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WHO Names Top 13 Global Health Challenges for the New Decade

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

WHO Names Top 13 Global Health Challenges for the New Decade

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: 13 challenges- concerns and measures needed.

Context: World Health Organization (WHO) has released a list of 13 urgent global health challenges. 

These include:

  1. Climate Crisis: Climate change causes more extreme weather events, exacerbates malnutrition, and fuels the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria. The same emissions that pollute the air and cause global warming are responsible for more than one quarter of deaths from heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic respiratory disease.
  2. Delivering Health in Conflict and Crisis: Last year, most disease outbreaks that required the highest level of WHO response occurred in countries with protracted conflict. And the “disturbing” trend in which healthcare workers and facilities are targeted continued. Conflict is also forcing a record number of people out of their own homes, leaving them with little or no access to healthcare, often for years.
  3. Healthcare Equality: “Persistent and growing” socioeconomic gaps that result in major discrepancies in the quality of people’s health is also an urgent challenge. There is not only an 18-year difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries, but also a marked gap within countries and even within cities.
  4. Expanding Access to Medicines: About one third of the world’s people lack access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tools, and other essential health products. Low access to quality health products threatens health and lives and contributes to drug resistance.
  5. Infectious Diseases: Such as HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and sexually transmitted infections will take the lives of an estimated four million people in 2020, most of them poor. Meanwhile, vaccine-preventable diseases continue to kill, including measles, which took 140,000 lives in 2019. Polio is also once again a concern, with 156 cases of wild poliovirus last year, the most since 2014.
  6. Preparing for Epidemics: A pandemic of a new, highly infectious, airborne virus — most likely a strain of influenza— to which most people lack immunity is inevitable. And vector-borne diseases like dengue, malaria, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever are spreading as mosquito populations move into new areas, fanned by climate change.
  7. Dangerous Products: Lack of food, unsafe food, and unhealthy diets are to blame for nearly one third of the global disease burden.
  8. Investing in People Who Defend Our Health: Another challenge is the global shortage of healthcare workers. The world will need 18 million more healthcare workers by 2030, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, including nine million nurses and midwives.
  9. Keeping Teens Safe: More than one million adolescents aged 10 to 19 years die every year. The chief causes are road accidents, HIV, suicide, lower respiratory infections, and interpersonal violence. Harmful use of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex, and previous exposure to child maltreatment all increase the risks for these causes of death.
  10. Earning Public Trust: 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 antivaccination movement has been a significant factor in the rise of deaths in preventable diseases.
  11. Harnessing New Technologies: New technologies such as genome editing and artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat many diseases, but raise new questions and challenges for monitoring and regulation.
  12. Antimicrobial Resistance: The rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a persistent and urgent challenge that threatens to send modern medicine back decades to the preantibiotic era.
  13. Clean Water, Sanitation, Hygiene: About one in four health facilities globally lack basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services that are critical to a functioning health system. The lack of these basics in health facilities leads to poor-quality care and an increased chance of infection for patients and health workers.

What next?

The list reflects a “deep concern that leaders are failing to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems.” This puts lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy. None of these issues are simple to address, but they are within reach.

  • All of the challenges on the list “demand a response from more than just the health sector. We face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act.
  • Governments, communities, and international agencies must work together to achieve these critical goals. There are no shortcuts to a healthier world.

Sources: the Hindu.