World Health Day

The word ‘health’ comes from the old English ‘hale’ which means ‘whole’ or ‘complete’. The World Health Organisation or WHO has given an international definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Tomorrow, April 07 marks the celebration of World Health Day. A global health awareness day, this day, held to mark the founding of the World Health Organisation is celebrated every year and is aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the WHO. On this day, the WHO organizes international, regional and local events on the Day related to a particular theme. World Health Day is acknowledged by various governments and non-governmental organizations with interests in public health issues, who also organize activities and highlight their support in media reports, such as the Global Health Council. The World Health Day is one of eight official global health campaigns marked by WHO, along with World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World AIDS Day, World Blood Donor Day, and World Hepatitis Day. Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.

Why is health important? The way the body works depends on a person’s health. The body is designed to deal with everyday obstacles in order to be able to live life to the full, but poor health makes these everyday obstacles become larger and more difficult to overcome. For some the odds of leading a healthy life are stacked against them from the start. Health is important to everything a person does. Poor health affects people differently.

Health is also often thought of in terms of illnesses which endanger it like AIDs, Malaria and Tuberculosis – three of the most devastating diseases and today we could probably include Covid-19 which is has been the deadliest disease our generation has seen which has now been called a pandemic as it has extended over pretty much all continents with the exception of Antartica. The world we live in is a world that is increasingly interconnected and though this brings many benefits it also brings responsibility. Health is a shared responsibility, which means ensuring equal access to essential healthcare and collective action to health threats in different countries to look after those that are sick and to stop deseases from spreading.

The theme for the 2020 edition is a focus on health support staff with the theme being “Support Nurses and Midwives”. World Health Day 2020 will shine a light on the vital role played by nurses and midwives in providing health care around the world, and call for a strengthening of the nursing and midwifery workforce. There was supposed to be “dawn to dusk” advocacy events held around the world to mark World Health Day, but given the conditions we now live in and with health workers globally being streteched thin, I doubt if this is possible. There was supposed to be the launch of the first ever State of the World’s Nursing Report 2020, a report which will provide a global picture of the nursing workforce and support evidence-based planning to optimise the contributions of this workforce to improve health and wellbeing for all. This report will provide a global picture of the nursing workforce and support evidence-based planning to optimize the contributions of this workforce to improve health and wellbeing for all and to make meaningful progress toward UHC and the SDGs. The report will set the agenda for data collection, policy dialogue, research and advocacy, and investment in the health workforce for generations to come. A similar report on the Midwifery workforce will be launched in 2021.

The WHO has also designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and the 2020 theme follows this. Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services. These are the people who devote their lives to caring for mothers and children; giving lifesaving immunizations and health advice; looking after older people and generally meeting everyday essential health needs. They are often, the first and only point of care in their communities. The world needs 9 million more nurses and midwives if it is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. This is why 2020 has been designated the year of the nurse and midwife.

Educating nurses and midwives to international standards makes economic sense. It saves resources by reducing the need for costly and unnecessary interventions and increases quality of care and health for all. Strengthening nursing and midwifery – and ensuring that nurses and midwives are enabled to work to their full potential – is one of the most important things countries can do to achieve universal health coverage and improve health globally. This is especially true in times of epidemics as we are in now. By developing nursing and midwifery, countries can achieve the triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth. Strengthening nursing and midwifery will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity (SDG5), contributing to economic development (SDG8) and supporting other Sustainable Development Goals.

The goals for World Health Day 2020 include triggering a wave of public appreciation for the work of nurses and midwives and the part they play in delivering health care; raise the profile of nurses and midwives within the health workforce and catalyse support and investment in nurses and midwives.

Tomorrow, please remember to thank all healthcare workers in your country. They are risking their lives on a daily basis and in many countries don’t have access to proper preventive personal equipment just so they can save our lives!

The healthcare workers are the superheros of our times!

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