WHO at 75: Getting fit for the future
At a press conference on the eve of the WHO’s 75th anniversary, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus renewed the call for health equity, a call that launched the organization seven and a half decades prior, when it was first acknowledged that health was not only a fundamental human right, but also fundamental to global peace and security.
Looking back on the successes made viable through global cooperation, Dr. Ghebreyesus proclaimed, “The history of WHO demonstrates what is possible when nations come together for a common purpose.”
This year as the WHO observes this historic milestone, it is an opportunity for the WHO Foundation to promote not only the work accomplished by the WHO over the past 75 years, but also to point to the work that needs to be done. We can accomplish this goal by looking back to move forward with robust and innovative funding strategies that help to activate the shared vision of health for all.
In 1948, countries of the world came together and founded WHO to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health and well-being.
The World Health Organization (WHO)’s 75th anniversary year, is a chance to look back at public health successes that have improved quality of life during the last seven decades. It is also an opportunity to motivate action to tackle the health challenges of today and tomorrow.
Through the decades, WHO has been addressing key challenges for its mission: spearheading efforts to improve social conditions so that people are born, grow, work, live and age with good health. WHO has also been central to the global promotion of gender and disability inclusion. But such progress has been constantly threatened by the persistence of health inequalities.
30% of the global population is still not able to access essential health services. Almost two billion people face catastrophic or impoverishing health spending, with significant inequalities affecting those in the most vulnerable settings.
The goal to achieve Health For All, therefore, remains as important today as it was 75 years ago. For WHO, this remains a key pathway to UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, reinforced by 16 other SDGs to be attained by 2030.
Health For All envisions that all people have good health for a fulfilling life in a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
The potential role of private philanthropy
To help strengthen health systems, health workers everywhere need access to better health products and reliable health services, digital solutions and reliable infrastructure. WHO, in its own investment case, and others, such as the OECD, acknowledge the need for investment in health solutions that can be scaled up worldwide to come from a greater variety of sources, including private philanthropy and foundations. This is where the WHO Foundation can play an important role: in identifying opportunities, brokering partnerships and advocating for WHO as the world’s health guardian.
So, what’s ahead for the next 75 years?
Here are key areas we have to invest in to scale up and reach health for all.
– Climate & health:
Clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Climate change is a key factor in achieving health for all. Indeed, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. WHO estimates that the direct costs to health will be between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030.
Health infrastructure in low-and middle-income countries are most at risk from climate change, and need assistance to prepare and respond to it. Lower-income populations are largely uninsured. Health shocks and stresses already push around 100 million people into poverty every year, a number that increases with the impacts of climate change.
WHO supports countries to build climate-resilient health systems and track national progress in protecting people’s health from climate change, as well as in assessing the health gains that would result from the implementation of the existing Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, and the potential for larger gains from more ambitious climate action.
– Digital Health
In line with WHO’s Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025 and this year’s International Women’s Day theme, we believe in the role of digital innovation, technology, and education in improving health outcomes for all, especially women and girls, who experience compounding barriers to health and wellbeing.
Digital health can be supportive of equitable and universal access to quality health services. It can help make health systems more efficient and sustainable, enabling them to deliver good quality, affordable and equitable care.
These high ideals are challenging to attain, especially for low- and middle-income countries.
To support these goals, we launched our Global Health Equity Fund in collaboration with OurCrowd. It will fuel innovation & increase investment in the health sector while delivering competitive returns to investors and ensuring equitable access to medical care.
Our target portfolio companies will be health innovators but also mitigate current global health risks related to climate, fossil fuels, and looming food shortages.
The WHO Foundation also created an Access Pledge. Portfolio companies will make their technology solutions are available, accessible, appropriate, and affordable for populations experiencing inequity.
– Mental Health
As described in its June 2022 World Mental Health Report: Transforming mental health for all, or in its latest guidelines on mental health at work (September 2022), WHO envisions a world in which mental health is valued, promoted, and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to benefit from good mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.
We must all commit and invest to make mental health and well-being for all a global priority. The full spectrum of mental health needs should be met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable, and quality services and supports. We shine a light on the people who need it most.
The WHO Foundation is striving to cooperate on a multilevel approach and through various initiatives.
Mental health, emergency response, and preparedness are some of our key areas of work. We support WHO through its initiatives, including #Sports4Health. We also actively support WHO’s emergency work, which includes mental health assistance for those who need it most, through our Health Emergencies Alliance, the Ukraine health emergency appeal, the Sahel & Horn of Africa health emergency appeal or the COVID-19 response.
The WHO Foundation will continue to harness the power of partnerships and works to mobilize resources to advance the mission of WHO, to help build a healthier world for all. To get involved and partner with the WHO Foundation, please learn more on our website or contact us at email@example.com.