On April 7th of each year (today), we celebrate World Health Day! The World Health Organization founded the holiday as a way to continuously bring awareness to how we can contribute to the creation of a healthy, prosperous, and long-lasting world.
History of World Health Day
The document that brought the World Health Organization (WHO) to life was entered into force on April 7, 1948, with 61 countries signing the agreement. The first order of business for the WHO was to instigate the celebration of World Health Day. Starting in 1950, World Health Day has taken on a different theme each year to promote a specific important public health issue that affects the planet and its people. For 2022, the WHO has decided to focus on “urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being”, titling the theme, “Our Planet, Our Health.”
Our Planet, Our Health
According to the WHO, there are an estimated 13 million deaths in the world each year due to environmental causes. At the moment, the biggest health threat facing humanity is the climate crisis.
Studies have shown that more than 90% of people breathe air laden with toxic chemicals due to the burning of fossil fuels. Changing temperatures have caused deadly droughts, freezes, and storms of unprecedented severity and magnitude. Additionally, the warming has caused a boom in the mosquito population, rapidly facilitating the spread of diseases and increasing their range. Pollution is omnipresent– it has made its way to all parts of our world: deep oceans, mountains, and now our food chain. Microplastics have been found in human digestive systems, lungs, blood, and even in otherwise healthy developing fetuses. Furthermore, the continuous processing of unhealthy foods and beverages is contributing to obesity, cancer, and heart disease while also producing a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Health Organization shares that while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world a lot about the healing power behind science, it has also highlighted many inequities in society at large. It has revealed the urgency of creating well-being societies that are focused on achieving equitable health for present and future generations. The current economic design has resulted in the unjust distribution of income/wealth, standard of living, and power, leaving too many people living in poverty. According to the WHO, a well-being economy has human health, equity, and ecological sustainability as its primary goals.
Moving forward, we should all be working toward dismantling unfair policies and practices and pushing for legislation that supports a collectively healthier world.
Of course, just because the WHO works for the betterment of the world as a whole doesn’t mean that you are insignificant. In fact, the world is changed one person at a time. If you’re looking for world-bettering things to do to celebrate this year’s World Health Day, here are a few suggestions…
- Spend time outside. Sometimes all it takes to gain an appreciation for our fellow man and the planet we occupy is spending deliberate time outside, away from our protective shelters and screens and distractions. Intentionally seeking stillness in the great outdoors can shift your perspective and help you focus on what matters most. Plus, you’ll likely encounter things that bother you about your immediate surroundings– litter, weeds, lack of wildlife, cracked pavement, etc.; which leads to my next point…
- Make a change to your environment. There’s an old saying that claims that a messy house is a reflection of a messy mind. That applies to the planet as well, as it is also our “house.” If something is out of place around you, you can improve your mood, the moods of others, and the health of the planet by taking the initiative and not letting things lie. If you notice trash while in a public space, pick it up and throw it away properly. If you hate the weeds in your front garden, tear them out. Is your kitchen messy? Clean it. Decided you don’t like the paint color in your kitchen? Paint it. Take action! Little things like that! Facilitating a habit of noticing what’s around you and making small changes to better suit you (and others) is a good way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and insignificant about the state of the world as a whole. It also gets you thinking about what could be accomplished if we all made small, fast, easy changes like this!
- Strike up a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Hear their stories. Listen to their expressions. Make a new friend. This is especially important because, while we all live very private lives, it’s important to feel a kinship with the people in your immediate vicinity. Did you know it’s not common to know who your neighbors are anymore? You can help foster a feeling of acceptance and community in your immediate surroundings by leaving a note on someone’s step. Introduce yourself. Bake cookies. Invite others to participate in your life, and they will invite you to participate in theirs. The more we share with each other– openly and without judgment– the better people we’ll be.
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