WHO lists top 10 threats to global health in 2019

The agency's list includes Ebola, HIV, air pollution and climate change.

WHO lists top 10 threats to global health in 2019
  • WHO releases it's list of top 10 health threats around the world
  • It features Ebola, HIV, air pollution and climate change.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed the top 10 threats to global health in 2019.

According to the specialized agency of the United Nations, there are several multiple health challenges all over the world. These include obesity, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, environmental pollution and climate change.

This year, the organisation will be focused on 10 major issues. Here are the health issues WHO will tackle in 2019:

(1) Air pollution and climate change

Air pollution affects a huge part of the global population. This explains why WHO considers it as the greatest environmental risk to health. As the organisation puts it, "nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day."

The agency goes on to explain just how dangerous air pollution is saying, "Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain, killing 7 million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease."

Air pollution which is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels also contributes to climate change, which is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths yearly between 2030 and 2050.

(2) Noncommunicable diseases

WHO reports that diabetes, cancer and other noncommunicable diseases are responsible for the deaths of 41 million people (over 70%) worldwide. These diseases are also responsible for the premature deaths of 15 million people, aged between 30 and 69. 

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution are five major risk factors that have led to an increase in non-communicable diseases. These factors can also magnify mental health issues.

(3) Global influenza pandemic

Third on the list is global influenza (flu) pandemic, which are known to occur irregularly. But when they do happen, they result in high levels of mortality. Of the nine influenza pandemics that have taken place during the last 300 years, the worst - the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic - reportedly resulted in the deaths of approximately 50–100 million people around the world.

The last time a flu pandemic occurred was in 2009 however WHO expects that the world will face another one, when or how deadly it will be is unknown. To combat this pandemic, the agency has set up a unique partnership that will ensure "effective and equitable access to diagnostics, vaccines and antivirals (treatments), especially in developing countries."

(4) Fragile and vulnerable settings

Over 1.6 billion people (22% of the global population) have been estimated to live in countries with weak health services. This leaves these people without access to basic care.

This year, WHO will increase its efforts to strengthen the health systems in these places.

(5) Antimicrobial resistance

WHO notes that antimicrobial resistance "threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis."

This is why the agency will be implementing a global action plan to increase awareness, reduce infection, and encourage prudent use of antimicrobials.

The remaining five threats to global health are:

(6) Ebola and other high-threat pathogens

(7) Weak primary health care

(8) Vaccine hesitancy

(9) Dengue

This is a deadly mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and 390 million infections every year.

(10) HIV

With almost one million people dying of HIV/AIDS every year, WHO plans to support the introduction of self-testing and support companies to offer HIV self-tests in the workplace.

These 10 issues will be addressed with the help of the agency's new 5-year strategic plan - the 13th General Programme of Work - which has a triple billion target.

They are "ensuring 1 billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being."


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