World Health Day

The World Health Organization (WHO) was created on April 7th 1948 as a means to identify, assess, and address how issues relating to health are handled around the world, and in 1950 the WHO agreed to establish “World Health Day” on the 7th of April every year. Today, the WHO employs more than 7,000 people, covering more than 150 nationalities. In addition to working at their headquarters in Geneva, the WHO holds a presence at 150 country offices and 6 regional offices.  

Last year celebrated the 70th anniversary of the WHO, and this year marks the first time where one topic will span two years. Fully committed to this cause, the WHO is extending their campaign to help ensure all people have access to quality health services regardless of where they live or how much money they have. Working under the influence of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the WHO believes Universal Healthcare (UHC) is a right, not a privilege, and that efforts taken towards UHC should include an analysis of health systems and the intersections between quality, efficiency, equity, accountability, sustainability, and resilience.  

A Decade of World Health Day: International Topics

2018 Universal Health Coverage

  • The start of a topic so concerning it continued over into 2019, the WHO decided Universal Healthcare (UHC) needed to be addressed in 2018. UHC is a major concern is many parts of the world, in both developed and underdeveloped countries. The WHO campaign for UHC revolves around the idea that all individuals should have access to quality healthcare, treatments, and services.

2017 Depression: Let’s Talk

  • The idea for 2017’s theme came from the WHO’s belief that awareness of mental health issues can lead to empathy and overall acceptance of people who deal with depression. Their goal was to help reduce or remove the stigma surrounding depression in hopes that, without that stigma, more people will seek out help.

2016 Halt the Rise: Beat Diabetes

  • In 2016, the WHO wanted to create a campaign in response to the rapid rise of diabetes in low and middle-income countries. In their campaign, the WHO supported the process of diagnosis, self-management education, and affordable treatment.

2015 Food Safety

  • Responsible for hundreds of diseases, unsafe food is a major cause of death in many parts of the world. Food can be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or even chemical substances, and consumption of these contaminated foods can lead to up to 2 million deaths annually. This campaign was created to address prevention, detection, and response of foodborne pathogens and disease outbreaks.

2014 Vector-borne Diseases: Small Bite, Big Threat

  • Focusing on the overabundance of commonly known vectors like sandflies, ticks, snails, bugs, and mosquitos, the 2014 campaign brought awareness to how these little organisms can spread parasites and pathogens. Malaria in itself, transmitted to humans through mosquitos bites, causes more than 660,000 deaths annually, and more than half of the world’s population is at risk for other diseases like dengue fever, japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever.

2013 Healthy Heart Beat, Healthy Blood Pressure

  • The WHO campaign for 2013 sought to bring awareness to a disease that is both preventable and highly treatable. Hypertension, also known as raised blood pressure, is estimated to affect one in three adults, and can cause issues related to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and death. More proactive than most, this campaign was created to try and educate individuals on what they can do to prevent becoming hypertensive.

2012 Good Health Adds Life to Years

  • In response to the growing worldwide life expectancy, the WHO wanted to create a campaign to address the need for long-lasting healthcare, since people are needing healthcare for longer periods of time and more frequently as they age.

2011 Antimicrobial Resistance: No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow

  • This campaign in 2011 called for an increase in global commitment to safeguard antimicrobial medicines for the future. It focused on the need for governments and organizations to create policy and practices for the prevention and combat of highly resistant microorganisms.

2010 Urbanization and Health: Make Cities Healthier

  • With their slogan “1000 Cities, 1000 Lives”, the 2010 campaign called for public places to be opened up for discussions of health by holding activities in parks, clean-up campaigns, or town hall meetings. In addition, the WHO also wanted to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have made a significant impact in their communities.

2009 Save Lives, Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies

  • Placing an emphasis on disaster response and emergency treatment, this campaign focused on health facilities and those working inside in order to identify how healthcare professionals can better care for vulnerable peoples.

Working for over seventy years to bring awareness to global issues relating to health, the World Health Organization has devoted itself to the prevention and treatment of many conditions, and the educating of people from around the world. World Health Day not only brings awareness to issues that need it, but it also creates the unique effect of uniting people from around the world in a way no other holiday can. World Health Day stands to remind us that all peoples struggle with health, regardless of social status, skin color, religion, political views, or culture, and with this humanizing of people from different cultures, we begin to see that we are all the same, and all deserving of certain rights like quality of life, education, and health care.


If you are interested in learning more about global health, and the resources available here at the University of Illinois, visit the Global Health libguide.

For more information on the World Health Organization or World Health Day, visit the WHO website.


Other Resources:

Benatar, S. R., and Gillian Brock. Global Health and Global Health Ethics. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Brown, Peter J., and Svea Closser. Foundations of Global Health: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Farmer, Paul, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico. Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2013.

Holtz, Carol. Global Health Care: Issues and Policies. Burlington, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2017.

Hughes, Barry B. Improving Global Health: Forecasting the Next 50 Years. Boulder, Paradigm Publishers, 2011.

Kim, Do kyun, Arvind Singhal, and Gary L. Kreps. Strategies for Developing Global Health Programs. New York, Peter Lang, 2014.

Lakoff, Andrew. Unprepared: Global Health in a Time of Emergency. Oakland, University of California Press, 2017.

Leon, Joshua K. The Rise of Global Health: the Evolution of Effective Collective Action. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2015.

Matlin, Stephen, and Llona Kickbusch. Pathways to Global Health: Case Studies in Global Health Diplomacy. New Jersey, World Scientific, 2017.

Packard, Randall M. A History of Global Health: Interventions into the Lives of Other Peoples. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.

Singer, Merrill. Global Health: An Anthropological Perspective. Long Grove, Waveland Press, 2013.

Skolnik, Richard L. Global Health 101. Burlington, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.

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