Monday, April 09, 2007

WHO speaks out on health security on World Health Day

"Invest in health, build a safer future", the WHO said in a new publication honoring this World Health Day, April 7th. In the face of rising temperatures and globalization, the international health organization looks to the increasing threats to health. The publication outlines its primary focus areas:

  1. Emerging diseases;
  2. Economic stability’s effect on mobility of people and goods, and consequently diseases;
  3. Humanitarian emergencies, for example Hurricane Katrina;
  4. Biological and chemical terror threats;
  5. Climate change;
  6. HIV/AIDS;
  7. Building health security;
  8. Strengthening health systems.

The WHO continued, saying, after the Security Council met to discuss HIV/AIDS in 2000, “public health was no longer seen as irrelevant to security or as its by-product; it had become its essential ingredient.”

The call was echoed by many around the world. Dattatreya Bant, a professor of community medicine at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences explained the specific links between health security and health to the Times of India: "They include sudden shocks to health and economies from emerging diseases, like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and avian influenza, humanitarian emergencies, bio-terrorism and other acute health risks."

Bant also commented on the challenges to health common across the world: "The shortage of safe drinking water and its impact on health and security after hurricane Katrina in USA, and the tsunami in Asia, clearly demonstrate the importance of advance preparation and the ability to respond quickly."

An editorial in The Rising Nepal commented, “As defined by the WHO, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely an absence of diseases or infirmity”. It went on to emphasize the commitment that is necessary to achieving this wellbeing:

“There are political and institutional obstacles to optimally utilizing these trained human resources in their actual field of interest and expertise…There is no doubt that an effective public health workforce is extremely important to improving the health system …It is increasingly realized that this requires a substantial commitment to a new and creative approach from all countries and donor agencies.”

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