To quote the European Region of the World Health Organisation (WHO):
“In 1948, the First World Health Assembly called for the creation of a World Health Day to mark the founding of WHO. Since 1950, World Health Day has been celebrated every year on 7 April with a different theme. Each theme reflects a priority area of current concern to WHO. The Day launches longer-term advocacy programmes that continue well beyond 7 April.
World Health Day is a worldwide opportunity to focus on key public health issues. WHO/Europe contributes by highlighting activities and analysis on the chosen theme from and about the Member States of the WHO European Region, and WHO/Europe country offices hold special events to draw attention to the theme and foster debate among policy-makers and other stakeholders.”
To me it is sad that, 65 years on, there is probably an even greater need to draw attention to health issues worldwide than there was in the aftermath of World War II. I’ll try to avoid leaping onto my soapbox here, but a major concern for anyone involved in providing healthcare services must be the politicisation of health. Here in the UK, today – appropriately it is April Fools Day – marks the latest major reorganisation to be inflicted on the NHS by politicians. Having worked in the NHS for 20 years, I think this is the fifth such reorganisation that I have seen, not to mention the almost annual tinkering that occurs. Whilst I think the latest changes are fundamentally flawed I am not about to join the chorus saying that this is the death of the NHS: things tend to work themselves out, and hospitals, clinicians and services last longer than politicians, thankfully. But constant political interference does tend to focus attention on the structures and management rather than on the public health aspects of healthcare, which is why initiatives like World Health Day are so important.
Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world. The theme for World Health Day 2013 is high blood pressure, the ultimate goal being to reduce heart attacks and strokes. The prevalence increases with age: from 1 in 10 in their 20s and 30s to 1 in 2 of the over 50s. In some parts of the world these figures can be much higher. Undiagnosed and untreated, high blood pressure can be a killer, so the specific objectives of the campaign are:
- to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of high blood pressure;
- to provide information on how to prevent high blood pressure and related complications;
- to encourage adults to check their blood pressure and to follow the advice of health-care professionals;
- to encourage self-care to prevent high blood pressure;
- to make blood pressure measurement affordable to all; and
- to incite national and local authorities to create enabling environments for healthy behaviours.
Now that I’ve scared you witless, if you would like to learn more about high blood pressure and related conditions, the NHS website is, as always, a mine of useful information.
Take care, look after yourself and others – I really wouldn’t want you to be one of the unwelcome statistics!