World Health Day: Celebrating the Founding of the World Health Organization
World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7th in recognition of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations tasked with monitoring and protecting public health worldwide. Every year, the WHO chooses a global public health concern to highlight and creates a theme along with World Health Day quotes and messages to publicize events. This year’s theme, “Depression: Let’s talk”, is aimed at raising awareness of depression, a debilitating mental disorder that affects more than 300 million people globally.
History of the WHO
The WHO’s origin is rooted in the founding of the United Nations (UN). After World War II and the ineffectiveness of its predecessor, the League of Nations, the UN was established in 1945 to prevent future global conflicts and to address other global concerns. Among these concerns was public health. After extensive lobbying, the World Health Organization was instituted when a declaration calling for an international health conference was passed.
All 51 countries of the UN signed the WHO’s constitution in 1946, making it the first agency of the UN that every member country subscribed to. After the ratification of the WHO’s constitution in 1948, the agency’s first concentrations were the control of malaria, tuberculosis and STD infections, as well as the improvement of maternal and child health, nutrition, and hygiene. Later, the WHO passed its first legislative act by compiling statistics on the spread of disease and morbidity rates.
Since then, the WHO has achieved great success in the treatment and combat of some of the deadliest diseases facing humans. In 1950, it successfully implemented a tuberculosis inoculation drive worldwide, and it launched its malaria eradication objective. By 1978, the WHO had eradicated smallpox from the face of the earth, making the deadly disease the first to be completely eradicated by human effort.
Today, the WHO works hard in hopes of ridding the world of other pandemics such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. It has also expanded its scope and partnerships to combat environmental impacts on health, such as air and water quality, as well as non-communicable diseases such as mental health. As laid out in its constitutions, its ongoing mission is to see that all people attain the highest possible level health.
History of World Health Day
World Health Day dates back to 1995, marking the global eradication of polio (though several sporadic cases of polio have been reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan). Since then, each subsequent World Health Day has recognized a different global health issue. World Health Day is one of eight major global campaigns aimed at raising awareness of different diseases and health issues, including malaria, tuberculosis, immunization, AIDS, blood donation, hepatitis, and tobacco use.
World Health Day 2017: Depression
This year, World Health Day recognizes depression as a major issue facing global health. Unlike the general and passing feeling of depression, clinical depression is a serious mental disorder. People with depression experience more than two weeks of a persisting low mood characterized by feelings of pain, low energy, low self-esteem, and lack of enjoyment in usually enjoyable activities. Today, more than 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide.
Depression can be very dangerous because of its strong correlation to suicide. According to the WHO, over 800,000 die due to suicide every year, and suicide is the leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29. 2-7% of adults with chronic depression commit suicide, as much as 60% of suicide victims have depression or a similar mood disorder.
Despite the dangers depression presents, people suffering from depression often contend with the stigma surrounding depression, dissuading them from seeking the help they need. Public opinion still perceives depression and other mental problems negatively, even though man accredited institutions and researchers recognize it as a serious but normal health disorder that deserves the same level of treatment as any other disease.
It has been speculated that the stigma surrounding depression can be largely attributed to the antipsychotics drugs and other medications often prescribed to those suffering from depression, as well as society’s general aversion to “crazy” people.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t ignore it. Talk about it. In fact, this year’s World Health Day theme has its own hashtag – #LetsTalk – encouraging all those affected by depression to speak up. It’s important to let those suffering from depression that they aren’t alone, and that with treatment and support, they can get better.
In light of this year’s World Health Day theme, we invite you to read “Transforming Depression” by David H. Rosen here on Geeker. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to better understand the causes and nature of depression, and how to help someone through it.