Towards better global health
Dr Rajan Philips -
Small pox ravaged and killed or scarred millions through the ages but in 1980 it was finally declared eradicated globally. This surely was one of the greatest triumphs in medicine. Polio has been a killer disease that maimed and destroys millions of young lives. But last month it was certified to have been wiped out in India thanks to the decades long massive and determined immunisation programme.
The Organisation that orchestrated these two and many such massive health initiatives is the World Health Organisation (WHO). The role of this United Nations agency in monitoring the state of world health and guiding member nations to take concrete actions to improve the health conditions of people is truly exemplary.
WHO was established on April 7, 1948 as a specialised agency of the United Nations and has continued to play a laudable role in supporting health issues in all its facets.
One of these initiatives has been the institution of the World Health Day (WHD). It is observed annually on April 7, the day WHO was founded.
To provide greater substance to its observance, each year the WHO chooses a specific and significant theme and suggests a concrete plan of action and offers its expertise to tackle grave health issues.
A closer look at the theme for 2014 would show how relevant the observance of the Day is. This year WHO has highlighted the serious and increasing threat of vector-borne diseases, with the slogan “Small bite, big threat”.
Vectors are small creatures like mosquitoes, flies, ticks that carry disease causing virus and bacteria and other such organisms responsible for major ailments like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, sleeping sickness.
The inherent danger from these diseases cannot be taken lightly. More than half the world’s population is at risk. Every year, more than one million die. For instance, the mosquito-borne viral infection, dengue is now found in 100 countries and puts 40 per cent of the world’s population at risk.
The clear message this year is that ‘greater emphasis on controlling the dangerous vectors could save lives of millions and minimise suffering.’ WHO recommends simple, cost-effective steps like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying that can be readily implemented even in under-developed nations that face the highest risk owing to scarcity of hygienic housing, safe drinking water and proper sanitation.
WHO has been coming up with similar significant themes year after year ever since the first WHD was observed way back in 1950. In 2013 the theme was Healthy heart beat, Healthy blood pressure. The slogan rightly identified hypertension as a ‘silent killer and a cause for global public health crisis’.
Another important theme (in 2012) was Ageing and Health, with the accompanying message that good health will add years to a person’s life. Protecting health from the adverse effects of climate change was the theme for 2008 while 2001 had the vital theme Mental Health: stop exclusion
World Health Day (WHD) reiterates that it is not only the health of individuals that matters but also that of our communities, society and nations who owe it to their citizens to provide conditions that safeguard and promote sound health both physical and mental.
While we all know and glibly quote the maxim ‘Health is wealth’ it becomes imperative to adopt positive steps that show we believe it and give health matters the top priority in our lives. WHD is a timely and compelling reminder to act promptly and decisively.
A few health quotes:
Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory. — Albert Schweitzer
A fit, healthy body — that is the best fashion statement. — Jess C Scott
Our bodies are our gardens — our wills are our gardeners. — William Shakespeare