Linking animals and people

Photo Credit: ILRI/Collins

The health of animals and humans are intrinsically linked. Addressing animal diseases can directly improve human health, particularly in the developing world. Livestock also indirectly contribute to health goals by supporting better livelihoods and therefore better dietary, educational and health choices.

Zoonotic diseases

Six out of every 10 human infectious diseases are likely shared with animals and 80% of this burden falls on low and middle-income countries. Every dollar invested in interventions could generate five dollars’ worth of benefits.

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Emerging diseases

New human diseases that come from animals already cost at least $6.7 billion a year worldwide. If one of these were to become a major pandemic it could kill millions of people and cost more than $1 trillion.

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Foodborne diseases

Animal-source foods are most often implicated in foodborne diseases, which cause at least 500,000 deaths every year. Improving the safety of animal-source foods would reduce this risk and improve the availability of these most nutritious foods.

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Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial uses in agriculture contribute to the emergence of human and animal infections that are resistant to treatment. To reduce the amounts of antimicrobials used, farmers need alternatives and incentives to use them.

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Livestock and health - impact evidence on the ways investments in livestock systems can positively impact people, communities, and the environment:

The impacts of livestock systems on human health are felt in several ways. For example, animal-source foods are a prominent source of food-borne diseases. Animals can also transmit some dangerous zoonotic diseases, which are carried by both animals and people. We know that animal-source foods can have positive nutritional benefits, but we find those benefits can extend to a wide set of health outcomes. Because livestock represent household assets, and can be translated into financial assets, we even find that the assurance provided through those factors can have positive benefits for mental health.

Here we present evidence on the positive impacts of a range of livestock-related interventions on health. These include:

  • Keeping livestock can produce physical and mental health benefits.
  • Where animal-source foods can potentially cause disease risks through food-borne diseases, targeted training can reduce those risks, even among informal animal-source food markets which do not use modern processing and handling technologies.
  • The benefits resulting from investment in zoonotic disease control often outweigh the costs, even when just the animal productivity gains are calculated, but particularly when human health gains are also added to the equation.

Download a report with this and other impact evidence showing why livestock matter