World Health Day marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Observed on April 7 each year, this day aims to create awareness about a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for WHO.
From the inception of World Health Day at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, WHO has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. For each World Health Day, a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world. This year, it is COVID-19 and the theme for 2021 is “Building a fairer, healthier world”.
The day serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on important aspects of global health. WHO notes that with COVID-19 pandemic, some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others, while some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services. Such poor conditions lead to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature deaths, which harms societies and economies.
To prevent such unfair conditions, WHO calls upon leaders and healthcare providers to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health, monitor health inequities, and make certain that all people are able to access quality health services when and where they need them.
COVID-19 has been harshest on those communities which were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease and less likely to have access to quality health care services. This global campaign highlights WHO’s constitutional principle “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.