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Staffing issuesJan 8, 2021

2021 is the 'year of the health and care worker', the WHO announces

The World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled a global campaign to ‘strengthen’ the health workforce and said that 2021 will be the ‘Year of the health and care worker’.

The Geneva-based organisation, which boasts having 194 member states, urged countries to ‘repair and reinforce’ their healthcare systems in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, while ensuring that essential health services are delivered close to people’s homes in ways that don’t drive them into poverty.

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Tackling air pollution is part of WHO's 'build back better' agenda


Supporting its bid to ‘advance health for all’ – one of 10 ‘global health issues’ it identified as being priorities for the coming year – the WHO stated: ‘We will work to help countries strengthen preparedness for pandemics and other emergencies.

‘We will remind them of the importance of bringing countries together and of involving the whole government, not just the health sector. And we will support them in building strong health systems and healthy populations.’   

Tackling health inequalities

The WHO, which was set up in 1948, announced that ‘tackling health inequalities’ would be another key priority, with the topic taking centre stage on World Health Day on 7 April.

‘We will work with countries to monitor and address health inequalities related to critical issues such as income, gender, ethnicity, living in remote rural areas or disadvantaged urban areas, education, occupation/employment conditions, and disability', the WHO announced. 

Meanwhile, it would ‘provide global leadership on science and data’ by, for example, disseminating evidence-based recommendations for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Zika.

Under the heading of ‘building global solidarity for worldwide health security’, the WHO said it would establish a 'Bio Bank' so that vaccines and medicines could be developed more rapidly.

We will sustain our focus on getting accurate information to people, building on our work with key partners to protect populations from infodemics

Protecting the public from inaccurate health information

‘We will sustain our focus on getting accurate information to people, building on our work with key partners to protect populations from infodemics' [the word 'infodemics' is defined as an ‘overabundance of information’ associated with responses to epidemics that can trigger ‘confusion and ultimately mistrust in governments and public health response’. See: https://www.who.int/teams/risk-communication/infodemic-management]


In a topic called ‘build back better’, the WHO said Covid-19 offered a ‘unique opportunity’ to create a ‘greener, healthier world’. Attempts to improve nutrition and reduce air pollution were vital, for example.

Fostering solidarity 

In its final priority area for 2021, the WHO calls on countries, institutions, communities and individuals to ‘act in solidarity’ by ‘closing the cracks in our defences on which the virus thrives’.   

For more information, visit: https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/10-global-health-issues-to-track-in-2021

Author: Ian A McMillan
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