Climate change, vaccine hesitancy, and a looming influenza pandemic are just some of the significant global health threats the world can expect in 2019, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO recently released a list of 10 threats ranging from outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases to air pollution to precarious health conditions in fragile environments, outlining its priorities and marking the start of its five-year plan.
What’s notable about the list is the sheer number of threats attached to situational issues.
The threat of air pollution and climate change has now been called the “greatest environmental risk to health.” The WHO estimates that 9 out of 10 people breathe polluted air every single day. The organization also predicts that climate change will result in 250,000 more deaths per year from 2030 to 2050.
Fragile and vulnerable settings are listed as a whole due to the fact that these scenarios weaken health care systems, often leaving displaced people without access to essential services or immunization, creating breeding grounds for sickness.
Conflict-ridden areas are especially vulnerable as they make it difficult for health workers to reach those in need of medical attention. That is where Ebola and other high-threat pathogens come in to play, as evidenced by 2018’s two outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The second outbreak has proven to be especially problematic as it is surrounded by conflict, making access to vaccines near impossible.
3⃣The 🌎 will face another #influenza pandemic 🤒 – we don’t know when it will hit & how severe it will be.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 15, 2019
Every year, WHO recommends which strains should be included in the flu vaccine to protect people from seasonal flu. 👉https://t.co/uXXOvh1U67#VaccinesWorkpic.twitter.com/UWqex35tOa
This access issue adds insight to yet another threat — vaccine hesitancy. The WHO warns that the anti-vaxxer movement could stall, if not sabotage, the overall progress the world has made on reducing cases of preventable diseases like the measles (which has experienced a 30% increase around the world, the WHO reported).
On top of these situational issues, the list also includes the threats of noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, a global influenza pandemic, dengue, and HIV.
These diseases range in symptoms and propagation but remain high-threat issues for global health. As per the WHO, noncommunicable diseases account for 41 million deaths, an estimated 37 million people currently live with HIV, and there are 390 million infections of dengue, a deadly mosquito-borne disease, every year. The WHO also confirmed that another influenza pandemic is sure to hit.
A growing issue in global health is that of antimicrobial resistance — antibiotics are becoming less effective. The world is not developing medications fast enough to solve the issue, which means that sicknesses that were once easily treatable could eventually lead to death. In fact, it is estimated that deaths associated with AMR could reach 10 million globally by 2050, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance from December 2014.
While this list may paint a bleak outlook for the year ahead, it can also serve as a reminder to the international community that action and investment in global health issues are needed in order to successfully achieve Global Goal 3 on good health and well-being.
Check out the full list below.
1. Air pollution and climate change
2. Noncommunicable diseases
3. Global influenza pandemic
4. Fragile and vulnerable settings
5. Antimicrobial resistance
6. Ebola and other high-threat pathogens
7. Weak primary health care
8. Vaccine hesitancy