WHO raises concern on urgent health challenges for the new decade
• Tasks countries leader to invest adequate resources on health priorities
• Says challenges require multi-sectoral approach to tackle
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed dissatisfaction over the countries’ leader inability to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems.The international body said the implication of the act puts lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy, and also poses urgent health challenges globally.
WHO stated this as it made public, lists of 10 global health challenges for the next decade, which it said are difficult to address, but are within reach.The Director-General, WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the list was developed with input from experts around the world, which reflects a deep concern that leaders of countries are failing to invest adequate resources in health, noting that public health is ultimately a political choice.
Ghebreyesus said the world need to realise that health is an investment in the future, while lamenting that countries only invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and damaging economically and socially.
The list of the 10 threats to global health, in no order of priority, according to the World Health Organisation include: climate crisis; delivering health in conflict and crisis; making health care fairer; expanding access to medicines; stopping infectious diseases; preparing for epidemics; protecting people from dangerous products; investing in the people who defend our health; keeping adolescents safe and earning public trust.
WHO stated that climate crisis is a health crisis, as researchers have been exploring the relationship between climate change and infectious diseases for years, including the effect that it may have on vector-borne diseases.According to the body, children are mainly vulnerable to climate change-related health threats, as shown by research, while it, however, calls for elevating health in the climate debate.WHO disclosed that the disease outbreaks in 2019 that required the highest level of response occurred in countries with ongoing conflict.
The international body estimated that large outbreaks of Ebola and measles killed thousands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there were 390 attacks on health facilities in 2019, killing 11 and injuring 82 health care workers and patients. According to WHO, there were 978 attacks on health care in 11 countries in 2019, resulting in 193 deaths — the continuation of a disturbing trend.
According to WHO, there is an 18-year difference in life expectancy between the rich and poor countries, with “persistent and growing socioeconomic gaps” resulting in differences in the quality of people’s health. WHO and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), last year, reported that around 25 percent of health care facilities globally lacked basic water service, and approximately 20 percent have no sanitation service.
The problems, the bodies noted, are specifically prevalent in the least developed countries.The WHO reports that one-third of the world’s population lacks essential health products such as medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tools. The international body emphasised on the need to fight substandard and falsified medical products, which account for 10 percent of medicine in developing countries, WHO stated.
These fake or substandard drugs, according to researchers, place tens of thousands of children in danger and have an economic toll of up to $200 billion each year. According to WHO, infectious diseases will kill an estimated four million people this year. “The root causes are insufficient levels of financing and the weakness of health systems in endemic countries, coupled with a lack of commitment from wealthy countries,” WHO said.
Experts have frequently highlighted the importance of being prepared for epidemics, as scientists even recreated the 1918 influenza virus in an attempt to help the world prepare for the next influenza pandemic. Also, researchers elsewhere gauged the readiness of developed countries to handle cases of Ebola.
On the issue of protecting people from dangerous products, WHO noted that while tobacco use is declining in most countries, there is increasing evidence of dangerous health consequences from the use of e-cigarettes.
In the United States, an outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use has led the FDA to ban most e-cigarette flavors.On the issue of investing in the people who defend health, WHO stressed that the world needs 18 million additional health workers by 2030, primarily in low- and middle-income countries, citing “chronic underinvestment in the education and employment of health workers.”
In the United States, experts have called for compensation policy changes to reverse workforce losses in the field of infectious diseases, where physicians are underpaid for the valuable role they play in protecting public health.
Elsewhere, researchers estimated that the U.S. needs 1,200 more epidemiologists to reach full capacity.On the issue of adolescents’ safety, WHO noted that more than one million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years die each year, with road injuries, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, suicide, lower respiratory infections and interpersonal violence being the leading causes of death.
WHO, while citing earning public trust, as a health challenge, said “Public health is compromised by the uncontrolled dissemination of misinformation in social media, as well as through an erosion of trust in public institutions.”
The body added that the anti-vaccination movement has been a significant factor in the rise of deaths in preventable diseases, amid several large ongoing outbreaks of measles — including several outbreaks in the U.S. — and a rise in anti-vaccine sentiment.However, the director general, WHO said a pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees, which is why health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone.
He added that all the challenges in this list demand a response from more than just the health sector, nothing: “ We face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act. With the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals quickly approaching, the United Nations General Assembly has underscored that the next 10 years must be the “decade of action”.
“This means advocating for national funding to address gaps in health systems and health infrastructure, as well as providing support to the most vulnerable countries. Investing now will save lives – and money – later. The cost of doing nothing is one we cannot afford. Governments, communities, and international agencies must work together to achieve these critical goals. There are no shortcuts to a healthier world. 2030 is fast approaching, and we must hold our leaders accountable for their commitments.”
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