World Health Day

Message from the Director-General

Dr Margaret Chan

In the current context of increasing global threats to health including SARS, avian flu, HIV/AIDS and humanitarian emergencies, this year’s theme for World Health Day and the World Health Report is international health security. World Health Day 2007 will serve as an ideal occasion for the international community to consider the growing interdependence of health and security and the need to Invest in health, build a safer future.

Threats to health know no borders. In an age of widespread global trade and travel, new and existing diseases can cross national borders and threaten our collective security. Only through strong collaboration among developed and developing countries, together with an increased focus on information sharing and the strengthening of public health systems and surveillance, can we contain their spread. I look forward to June of this year when the revised International Health Regulations come into force. Their implementation will help to build and strengthen effective mechanisms for outbreak alert and response at national and international levels. We must continue to invest and build.

HIV/AIDS is a powerful example of how interdependent health and security have become. HIV/AIDS threatens the stability of entire regions and nations. Unlike many other diseases, AIDS attacks the most productive members of society. While there are major efforts under way to find a vaccine and to expand access to affordable treatments, much more still needs to be done.

Threats to health security are many and varied. They include sudden shocks to health and economies from emerging diseases, humanitarian emergencies, effects of climate change or environmental degradation, bioterrorism and other acute health risks. Tackling the health effects of these threats involves working collectively to improve preparedness and effective responses when they occur.

Given the growing complexity of these health and security challenges and the response required, these issues concern not only governments, but also international organizations, civil society and the business community. Recognizing this, the World Health Organization is making the world more secure by working in close collaboration with all concerned stakeholders to address these shared challenges.

While collaboration on many levels is essential, every country must invest in health and build capacity to prevent new and existing threats by strengthening its own public health system. Often, this means major investments in disease surveillance and prevention, and education. But sometimes it is as simple and affordable as providing mosquito nets to reduce the spread of malaria or ensuring the availability of clean drinking water in humanitarian emergencies.

This is my first World Health Day as Director-General of the World Health Organization. Building on the exceptional contributions of my predecessors, especially Dr LEE Jong-wook, I am motivated by the conviction that in our increasingly crowded, closely interconnected and mobile world, we must act together to address international health security.

It is in this context that I invite you to take part in World Health Day 2007, in a shared effort to Invest in health, build a safer future for all.

Dr Margaret Chan
World Health Organization