The world is facing multiple health challenges ranging from outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria, increasing reports of drug-resistant pathogens, growing rates of obesity and physical inactivity to the health impacts of environmental pollution and climate change and multiple humanitarian crises.
Reaching this goal will require addressing the threats to health from a variety of angles.
According to WHO, the following are 10 of the many issues that will demand attention from them and health partners in 2019:
Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart, and brain, killing 7 million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease.
Around 90 percent of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries, with high volumes of emissions from industry, transport, and agriculture, as well as dirty cookstoves and fuels in homes.
Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70 percent of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. Over 85 percent of these premature deaths are in low- and middle-income countries.
These risk factors also exacerbate mental health issues, that may originate from an early age: half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated – suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-19-year-olds
The world will face another influenza pandemic, the only thing that is not known is when it will hit and how severe it will be.
Global defenses are only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system.
More than 1.6 billion people (22 percent of the global population) live in places where protracted crises (through a combination of challenges such as drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement) and weak health services leave them without access to basic care.
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.
The development of antibiotics, antivirals, and antimalarials are some of modern medicine’s greatest successes.
Now, time with these drugs is running out. Antimicrobial resistance – the ability of bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi to resist these medicines – threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis.
The inability to prevent infections could seriously compromise surgery and procedures such as chemotherapy.
In 2018, DRC saw two separate Ebola outbreaks, both of which spread to cities of more than 1 million people. One of the affected provinces is also in an active conflict zone.
This shows that the context in which an epidemic of a high-threat pathogen like Ebola erupts is critical. What happened in rural outbreaks in the past doesn’t always apply to densely populated urban areas or conflict-affected areas.
Primary health care is usually the first point of contact people have with their health care system, and ideally should provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care throughout life.
Primary health care can meet the majority of a person’s health needs of the course of their life. Health systems with strong primary health care are needed to achieve universal health coverage.
Yet many countries do not have adequate primary health care facilities. This neglect may be a lack of resources in low- or middle-income countries, but possibly also a focus in the past few decades on single disease programmes.
Vaccine hesitancy, which is 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.
Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be lethal and kill up to 20 percent of those with severe dengue, has been a growing threat for decades.
A high number of cases occur in the rainy seasons of countries such as Bangladesh and India. Now, its season in these countries is lengthening significantly and the disease is spreading to less tropical and more temperate countries such as Nepal, that have not traditionally seen the disease.
An estimated 40 percent 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 percent by 2020.
The progress made against HIV has been enormous in terms of getting people tested, providing them with antiretrovirals, and providing access to preventive measures.
However, the epidemic continues to rage with nearly a million people every year dying of HIV/AIDS. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have acquired the infection, and about 35 million people have died. Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV.