GARC’s networks lead the way for all One Health networks.

A recent scientific article series was published in the prestigious The Lancet scientific journal that focused on One Health. The series was launched earlier this year and covered all aspects of One Health from the perspective of all different diseases, partners, and stakeholders. While rabies featured (as it is an excellent example of operationalizing One Health), it took the spotlight in one particular article in the series – the article focusing on One Health Networks and One Health collaborations

You have likely seen and heard a lot about GARC’s different rabies control networks, spanning the dog rabies endemic world. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Pan-African Rabies Control Network (PARACON) drives activities and initiatives across the region, while in Asia and in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia, the ARACON and MERACON respectively help guide countries, provide support and fosters collaboration to drive rabies elimination efforts. However, what you may not be aware of is how truly revolutionary and trend-setting these networks and their structures are.  

The GARC regional rabies networks were created in 2014 to be sustainable and country-centric, with the countries themselves guiding the network and highlighting their own needs so that they can be addressed and supported on the regional level.

“Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) is an example of an OHN with a global geographical focus and an agile, country-responsive governance structure…” - Mwatondo et al., 2023.

Yet, out of all the One Health networks evaluated in this scientific publication, GARC’s network leads the way in having a diverse and decentralized structure that is entirely country centric. At present, the majority of One Health networks globally are based in the ‘West’ (either in the US or Europe) while much of their target group is based in the developing world. In contrast, GARC’s regional rabies control networks are country centric with GARC only acting as the secretariat.

“The GARC governance model is a good example for other global OHNs currently headquartered in Europe or North America to devolve decision making to a regional or national level and redistribute power and resource allocation more equitably across their geographical foci.” - Mwatondo et al., 2023.

Importantly, the GARC regional rabies networks are not focused on simply talking but on actionable and tangible outcomes and deliverables. This includes the implementation of the Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) workshops that GARC facilitates in participating countries. These workshops go beyond what many One Health networks do by including representatives beyond just human and animal health. The SARE workshops bring together all relevant stakeholders from different ministries and sectors, creating a truly One Health working environment and ensuring representation from all stakeholders in a healthy working environment to deliver joint work plans and outputs that are endorsed by all stakeholders. This inclusivity ensures that plans and outputs from these workshops are more likely to be implemented and actioned because of the buy-in from all sectors and stakeholders.

“In-country workshops held by the regional networks of GARC involve various local stakeholders…, to ensure that inclusivity is at the forefront of policy design and implementation. This type of inclusive participation leads to mutuality and minimises unintended or unanticipated effects of threats from shared interfaces on the health of other sectors, populations, communities, or ecosystems.” - Mwatondo et al., 2023.

While the focus of the publication was on One Health Networks, GARC’s approach remains the same for all aspects of our work – we aim to provide a clear supporting role to empower those working in their own communities or countries to drive rabies elimination. We know that local knowledge and experience is key and therefore partner with all stakeholders involved in rabies elimination to drive efforts towards our joint goal of Zero by 30. If you are interested in working with us, please contact us.

Article contributed by Dr Terence Scott (GARC)