2014 in review: key health issues

Health headlines have recently been dominated by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and humanitarian emergencies in many other countries. 2014 also saw major public health successes, and a clearer understanding of a number of public health threats. WHO produced reports on a range of critical health issues and provided new advice to help countries improve their people's health. Here are a few highlights:

January - April

Nicaragua is first country to ratify new international protocol to eliminate illicit tobacco trade

Nicaragua became the first country in the world to ratify the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, part of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

WHO ensures wounded in South Sudan get to hospital for life-saving treatment

As leader of the humanitarian health cluster, WHO supported the evacuation of people injured in the crisis in South Sudan to hospitals where specialist care was available and provided medical supplies and equipment to health partners on the ground.

Medical supplies air-delivered to north-east Syria

WHO delivered life-saving medicines, vaccines and medical supplies to north-east Syria by chartered flights from the capital Damascus.

Immunizing against measles in the Central African Republic

In January 2014, more than 115 000 children aged 6 months to 15 years were vaccinated in health centres across the Central African Republic by national health workers with support from WHO, the International Red Cross and partners.

WHO opens public consultation on draft sugars guideline

WHO held a public consultation on its draft guideline on sugars intake. When finalized, the guideline will provide countries with recommendations on limiting the consumption of sugars to reduce public health problems like obesity and dental caries (commonly referred to as tooth decay).

7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution

WHO estimates that in 2012 around 7 million people died—one in eight of total global deaths—as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubled previous estimates and confirmed that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

WHO South-East Asia Region certified polio-free

WHO’s South-East Asia Region—home to a quarter of the world’s population—was certified polio-free on 27 March. It was the fourth of WHO’s six Regions to be certified, marking an important step towards global polio eradication.

WHO supplies arrive in Guinea to support the Ebola outbreak response

When more than 3.5 tons of protection material arrived in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, on 30 March, WHO immediately started distributing it to health facilities in different locations dealing with the outbreak of Ebola. The supplies included single-use personal protection equipment, and disinfection and safe burial material.

WHO issues its first hepatitis C treatment guidelines

WHO issued its first guidance for the treatment of hepatitis C, a chronic infection that affects an estimated 130 million to 150 million people and results in 350 000 to 500 000 deaths a year. The publication of the guidelines coincided with the availability of more effective and safer oral hepatitis medicines, and the promise of even more new medicines in the next few years.

WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance reveals serious, worldwide threat to public health

WHO’s first report to look at antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, globally revealed that this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future. It is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.