This year’s World Health Day carries a particular significance for me and for many others. The theme, “Depression: Let’s Talk,” shines a light upon a problem that oftentimes remains hidden in a dark corner of our minds, trapping us in a painful agony of sadness, loss of interest, and fear.
The accumulated evidence over the past half century on the causal relationship between smoking and harm to health provides us with a robust scientific foundation to inform policy design and action.
Tobacco use poses an unparalleled health and economic burden worldwide. A new study found that the diseases caused by smoking account for US$ 422 billion in health care expenditures annually, representing almost 6% of global spending on health. Smoking causes close to 6 million deaths per year - more than the deaths from HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria combined. And the total economic cost of smoking after including productivity losses from death and disability amounts to more than US$ 1.4 trillion per year- equivalent in magnitude to 1.8% of the world’s annual GDP.
The case for investing in pandemic preparedness is –or at least, should be - completely compelling. Few things could kill as many people as an influenza pandemic. Few threats can cause as much economic disruption as the contagion of fear triggered by a rapidly escalating epidemic. Reinforcing capabilities such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and infection control would be more effective and cost far less than spending money to contain outbreaks when they occur. Yet, so far, the global community has demonstrably not invested enough in preparedness. As a result, too many lives have been lost and too many livelihoods damaged, and the world remains scarily vulnerable.
Disease Outbreaks: A Constant Threat
The World Health Organization called for “heightened vigilance and strengthened surveillance efforts” last week to prevent and detect human transmission of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza or ‘bird flu’. And while no human cases have been reported and WHO itself called the risk “relatively low,” we know the potential devastating impacts of diseases spread from animals to humans.
Neglected Tropical Diseases trap the most vulnerable populations into cycles of poverty. Controlling these diseases—which affect one in six people worldwide—is both a personal and a professional goal.
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Hard to believe, but we are now already a month into 2017. Before we plunge into the rest of the year, I want to take a moment to acknowledge all of the important work we have undertaken together in 2016, and to thank you for the part you have played in the progress made by the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group.
In 2016, a lot of effort was placed on shining the light on mental health as a neglected issue in the global health and development agendas. The flagship event organized by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Health Organization (WHO) during the Spring Meetings of the WBG/IMF held in Washington D.C. was an important step to galvanize attention and commitment to change this situation.