Yesterday, we celebrated World Health Day. World Health Day is celebrated on April 7th to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the World Health Organization. Each year a new theme is chosen to help raise awareness of the world’s major health issues. This year’s theme is focused on addressing the global problem of high blood pressure. High blood pressure and other related conditions (such as obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity) are risk factors for chronic diseases, including cancer.
It’s important on this World Health Day that we acknowledge the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the world population. NCDs kill more than 36 million people each year, and almost 80% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. In addition to causing approximately two-thirds of all worldwide deaths, NCDs are a major barrier to development. Experts estimate that if we do nothing, NCDs will cost over 47 trillion dollars to the global economy, affecting both national GDPs and individual families. We know these diseases can lock families in cycles of poverty; often removing both the person affected and their caretakers from the workforce, while the high cost of health care drains family resources.
But solutions exist! Today is an important opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the risk factors associated with NCDs. When these efforts are combined with strengthening health systems to improve early detection and treatment, we can effectively address these diseases, save lives and break the cycle of poverty.
In May of last year, the World Health Assembly adopted the target to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25 percent by 2025. The Member States are finalizing global targets for 2025, including:
*Reducing avoidable, premature deaths from NCDs by 25 percent
*Decreasing risk behaviors, such as tobacco, harmful alcohol use, physical inactivity and excess salt intake
*Increasing coverage to 80% for access to essential medicines and technologies
*Reducing the number of people with raised blood pressure
These targets are steps in the right direction to address the growing burden. World Health Day is an opportunity for us to come together, recognize the toll these diseases are taking on our communities and take steps to reverse these trends.
CLAIRE NEAL, MPH, CHES
Vice President, Global Strategy