World Health Day 2023 – Our Planet, Our Health

“Are we capable of imagining an environment where pure air, water, and food are accessible to everyone?

What are the areas where economies are focusing on well-being and health?

Cities that are habitable and where people are in control of their health as well as the health for the entire planet?”

World Health Organization

Anithun Ali washes her clothes in Zanzibar. Credit: SCI Foundation/William Mgobela

World Health Day 2022 will be focused on the essentials to keep the planet and humanity well-nourished, and will encourage a shift towards a society that focuses on wellbeing and not just financial success.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 13 million deaths yearly can be attributed to avoidable environmental causes. They say that the climate crisis is a health issue and that the methods by which health is conceived and dealt with does not reflect the complexity of the world.

Healthy societies require healthy ecosystems

The WHO constitution is designed to ensure an overall social, mental, and physical well-being, not only the absence of disease or infirmity. Health is a human right, and healthy societies depend on healthy ecosystems that provide healthy air, fresh water, medicine and food security. If we wish to create sustainable and healthy societies, we need to address the inequality that arises when we use the resources of our planet.

Economic resources, in comparison to environmental ones, for instance they are prioritized by organizations and governments all over the world and economic success is recognized with a seat on the G7 or G20 tables of countries that are clambering to influence the world. Although there is a compelling argument to invest in health as a part of economic growth by boosting human capital as well as cost savings, the acceptance of this concept could be faster.

Despite the widespread appeal on GDP’s status as a gauge of development in a nation There are, however other economic theories that are more apt to consider the importance of health and sustainability. More often, circular- or wellbeing-related economic models are growing in popularity along with movements like Buen Vivir which do not put any value in economics on the wellbeing of the nation.

It is the One Health concept

The dam that has been constructed by man situated in Keranso, Shone Woreda in Hadiya Zone traps water from the previous season of rain, which is used by the locals to wash clothes, bathing, and for taking home to do household chores, and also to supply water to their livestock. The pond also is home to freshwater snails which are schistosomiasis carriers, also called the bilharzia. (c) SCI Foundation/Indrias G. Kassaye

In the world health community In the global health community, the One Health model proposes new approaches to create strategies and systems that assist all people to improve their overall health and well-being, without compromising our ecosystems.

We are at SCI Foundation, we are looking for new ways of tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that recognize the fact that human health as well as animals and the environment are inextricably connected. Traditional thinking views human health interventions as distinct from those that are a part of ecological or animal health. Within the human health field, there is another division between specialties or particular diseases into separate silos, which hinder collaboration or knowledge sharing.

There have certainly significant benefits by focusing on a particular area of study to improve our understanding of medical science, however it has been often on the back of alternative methods and I’m not convinced that this approach is able to deliver in the context of the modern age.

An One Health approach to maximise our resources

Our health system is a splintering mess trying to make the most of the scarce resources available in NTDs and may result in missing opportunities to improve health across all ecosystems. In the 10 year roadmap for the NTD that was released in 2021 emphasized inter-disciplinary strategies to meet an ambitious set of health control, elimination and eradication goals by 2030.

In the course of efforts to implement the road map, SCIF together with other members of the NTD NGO Network contributed to the development of a WHO companion document that was included with the road map. It laid out the steps required to implement the “One Health” approach to NTDs.

The One Health companion document sets out the needs of countries international organizations, non-state actors to work together and coordinate to maximize the effectiveness of health-related interventions by working in concert across different sectors, regardless of physical barriers that may exist.

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