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Apr 07
This World Health Day, WHO is calling on you to keep fellow humans and the planet healthy

By: Lunga Memela (Communications Engagement Lead)

On a scale of 1 to 10, how fit would you rate yourself? How much access to good food, water, nutrition and health services are at your fingertips? Do you understand that others go without? And is the air that you breathe and the environment in which you live suitable for your health and overall well-being? These are some the critical questions raised by the theme of this year's World Health Day, 7 April 2022: "Our planet, our health".

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that in the midst of a pandemic, a polluted planet, increasing diseases like cancer, asthma, heart disease, they will focus this year's global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy, and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being. WHO asks, are we able to reimagine a world where:

  • clean air, water and food are available to all?
  • where economies are focused on health and well-being?
  • where cities are liveable and people have control over their health and the health of the planet?

WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. "This includes the climate crisis which is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The climate crisis is also a health crisis." Dr Themba Moeti, CEO of Health Systems Trust, commented that one of the most impactful problems in the 21st century, that is happening slowly but perceptively, is the impact of climate change of health. "It comes with pollution, air quality issues, and global warming. If we don't control some of these things in the ways that we should, there will be major challenges in the future," Dr Moeti says.

As a developing country, a challenge that exists in South Africa is the socio-economic disparity between low, middle and high-income earners, which financially and geographically predetermines access to basic health services, water and electricity. The Department of Health has made great strides towards implementing the National Health Insurance – a milestone development that paves the way for unifying the country's health system and guaranteeing universal and comprehensive quality health coverage for all.

Municipalities are doing a considerable amount of work, but still a significant amount of South Africans reside in informal settlements and remote communities where accessing healthcare services is a challenge. There is also a need for increased education and information sharing about climate change and the way in which we need to live our lives cognisant of our carbon footprint. The need for Health systems strengthening is undoubtable.

See WHO's recommended actions for governments, mayors, corporations, health facilities, workers and individuals. "Reimagine your world for a #HealthierTomorrow," WHO says.


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