Wednesday, April 7, marks World Health Day 2021, an annual awareness day for everyone across the globe to focus on the health and wellness of those in our own countries as well as all others.

This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt most aspects of life and highlight health disparities, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a call for nations to improve the health of all people and to work together to build a fairer world that values health equity.

World Health Day has been celebrated for a little over 70 years. In 2021, organizations, governments and individuals are showing support and raising awareness by posting on social media with the hashtag #WorldHealthDay. A variety of posts are embedded in this article.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrived amid the inequalities in our societies and the gaps in our health systems,” said the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a WHO news item for World Health Day.

“It is vital,” continues WHO’s director-general, ”for all governments to invest in strengthening their health services and to remove the barriers that prevent so many people from using them, so more people have the chance to live healthy lives.”

The World Health Day website notes:

Some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others—entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age.

All over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services. This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And it harms our societies and economies.

This is not only unfair: it is preventable. That’s why we are calling on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health. At the same time, we urge leaders to monitor health inequities, and to ensure that all people are able to access quality health services when and where they need them. 

COVID-19 has hit all countries hard, but its impact has been harshest on those communities which were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease, less likely to have access to quality health care services and more likely to experience adverse consequences as a result of measures implemented to contain the pandemic.

To achieve the goal of a healthier and fairer world, the WHO issues these calls to action for national leaders:

  • Invest in primary health care. About half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to basic health care services, the WHO writes. And for more than 800 million people, at least 10% of their income goes to health care.

  • Prioritize health and social protection. This includes offering people help—financial, nutritional and otherwise—when they lose their jobs or suffer hardships.

  • Build safe, healthy and inclusive neighborhoods. It’s vital to have housing with water and sanitation facilities as well as educational and recreational amenities; without them, people in urban areas get trapped in sickness and insecurity. Meanwhile, 80% of the world’s most impoverished people are living in rural areas and are in need of economic investment and digital technologies.

  • Strengthen data and health information. This is key to figuring out where inequities exist and how to fix them, yet only 51% of nations include relevant data—such as that on sex, race, gender, wealth and education—in their reports on health statistics.

World Health Day was conceived at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and first took place in 1950. Visit the World Health Day website to learn more about the campaign and to download sharable images. The WHO press release also includes links to a webinar and to opening remarks from WHO’s director-general regarding World Health Day.

In related news, read about the first COVID-19 National Day of Remembrance. And for a calendar of HIV-related awareness days, see “2021 HIV/AIDS Awareness Days,” which includes a printable PDF. The next event, National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, takes place Saturday, April 10.