WHO publishes the top ten global health threats

WHO publishes the top ten global health threats

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The ten biggest health threats in 2019

The world faces numerous health challenges. These include new waves of infectious diseases such as measles and diphtheria, the increase in drug-resistant pathogens, rising obesity rates, the health effects of pollution and climate change, and numerous humanitarian crises. The World Health Organization recently published a report on the ten largest global health threats we face in 2019.

At the beginning of 2019, the WHO published a new five-year strategic plan to combat global health threats. According to the WHO, this plan focuses on the self-imposed three billion goal: one billion people should have more access to general health care, one billion people should be protected from health emergencies and one billion people should enjoy more health and wellbeing in general. To this end, the health organization narrowed down the main global threats to be tackled.

Air pollution and climate change

According to the WHO, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day. Air pollution is considered to be the greatest environmental risk to health in 2019. According to the WHO, microscopic pollutants from the air enter the respiratory and circulatory system and thus damage the lungs, heart and brain. This leads to seven million premature cases of cancer, stroke, heart disease and lung disease each year. Around 90 percent of these deaths would occur in low and middle income countries. Emissions from industry, transport and agriculture are particularly high here. WHO names the combustion of fossil fuels as the main cause of air pollution.

Non-communicable diseases

According to the WHO, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are responsible for more than 70 percent of all global deaths (41 million people). 15 million people succumb to such diseases between the ages of 30 and 69. Here, too, it became clear that over 85 percent of these premature deaths take place in countries with low and middle incomes. The WHO identifies five main risk factors for these diseases: tobacco use, lack of exercise, harmful alcohol consumption, unhealthy nutrition and air pollution.

Global pandemic influenza

The world will predict another influenza pandemic, the WHO experts predict. The global defense mechanisms are only as effective as the weakest link in the standby and response system. WHO constantly monitors the spread of influenza viruses to identify potential pandemic strains. 153 institutions in 114 countries are currently working on global virus monitoring. Each year, these data provide recommendations as to which strains should be included in the flu vaccine in order to ensure the best possible protection for people.

Crisis areas and poor basic services

As the WHO reports, more than 1.6 billion people (22 percent of the world's population) live in places where long-lasting crises such as drought, hunger, wars and displacement of the population prevail. Such conditions were usually associated with poor health services and poor primary care.

Resistant germs

The development of antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials is one of the greatest successes of modern medicine. According to the WHO, the time for the effectiveness of these drugs could soon end. Increasing resistance to antibiotics threatens to send us back to a time when we can no longer treat infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and salmonellosis.

Ebola and other pathogens with a high pandemic potential

In 2018, according to the WHO, there were two Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which spread to cities with more than one million people. Crises and rough terrain made it difficult to limit the outbreak. This shows that the context in which an epidemic breaks out can be critical to the development of a pandemic. The WHO reports that Ebola, hemorrhagic fever, Zika, Nipah, coronaviruses (MERS-CoV) and SARS viruses in particular have the potential for serious pandemics.

Delayed vaccination

The reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite available vaccines promotes the spread of avoidable diseases, according to the WHO. According to the WHO, two to three million deaths per year are prevented by vaccinations. Another 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if tolerance for vaccinations could be improved worldwide. The WHO cites lack of trust as one of the main reasons why people consciously decide against vaccination.


Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms. In around 20 percent of the cases, there are severe courses that can even be fatal. According to the WHO, dengue fever has been a constantly growing threat for decades. The disease was originally a tropical disease, but is increasingly spreading in more temperate countries. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the world is threatened by dengue fever. Around 390 million infections occur each year.


Research has made tremendous progress against HIV. However, the WHO has by no means declared the epidemic defeated. Around one million people would still die of HIV / AIDS every year. It is estimated that around 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV. According to the WHO, risk groups are prostitutes, people in prison and homosexual men. Sub-Saharan Africa is also particularly badly affected. Around 25 percent of all HIV infections would take place in this area. (vb)

Author and source information

Video: World Health Organization says: Vaccine Hesitancy is 1 of the 10 global health threats in 2019 (September 2022).


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