Marking the start of its 2019-2023 Work Programme, the World Health Organization released a list of the ten biggest health challenges that the world faces.
The five-year Work Programme is said to have a “triple billion” target, namely: ensuring universal health coverage for one billion more people; protecting one billion more people from health emergencies; and ensuring better health and wellbeing for one billion more people.
WHO is highlighting forthcoming opportunities to promote action on global health challenges including air pollution, non-communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance.
January 2019: Marking the start of its 2019-2023 Work Programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of the ten biggest health challenges facing the world. The five-year Work Programme sets out a “triple billion” target, namely: ensuring universal health coverage (UHC) for one billion more people; protecting one billion more people from health emergencies; and ensuring better health and wellbeing for one billion more people.
The ten important challenges identified by WHO are: air pollution; non-communicable diseases (NCDs); anti-microbial resistance; the threat of a global influenza pandemic; health systems in fragile and vulnerable situations; Ebola and other high-threat pathogens; weak primary healthcare; reluctance or refusal to vaccinate (also called “vaccine hesitancy”); dengue fever; and HIV infection.
WHO is raising awareness of the benefits of climate action (SDG 13) for health, as limiting the burning of fossil fuels also removes the main pollutants linked with respiratory problems. The organization held its first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2018, where participants made specific commitments to improve air quality. SDG target 3.9 seeks to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.
On NCDs, WHO plans to work with governments to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030. In June 2018, the organization launched its Global Action Plan for Physical Activity 2018-2030, and in September 2018, it launched the ACTIVE policy toolkit providing governments with guidance to promote physical activity in populations and reduce the negative impacts of inactivity. SDG target 3.4 seeks to reduce by one-third premature mortality from NCDs through prevention and treatment, and to promote mental health and wellbeing.
On antimicrobial resistance, WHO is developing a global action plan to address over-use of antibiotics, including their use in animal husbandry. The agency warns that rising resistance to antibiotics could severely limit the treatment possibilities for people with tuberculosis (TB), cancer, gonorrhea and many common illnesses, as well as hampering the effectiveness of surgical procedures, which rely on being able to control infection. WHO reports that more than half a million people in 2017 were found to have multidrug-resistant TB.
The UN General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting on UHC on 23 September 2019. [WHO Press Release] [WHO Webpage on 13th General Programme of Work 2019-2023] [WHO Director-General’s Report on 13th General Programme of Work] [WHO Press Release on ACTIVE policy toolkit]