World Health Day 2022 - Message of Dr Sarah Barber, Director, WHO Centre for Health Development (WHO Kobe Centre)

Kobe Centre)

World Health Day on 7 April 2022 focuses on ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ and will draw global attention to the urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.

WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. The climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. It is also a health crisis. For example:

  • Over 90 per cent of people breathe unhealthy air from burning of fossil fuels.
  • Extreme weather events, land degradation and water scarcity are displacing people and affecting their health.
  • Pollution and plastics found in the deepest oceans and the highest mountains have found their way into our food chain.
  • Cigarette butts are the most abundant form of plastic waste in the world, take years to break down and are commonly found in dead bodies of sea birds, dolphins and sea turtles.
  • Commercial systems which produce ultra-processed, unhealthy foods and beverages are driving obesity, increasing cancer and heart disease while contributing to a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted vast inequities in our world. Health systems are the main line of defence for populations faced with emerging health threats, including from climate change. To protect health and avoid widening health inequities, countries must build climate-resilient health systems.

Sustainable ‘well-being societies’ are committed to achieving equitable health now and for future generations while respecting ecological limits. A well-being economy has human well-being, equity and ecological sustainability as goals which are translated into long-term investments, well-being budgets and ecological sustainability.

Breaking cycles of destruction for the planet and human health requires legislative action, corporate reform and social environments which support and encourage individuals to make healthy choices.  

WHO is urging governments and the public to share stories of steps they are taking to protect the planet and their health and prioritize well-being societies.

The WHO Kobe Centre conducts research and promotes its uptake to ensure that more people will be better protected from the health impact of emergencies and disasters.