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World Health Day 2022: Our planet, our health

The burning of fossil fuels, as well as other societal and commercial decisions that contribute to the health crisis, exposes more than 90% of people to unhealthy air. Pollution and plastics, which accumulate on ocean floors as well as in forests and mountains, also harm our food chain. Meanwhile, increased intake of highly processed foods and an unhealthy lifestyle encourage the development of a variety of ailments, ranging from obesity to cancer.

In the face of a pandemic, a polluted planet, and rising chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma, and heart disease, there is a need to come together as a community to advocate programmes, activities, and campaigns that promote long-term health goals for humans and the planet. The global devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted current health inequities and the need for initiatives to improve social well-being and general health.

World Health Day was established by the World Health Organisation and was first held on April 7, 1950. It is one of the WHO’s 11 official global public health campaigns, and it is commemorated annually on April 7 to call attention to a global health concern. Every year, the World Health Day is commemorated to raise global awareness of people’s general health and well-being, with each Day featuring vital and equally amazing campaign themes to encourage good health. This year’s campaign, however, is titled, “Our Planet, Our Health,” and it has a significant focus, particularly at a time when we are suffering a climate crisis with tangled links to illnesses and diseases. The theme for this year is to focus global attention on the health of our planet and the people who live on it.

According to the WHO, human pleasure and well-being are dependent on good health. Healthy people live longer and are more productive, which contributes greatly to economic progress. Equitable health not only promotes a sustainable economy but also aids in the establishment of stable goals for future generations. Millions of people throughout the world suffer from a variety of terrible diseases. The WHO estimates that more than 13 million people die each year due to preventable environmental causes around the world. This includes the climate crisis, which is the world’s single greatest health threat. The climatic emergency is also a health emergency.

Climate change has a wide range of effects on human life and health. It jeopardises the foundations of human health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food, and secure shelter – and has the potential to reverse decades of global health progress. Sea levels are rising, the Arctic is melting, coral reefs are dying, oceans are acidifying, and forests are burning as a result of these factors. It is obvious that business as usual would not suffice. Climate change affects everyone’s food and water security because it is a direct cause of soil deterioration. Now is the time for bold global action as the infinite cost of climate change approaches irreversible highs.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed flaws in all aspects of society, emphasising the importance of establishing sustainable well-being societies devoted to ensuring equal health for current and future generations while remaining environmentally conscious. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant loss of human life around the world, and it poses an unprecedented threat to public health, food systems, and the workplace. The pandemic’s economic and social effects are devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, and the number of people who are undernourished, which is presently estimated to be around 690 million, might rise by 132 million by the end of the year. Immediate and focused action to save lives and livelihoods should include expanding social protection to encompass universal health coverage and financial support for the most vulnerable. Governments must collaborate closely with employers and workers when formulating and implementing such policies.

It is critical to concentrate global attention on the urgent activities required to keep humanity and the planet healthy, as well as to promote a movement to create societies that are centred on well-being. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through better transport, food, and energy-use choices improves health, especially by reducing air pollution. Climate and health crises are being fuelled by our political, social, and commercial decisions. Breaking these destructive cycles for the planet and human health requires legislative action, business reform, and support and incentives for individuals to make healthy choices. Moreover, the theme “Our Planet, Our Health” should serve as a compelling reminder that many of these concerns are not just the responsibility of the health sector and that a successful response will necessitate whole-of-government and whole-of-society measures.

Now is the time for global solidarity and assistance, particularly for our societies’ most vulnerable citizens. Only by working together will we be able to overcome the pandemic’s intertwined health, social, and economic impacts, as well as the climate crises, and prevent the pandemic from escalating into a long-term humanitarian and food security disaster, potentially wiping out already made development gains. We must re-imagine our environment’s future and act quickly to address climate change and environmental deterioration. Only then will we be able to safeguard everyone’s health, livelihoods, food security, and nutrition, as well as our planet and our health.

Ms Egbewande, researcher and online content writer, is an undergraduate Doctor of Pharmacy student at the University of Ilorin

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