List of global health threats by WHO for 2019
The world is facing many public health threats and the World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled a list of the top 10 threats to global health to focus on in 2019. The list contains a number of serious issues from climate change to improper health care in countries.
Listed here are ten of the many issues that will demand attention from WHO and health partners in 2019.
Climate change and air pollution
Air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to health in 2019 according to WHO. It is believed by many that microscopic pollutants in the air are responsible for killing 7 million people every year from diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Burning fossil fuels is considered the primary source of air pollution, and it is also a significant contributor to climate change. According to WHO, climate change is expected to cause more than a quarter-million additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress by 2050.
The WHO agency, along with the United Nations, is aiming to strengthen the global climate action in 2019.
Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide including 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.
Over 85% of these premature deaths are said to in low and middle-income countries. The rise of these diseases has been due to five major risk factors that include tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and air pollution. This year WHO will work with governments over the world to help them meet the global target of reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.
Antibiotics, antiviral and antimalarials are considered modern medicine’s greatest successes but antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat currently. This antimicrobial resistance can threaten to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea.
This inability to prevent infections can seriously compromise surgery and procedures such as chemotherapy, according to WHO. The agency is working on a global action plan to tackle the issue of antimicrobials.
Reluctance or refusal to vaccinate
Vaccine hesitancy is the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate themselves or their children despite vaccines being available freely in many countries. There are many reasons why people are opposed to vaccination which can be lack of access or poor confidence in vaccines. Whatever their reasons, anti-vaxxers are currently threatening the decades of progress made since the widespread implementation of immunization programs.
In 2018, measles cases hit a record high in Europe due to lack of vaccination in people. Many people in France and Ukraine believe vaccinations are unsafe. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease and it currently prevents 2–3 million deaths a year and people need to be educated on this.
The global influenza pandemic
The WHO says that another flu pandemic in the world is unavoidable, but the severity and time frame are still unknown. The WHO recommends receiving the influenza vaccine each season and continues to monitor antiviral treatment throughout the world.
Researchers will continue to monitor and study virus behavior and circulation through the many medical institutions in 114 countries and then they recommend which strains should be included in the annual flu vaccine.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection and is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics, affecting up to 400 million people annually.
The WHO notes that a high number of dengue-related cases occur in the rainy seasons of countries such as Bangladesh and India. And as the season lengthens, the dengue-related death rates are continuously rising. In response to this, the WHO has issued a Dengue control strategy, which aims to reduce dengue-related deaths by 50% by 2020 over the world.
Ebola and other high-threat pathogens
After the occurrence of two Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018, world public health experts have urged WHO to address the growing challenges of tackling outbreaks and health emergencies in urban areas.
Even though progress has been made in HIV testing and prevention, it is still a threat. 36.9 million people are currently said to be living with HIV worldwide. As part of a set of plans to end HIV/AIDs, the WHO plans to work with governments across the world to introduce self-testing so more people living with HIV can know their status and receive treatment.
Limited access to primary healthcare puts people at risk
Due to lack of resources, primary healthcare is not accessible for many people over the world, especially in third world countries. People in low or middle-income countries are sometimes deprived of even basic health care.
In 2019, the WHO plans to work towards strengthening primary healthcare in many countries.
People in fragile and vulnerable settings due to crises
Another huge threat to global health is the increasing number of people who live in places where prolonged crises and weak health services prevent them from getting even the most basic care. These crises may be caused by things like conflict, poverty, famine, drought, or population displacement. These crises can lead to the breakdown of health systems, leaving people vulnerable to epidemics and emergencies and without access to even primary health care.
It is reported that more than 1.6 billion people, or 22% of the world's population, live in these fragile settings all over the world.
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