How are WHO promoting global health?

Health Promotion

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “health promotion enables people to increase control over their own health”.

“It covers a wide range of social and environmental interventions that are designed to benefit and protect individual people’s health and quality of life by addressing and preventing the root causes of ill health, not just focusing on treatment and cure.”1

Arguably, there are three key elements of health promotion:

1)         Good governance for health,

2)         Health literacy,

3)         Health cities.

Firstly, good governance for health is required in order for “policy makers across all government departments to make health a central line of government policy. This means they must factor health implications into all the decisions they take and prioritise policies that prevent people from becoming ill and protect them from injuries.”1

Moreover, WHO state that “these policies must be supported by regulations that match private sector incentives with public health goals. For example, by aligning tax policies on unhealthy or harmful products such as alcohol, tobacco, and food products which are high in salt, sugars and fat with measures to boost trade in other areas. And through legislation that supports healthy urbanisation by creating walkable cities, reducing air and water pollution, enforcing the wearing of seat belts and helmets.”1

Then, another key element needed is ‘health literacy’. This refers to the fact that “people need to acquire the knowledge, skills and information to make healthy choices, for example about the food they eat and healthcare services that they need. They need to have opportunities to make those choices. And they need to be assured of an environment in which people can demand further policy actions to further improve their health.”1

Three new narratives

Lastly, “cities have a key role to play in promoting good health. Strong leadership and commitment at the municipal level is essential to healthy urban planning and to build up preventive measures in communities and primary health care facilities. From healthy cities evolve healthy countries and, ultimately, a healthier world.”1

However, the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) have proposed three new narratives for health promotion:

  • Addressing the commercial determinants of health and pursuing a stepwise approach to engagement with the private sector,
  • Enabling empowered and resilient people as a response to a pervasive consumer culture and the unprecedented influence of the digital society,
  • Optimising investments in health systems to support delivery of universal health coverage and interventions that are known to work.2

Four new goodwill ambassadors

Ambassadors are well-known personalities from the worlds of arts, literature, entertainment, sport or other fields of public life who commit to contribute to WHO’s efforts to raise awareness of important health problems and solutions.

WHO has appointed four new goodwill ambassadors to further uphold and expand upon the diverse environment of global health. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization announced the appointment of four new goodwill ambassadors, from the fields of sports, politics and community mobilisation, to promote healthier lives, stronger health workforces and improved mental health globally.

The new ambassadors are:

  • Alisson Becker, goalkeeper of the Brazilian national and Liverpool football teams, and Dr Natália Loewe Becker, medical doctor and health advocate from Brazil, as WHO Goodwill Ambassadors for Health Promotion
  • Cynthia Germanotta, President of Born This Way Foundation, which co-founded with her daughter, Lady Gaga, as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for mental health. In this role, Germanotta will raise awareness of the importance of mental health, help mobilise the international community to promote mental health and engage in global mental health campaigns
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Health Workforce. Sirleaf will position new momentum on investing in the education and employment of health workers, particularly women, to achieve universal health coverage and the SDGs.

Appointed by the Director-General for two years at a time, they work closely with WHO to draw attention to its overall priorities or a specific health issue affecting people’s lives and well-being. The announcements were made by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his speech to open the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva. “I welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cynthia Germanotta, Alisson Becker and Natália Loewe Becker as WHO’s new Goodwill Ambassadors and look forward to working with them over the coming years,” said Dr Tedros.

“Each of our new ambassadors are champions in their own right, from helping their communities rebuild and develop sustainably, to fighting for better mental health and wellbeing, to being role models for healthier living.”




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