This World Health Day, let us vow to do more to protect the health of the children and the planet
Every year, April 7 is celebrated as world health day, drawing attention to a specific health topic which is of concern to the people all over the world. The day also marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. Every year, a specific theme is highlighted to address a topic of concern. The theme for this year is ‘Our planet, Our Health’.
When we talk about World Health Day, we can’t avoid talking about the Covid-19 pandemic, which continued to create headlines in the previous year. It has affected various strata of societies in different ways. Children and young persons experienced this pandemic in several unique ways which were unprecedented.
Effect of the pandemic on children
Speaking on the topic of pediatrics, Dr Sudheer MS, Specialist Pediatrician and Medical Director at Ahalia Hospital, Mussafah said that children are one of the most vulnerable sections of the society, who suffered a lot in this pandemic. Children and young people have been experiencing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in several ways, from education, to their health, and in living in a virtual world. They were denied the experience of going out of their home, attending classes physically, mingling with people other than their immediate family, larger social contact, and the physical activity and exercise which is so important in their physical and mental development.
In 2021-22, lots of young children spent a considerable time on mobile phones and other such gadgets. This screen time addiction, perpetuated by the inability to go out and play, has led to several related health issues both physical and psychological, including language development and speech for young children.
A project was undertaken by the UK based Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) involving children and young people, to highlight and understand their wishes, experiences and views around the impact of the pandemic.
They came up with three recovery priorities for urgent action:
Have child- and youth- accessible, friendly and relevant information about accessing health services and staying safe through the pandemic.
Increase access to mental health services to support children and young people impacted by the pandemic
Create the best virtual health experience possible thinking about access, confidentiality, rapport and holistic care.
Being recognised as responsible health care institution in the region, Ahalia Hospital has provided plenty of support and education for parents and children, during this difficult time, courtesy individualised health care services, education campaigns, and public awareness initiatives.
Well-being societies are healthy societies
While the pandemic showed us the healing power of science and education, it also highlighted the inequities in the larger world around us. The WHO believes the pandemic has revealed weaknesses in multiple areas of society and has underlined the urgency of creating sustainable well-being societies. These societies should be committed to achieving equitable health for now and for future generations, without breaching ecological limits. They believe the present design of the economy in the world leads to inequitable distribution of income, wealth and power, with too many people still living in poverty and instability. A well-being economy focuses on human well-being, equity and ecological sustainability as its goals. These goals are translated into long-term investments, well-being budgets, social protection and legal and fiscal strategies.
Breaking the cycles of destruction of the planet and human health requires legislative action, corporate reform and individual’s action, to be supported to make healthy choices.
Action plan to save our planet and thus our health
The WHO has made several recommendations in this regard. While some of them are for the governments to take care of, many others are for corporates and individuals to implement, some of which are highlighted below:
Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making.
Try and reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution levels which would help to decrease the burden of disease from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
Switch off lights after working hours at work place and when not in the room, at home.
Support teleworking when possible.
Remove highly processed and packaged foods from the workplace.
Provide sustainably grown local food and ensure healthy food choices by reducing sodas and highly processed and packaged food in health facilities and work places.
Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your activities.
Protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is healthy and sustainable food for babies.
Ensure safe water is accessible for workers.
Tobacco is a killer and a polluter. Stop consuming tobacco.
Buy less plastic; use recyclable grocery bags.
Support purchase of environmentally friendly products that are easily recyclable or reusable.
Take measures to save soil, by increasing the organic content of our soil, which is the basis of life and food production.