As a new year and a new decade kick off, WHO is releasing a list of urgent, global health challenges. This list, developed with input from our experts around the world, reflects a deep concern that leaders are failing to invest enough resources in core health priorities and systems. This puts lives, livelihoods and economies in jeopardy. None of these issues are simple to address, but they are within reach. Public health is ultimately a political choice.
We need to realize that health is an investment in the future. Countries invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and far more damaging economically and socially. A pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees. Which is why health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone.
All the challenges in this list demand a response from more than just the health sector. We face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act. With the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals quickly approaching, the United Nations General Assembly has underscored that the next 10 years must be the “decade of action”.
This means advocating for national funding to address gaps in health systems and health infrastructure, as well as providing support to the most vulnerable countries. Investing now will save lives – and money – later. The cost of doing nothing is one we cannot afford. Governments, communities, and international agencies must work together to achieve these critical goals. There are no shortcuts to a healthier world. 2030 is fast approaching, and we must hold our leaders accountable for their commitments.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
NOTE: The challenges are not listed in order of priority. All are urgent, and many are interlinked.