With the new year, the World Health Organization has released a list of its top priorities for 2020. They include a number of concerns with special resonance on the African continent, including the need to understand that the climate crisis is a health crisis, and the need to address the challenge of delivering health care in conflict zones.
“Public health is ultimately a political choice,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Countries invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and far more damaging economically and socially,” he added. “A pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees. Which is why health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone.”
Some seven million people already die from air pollution each year, and with more extreme weather events come greater risks of disease and malnutrition.
“The same emissions that cause global warming are responsible for more than one-quarter of deaths from heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease,” WHO said. “Leaders in both the public and private sectors must work together to clean up our air and mitigate the health impacts of climate change.”
Other concerns, such as the familiar issue in Democratic Republic of Congo of building community trust, as well as improving access to medicines and fighting antimicrobial resistance, all are top priorities.
“Trust helps to shape whether patients are likely to rely on health services and follow a health worker’s advice – around vaccinations, taking medicines, or using condoms,” says WHO. “Public health is compromised by the uncontrolled dissemination of misinformation in social media, as well as through an erosion of trust in public institutions.”
For the complete list, check this link.
Image: WHO Africa file