The World Health Organisation lists 10 threats to global health in 2019

The World Health Organisation has released its list of 10 threats to global health in 2019.

Included on the list was air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to health, a global influenza pandemic, Fragile and vulnerable settings owing to protracted crises, antimicrobial resistance, weak primary healthcare, vaccine hesitancy, and HIV.

The WHO aims to address these threats to health in the 13th General Programme of Work, their new 5-year strategic plan which will commence in 2019 and will run until 2023. The WHO has adopted a ‘triple billion target’ to ensure that 1 billion more people are able to benefit from access to universal health coverage, are protected from health emergencies, and are able to enjoy better health and wellbeing, respectively. Current threats to health will need to be addressed ‘from a variety of angles’ in order for this goal to be met.

The 10 biggest threats to global health in 2019 are as follows:

Air pollution and climate change

WHO maintains that the greatest environmental risk to global health is air pollution, including its effects on climate change. Over 6 million people in middle- and lower-income countries die prematurely every year from causes attributable to air pollution (including cancers, strokes, and heart and lung diseases) caused by harmful emissions ‘from industry, transport and agriculture, as well as dirty cookstoves and fuels in homes’.

This relates to SDGs 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING)07 (AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY), 08 (DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH), 09 (INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE), 10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 12 (RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION), 13 (CLIMATE ACTION)15 (LIFE ON LAND). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Noncommunicable diseases

‘Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. This includes 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.’ Of these preventable deaths, over 12.75 million occur in middle- and low-income countries, disproportionately affecting the populations of these countries in comparison to high-income countries.

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 05 (GENDER EQUALITY),10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 12 (RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION)17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Global influenza pandemic

The WHO’s list states that another global influenza pandemic will occur – not necessarily in 2019 itself, but in the future. The specifics of severity and timing are unknown, though the WHO is aiming to prepare for the eventuality by strengthening health emergency preparedness and response systems.

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 05 (GENDER EQUALITY)06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION), 07 (AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY), 08 (DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH), 09 (INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE), 10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 12 (RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION), 13 (CLIMATE ACTION)14 (LIFE BELOW WATER),

15 (LIFE ON LAND), 16 (PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS), 17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Fragile and vulnerable settings

Around 22% of the world’s population lives in an area where there is one or more protracted crisis. These crises include but are not limited to drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement, which on their own or in combination negatively affect health services, leaving access gaps in basic healthcare. According to WHO, ‘fragile settings exist in almost all regions of the world, and these are where half of the key targets in the sustainable development goals, including on child and maternal health, remains unmet’.

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 05 (GENDER EQUALITY)06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION), 08 (DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH)10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)13 (CLIMATE ACTION)14 (LIFE BELOW WATER)15 (LIFE ON LAND), 16 (PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS), 17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is becoming more pervasive, owing to overuse of antimicrobial drugs in the food industry, the environment, as well as overprescription in people. Drug resistance impedes our ability to treat infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis, as well as compromising the safety of medical procedures such as surgery and chemotherapy. Antimicrobial resistance could affect immunocompromised people in significant ways, and will hamper the ability to treat infections timeously and with the success rates which are enjoyed at present.

This relates to SDGs 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 12 (RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION)14 (LIFE BELOW WATER)15 (LIFE ON LAND). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Ebola and other high-threat pathogens

2019 has been designated as a “Year of action on preparedness for health emergencies” owing to outbreaks of high threat pathogens such as Ebola, Zika, Nipah, MERS-Cov, and other haemorragic fevers in recent years.

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION), 11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES)16 (PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS), 17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Weak primary health care

‘Health systems with strong primary health care are needed to achieve universal health coverage’ which is one of the ‘1 billion’ targets laid out in the WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work. Primary healthcare is often where the medical-intervention process begins for many people, and ‘ideally should provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care throughout life’.

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 05 (GENDER EQUALITY)10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.

This relates to SDGs 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

Dengue

An estimated 40% of the world is at risk of dengue fever, and there are around 390 million infections a year. WHO’s Dengue control strategy aims to reduce deaths by 50% by 2020.

This relates to SDGs 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES)13 (CLIMATE ACTION), . Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.

HIV

HIV is still a threat to global health, despite the progress which has been made in recent years. Around 37 million people are living with HIV today, and nearly 1 million people die of HIV/AIDS every year. It can be difficult to reach key populations who are often excluded from accessible and inclusive health services. ‘A group increasingly affected by HIV are young girls and women (aged 15–24), who are particularly at high risk and account for 1 in 4 HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa despite being only 10% of the population.’

This relates to SDGs 01 (NO POVERTY), 02 (ZERO HUNGER), 03 (GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING), 04 (QUALITY EDUCATION), 05 (GENDER EQUALITY)06 (CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION), 07 (AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY), 08 (DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH), 09 (INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE), 10 (REDUCED INEQUALITIES)11 (SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES), 12 (RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION), 13 (CLIMATE ACTION)14 (LIFE BELOW WATER),

15 (LIFE ON LAND), 16 (PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS), 17 (PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS). Click on the links to see how these SDGs relate to SRHR.