPHINET to ensure they are on track for the national workshop.