PUNE: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a list of 10 threats to global health in 2019, which includes various diseases like air pollution and climate change, dengue, HIV and others. The list also highlights a strong need for strengthening the primary health care system. Health systems with strong primary health care are needed to achieve universal health coverage, underlines the list.
AIR POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The first on the list is air pollution and climate change. Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day. Air pollution is considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to health in 2019. Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain, killing seven million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease. Around 90 per cent 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.
The second is non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, which are collectively responsible for over 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide or 41 million people.
This includes 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.
Over 85 per cent of these premature deaths is in low and middle-income countries. The rise of these diseases has been driven by five major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution. These risk factors also exacerbate mental health issues that may originate from an early age.
GLOBAL INFLUENZA PANDEMIC
The third on the list is a global influenza pandemic. According to WHO, the world will face another influenza pandemic – the only thing we don’t know is when it will hit and how severe it will be. Global defences are only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system.
FRAGILE AND VULNERABLE SETTINGS
The fourth on the list is fragile and vulnerable settings, which exist in almost all regions of the world. These are where half of the key targets in the sustainable development goals, including on child and maternal health, remains unmet.
Around 22 per cent of the global population lives in places where there is a combination of challenges such as drought, famine, conflict and population displacement.
The fifth in the list is antimicrobial resistance which is the ability of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi to resist these medicines. This threatens to send the world back to a time when it was difficult to treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea and salmonellosis. The inability to prevent infections could seriously compromise surgery and procedures such as chemotherapy suggests the list.
EBOLA & VACCINE HESITANCY
Sixth on the list is Ebola and other high-threat pathogens followed by weak primary health care.
Eight on the list was about vaccine hesitancy. The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.
On ninth is dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms.
Dengue can be lethal and kill up to 20 per cent patients, an has been a growing threat for decades, according to WHO.
The last on the list is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The progress made against HIV has been enormous in terms of getting people tested, providing them with antiretrovirals. Around 22 million are on treatment for HIV across the globe.