World Health Day Focuses On Investing In Health For Safer Future

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World Health Day for 2007 "reflects one of the most vital concerns of our times: How can we stay safe in a globalized world, where diseases can spread from one continent to another in mere hours?"

The World Health Day theme, "Invest in Health, Build a Safer Future," focuses on new and existing diseases which Dr. Roses says "threaten our health and security, and they ignore national borders. The threat of a global influenza pandemic remains real and the example of SARS is fresh in our minds. The epidemic of HIV/AIDS is another global phenomenon that adversely impacts not only the health but also the economy and stability of many countries. Although the burden can be greater for the developing world, epidemic-prone diseases are a growing threat to all nations."

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PAHO is focusing on a series of activities, when World Health Day is being observed worldwide this year, including a panel on "Threats to Health Know No Borders," with presentations on the economic impact of emerging and re-emerging diseases, on the communication challenges of emerging epidemics, and a case study by Dr. David Butler-Jones of the Public Health Agency of Canada. A session is also slated on health diplomacy and new competencies for public health leaders.

One focal point of the World Health Day observances will be the newly revised and broadened International Health Regulations due to come into force in. June. These regulations, Dr. Roses notes, "will provide for growing international cooperation leading to a more robust and transparent reporting of disease outbreaks and other threats to public health as well as control efforts. This international agreement urges Member States of the World Health Organization to focus their efforts in preventing and containing public health emergencies at their origin."

The regulations require countries to maintain surveillance and response capacities that allow them to detect, assess, and report important public health events, and to intervene with public health measures. "They are also encouraged to share information in a transparent way and to collaborate in solidarity among countries," Dr. Roses adds.

In her message for World Health Day, Dr. Roses notes that "While new and reemerging diseases represent a threat, there are other worries too. Natural disasters, chemical and nuclear accidents, climate change and its consequences, and bioterrorism all have the potential to affect international public health security. However, the same forces of globalization that allow pathogens to move freely around the world can also be used to build multinational partnerships to help us expand access to drugs and vaccines, improve public health infrastructure in developing countries, and launch better public health work force education programs worldwide."

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