WHO Has Spoken: Top Threats to Global Health in 2019

Global Health

The world is not as safe as it used to be. Natural disasters, threatening epidemics, growing wars and political disputes have become part of our lives.

Harrowing headlines aren’t just news. They also affect our health and wellbeing in more ways than we thought as it impacts our everyday living indirectly.

For its five-year strategic plan called the 13th General Programme of Work, the World Health Organization wants to focus on a triple billion target: “ensuring that 1 billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being.”

The first step to reaching these goals is to identify the different threats to global health and coordinate with both public and private institutions to address them efficiently.

So what are the top threats to global health in 2019?

The influenza pandemic

Influenza is one of the most common infectious diseases affecting millions around the world. This year alone, WHO is expecting another influenza pandemic.

The organization has been monitoring the different influenza viruses so that they can detect a potential pandemic strain. The global surveillance and response effort involves 114 countries and 153 institutions.

While no one can tell when this pandemic will hit or how severe it will be, WHO is coordinating with several health institutions in improving flu vaccines to include strains that may cause a pandemic.

Air pollution and climate change

Air pollution has never been worse than it is today. In fact, WHO said that it is the greatest environmental risk to health this year because nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day. Although not as visible, air pollutants can cause damage to the lungs, heart, and brain by penetrating the circulatory and respiratory systems.

More than 7 million people die prematurely each year from diseases where air pollution is a contributing factor, and its primary cause is climate change.

While there has been a huge political debate on climate change, especially with President Donald Trump mocking renewable energy and reviving America’s coal industry, the rest of the world are trying to put in efforts to cut greenhouse emissions. A lot of organizations and individuals are striving to be more eco-friendly.

In fact, different countries and organizations have committed to improve air quality in last year’s Global Conference on Air Pollution.

Non-communicable diseases

More than 41 million people die from non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes each year, accounting for 70% of all deaths worldwide. This statistic includes 15 million individuals dying between the age of 30 and 69.

The WHO identified five major risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as the following:

  • physical inactivity
  • alcoholism
  • tobacco use
  • unhealthy diets
  • air pollution

These risks are highly preventable though, as long as the right strategies are used.

One of the organization’s goals is to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030 to help reduce the prevalence of these non-communicable diseases. Of course, the public can also do their part by discovering different natural alternatives to treating these diseases by reading resource for CBD, for instance, to learn about the benefits of using CBD oil for diabetes, cancer, and other non-communicable diseases.

Fragile and vulnerable settings

We can’t deny the fact that 22% of the world’s population or more than 1.6 billion people still live in places where the most basic care can’t be met. Challenges such as famine, drought, and conflict combined with poor health services leave them with no access to their basic needs.

These situations exist in almost every part of the world and the World Health Organization will continue working on improving these places. They will do it through ensuring that healthcare systems, high quality health services and proper outbreak response are in place.

Vaccine hesitancy

Vaccines have been developed over the years to prevent most diseases from turning into pandemics. Unfortunately, there is also a huge problem with vaccine hesitancy this year.

It means that some people refuse to vaccinate even if vaccines are available and even if they’re given for free. Vaccination is one of the best ways to avoid lethal diseases and it prevents at least 2-3 million deaths every year.

However, there has been hesitancy in some areas, which are causing the prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles to increase.

The Bottomline

The World Health Organization can only do so much to help address these top threats, especially those with populated communities. Governments and private institutions can work together in making sure that these issues are given enough focus and the proper strategies are implemented with the organization’s guidance.

Image credit: Global Health via 1981 Rustic Studio kan/Shutterstock