Yesterday, April 7, 2013 was the official World Health Day. But I propose that EVERY DAY is World Health Day.
Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day.
WHD celebrates the World Health Organization’s (WHO) birthday founded in on April 7, 1948. Each year a theme is selected highlighting a priority area of public health concern in the world. The theme for WHD 2013 is controlling high blood pressure, a condition which affects more than one in three adults worldwide. For millions of people, high blood pressure will lead to fatal heart attacks, debilitating strokes, and chronic heart and kidney disease.
The WHO provides the following facts about high blood pressure highlighting the importance of addressing this public health issue:
- More than one in three adults worldwide has high blood pressure, with the proportion going up to one in two for people aged 50 and above.
- The number of people with hypertension rose from 600 million in 1980 to 1 billion in 2008.
- Complications of high blood pressure account for more than 9 million deaths worldwide every year. This includes 51% of deaths due to strokes and 45% of deaths due to coronary heart disease.
- The prevalence of high blood pressure is highest in the African Region at 46%. The lowest prevalence is in the Americas Region at 35%. Globally, overall prevalence of high blood pressure in adults aged 25 and older was around 40% in 2008.
Previous WHD’s include:
- Health data on ageing (2012)
- Antimicrobial resistance (2011)
- Urbanization and health (2010)
- Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies (2009)
- Protecting health from climate change (2008)
- International health security (2007)
- Working together for health (2006)
- Make every mother and child count (2005)
- Road safety (2004)
- Shape the future of life (2003)
- Move for health (2002)
- Mental health: stop exclusion, dare to care (2001)
Each of these presents issues that affect everyone’s health every day (and also reflect the TEDMED Greatest Challenges). There are so many more issues to address that will be the subject of future WHDs. But these aren’t issues to acknowledge on one day, they must be addressed throughout the 365 days of each year.
The WHO does an incredible job of providing resources to raise awareness and understanding of the issues. Most importantly, the provide actual action steps. This year as they focus on blood pressure they want to impress that high blood pressure is both preventable and treatable. They give the following steps patients can take to reduce their risk of high blood pressure or to treat it:
- cutting down on salt;
- eating a balanced diet;
- avoiding harmful use of alcohol;
- getting regular exercise; and
- avoiding tobacco use.
They also recognize that for many people, lifestyle changes are sufficient to control blood pressure. For others, medication is required. And they note inexpensive medication exists, which is effective when taken as prescribed.
The WHO encourage early detection and ask primary health care providers around the world to ensure they check their patients blood pressure as part of their routine.
They even encourage industry to reduce salt in processed food and make essential diagnostics and medicines more affordable.
I laud the WHO for calling on industry to contribute to the solution of decreasing high blood pressure in patients. I think this is quite unique as then these issues become truly a global effort with everyone collaborating and taking responsibility for their part in public health.
So this year, lets look over this year’s goals and past WHDs and share these action steps among our family and friends, our cities, our doctors, our government leaders, and industry. Let’s take action, not just passively be aware.