World Health Day is celebrated annually on April 7th to raise awareness on a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The day provides an opportunity to focus on specific health themes, promote healthy living, and encourage individuals and communities to take action towards improving their health and well-being.
Origin of the day
To discuss the origin of the day, we’d have a look at the origin of WHO first.
The origins of the WHO can be traced back to the 19th century when various international sanitary conferences were held to address issues related to infectious diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, and plague. In 1923, the Health Organization of the League of Nations was established to promote international cooperation in health matters, but it had limited success due to the political tensions of the time.
After the end of World War II, the need for a global health organization became even more pressing, and in 1946, a proposal was made to establish a new international health organization under the branch of the United Nations. This proposal was accepted, and the WHO was established two years later, on April 7th of 1948, with the goal of promoting the highest possible level of health for all people around the world.
Thus, the date of World Health Day was chosen as the founding date of the WHO. This year marks the 75th anniversary of WHO, and the topic for the day will be: Health For All – 75 Years of improving public health.
Events on the day
This year, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) organized a high-level dialogue entitled Health for All: Strengthening Primary Health Care to Build Resilient Systems. The virtual event will be held on Wednesday, April 5th at 11 a.m. (US Eastern Daylight Time) aiming to promote reflection on public health achievements that have improved quality of life over the past decades; promote lessons learned, particularly those that have emerged in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; and motivate action to address today’s and tomorrow’s health challenges. To register for the event, click here.
To read more on related health topics, click here for more on the WHO website.
The function of the WHO
As mentioned above, WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for international public health. Here are some of the key activities and functions of the WHO:
- Disease control and prevention: The WHO works to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and Ebola. And most recently, it has contributed significantly to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing medical data, vaccines, and essential medical equipment with countries in need. It also provides technical assistance to countries to develop and implement national disease control strategies.
- Health promotion: The WHO promotes healthy lifestyles and behaviours such as physical activity, healthy diet, tobacco control, and mental health promotion.
- Health system strengthening: The WHO supports countries to develop and strengthen their health systems by providing technical assistance and guidance in areas such as health financing, human resources for health, and health information systems.
- Emergency response: The WHO coordinates and supports the response to public health emergencies such as outbreaks of infectious diseases (such as Ebola and COVID-19), natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis etc), and humanitarian crises (warfare, refugee issues etc).
- Research and development: The WHO conducts research and provides guidance on emerging health issues such as antimicrobial resistance, treatment guidelines, digital health, and the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare.
To read more on WHO’s emergency responses, news and events, and disease-specific information, click here.