The 13 biggest threats to global health, according to WHO (2024)

TheWorld Health Organization(WHO) recently released alistof 13 urgent health challenges the world will face over next decade, which highlights a range of issues including climate change and health care equity.

About the list

According to WHO, the list provides an overview of "urgent, global health challenges" that WHO developed with help from experts around the world. WHO said the challenges included on the list "demand a response from more than just the health sector," adding, "Governments, communities, and international agencies must work together" to address these "critical" issues.

WHO said all of the challenges included on the list are urgent, and several are interlinked. As such, WHO did not list the challenges in any particular order.

The 13 biggest health challenges for the next decade

1. Climate crisis

The world's climate crisis has major health implications, according to WHO, with air pollution alone killing an estimated seven million people annually. In addition, more than 25% of deaths from chronic respiratory disease, heart attack, lung cancer, and stroke are attributed to the same emissions responsible for global warming, WHO said. Climate change also worsens malnutrition and promotes the spread of infectious diseases, according to WHO.

To address the issue, WHO said it is working toward creating "a set of policy options for governments" that aim to lower the health risks associated with air pollution. The organization said, "Leaders in both the public and private sectors must work together to clean up our air and mitigate the health impacts of climate change."

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2. Health care delivery in areas of conflict and crisis

WHO noted that, in 2019, most of the disease outbreaks that required the organization's "highest level of … response occurred in countries with protracted conflicts." WHO said it recorded a total of 978 attacks against health care workers or facilities in 11 countries last year, which resulted in 193 deaths. The conflicts also forced a record number of people to leave their homes, resulting in limited health care access for tens of millions of people, WHO said.

WHO noted that it is "working with countries and partners to strengthen health systems, improve preparedness, and expand the availability of long-term contingency financing for complex health emergencies." However, the group said "political solutions" are need "to resolve protracted conflicts, stop neglecting the weakest health systems, and protect health care workers and facilities from attacks."

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3. Health care equity

There are major discrepancies in the quality of people's health across socio-economic groups, WHO said. For example, WHO noted that there is an 18-year difference between the life expectancy of people in low- and high-income countries, as well as significant differences in life expectancies among people living within the same countries and cities. In addition, low- and middle-income countries face a disproportionately large burden of cancer, diabetes, and other noncommunicable diseases, which can quickly put a strain on the resources of low-income households.

WHO said it is working to address disparities in health equity by improving "child and maternal care, nutrition, gender equality, mental health, and access to adequate water and sanitation" and providing guidance on how countries can work to improve health care equity.

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4. Access to treatments

According to WHO, about one-third of people across the world lack access to essential health products such as diagnostic tools, medicines, and vaccines. Limited access to these products fuel drug resistance and threaten people's lives and health, according to WHO.

To address the issue, WHO said it will "sharpen its focus" on efforts to combat "substandard and falsified medical products; enhance[e] the capacity of low-income countries to assure the quality of medical products throughout the supply chain; and improve[e] access to diagnosis and treatment for noncommunicable diseases."

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5. Infectious disease prevention

HIV, sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis and other infectious diseases will kill an estimated four million people this year, accord to WHO. Vaccine-preventable diseases also are expected to kill thousands of people over the next decade.

Part of the reason why infectious diseases continue to spread is because of weak health systems in endemic countries and insufficient levels of financing, WHO said. As such, WHO said there is "an urgent need for greater political will and increased funding for essential health services; strengthening routine immunization; improving the quality and availability of data to inform planning, and more efforts to mitigate the effects of drug resistance."

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6. Epidemic preparedness

An airborne and highly infectious virus pandemic "is inevitable," WHO said, but countries around the world continue to spend more on responding to these emergencies than preparing for them. This leaves countries unprepared for when another pandemic strikes and potentially threatens the lives of millions of people, according to WHO.

WHO said countries should invest in evidence-based practices to strengthen their health systems and protect populations from disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health emergencies.

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7. Unsafe products

Nearly one-third of today's global disease burden is attributed to a lack of food, unsafe food, and unhealthy diets, according to WHO. WHO said while food insecurity and hunger continue to be an issue, there also is a growing number of people who have diets that are high in fat or sugar, leading to a rise in weight- and diet-related diseases. Further, there's been an increase in tobacco and e-cigarette use in most countries, raising additional health concerns.

WHO said it is looking to combat health risks related to unsafe foods and other products by "working with countries to develop evidence-based public policies, investments, and private sector reforms to reshape food systems and provide healthy and sustainable diets," and "to build political commitment and capacity to strengthen implementation of evidence-based tobacco control policies."

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8. Underinvestment in health workers

There is a shortage of health workers around the world because of low pay and chronic underinvestment in health workers' education and employment, WHO said. According to WHO, the shortages negatively affect health systems' sustainability and jeopardize health and social care services. An additional 18 million health workers, including nine million nurses and midwives, will be needed across the world by 2030, according to WHO.

WHO said the World Health Assembly has designated 2020 as the "Year of the Nurse and the Midwife" in an effort to spur "action and encourage investment in education, skills, and jobs" for health care workers. In addition, WHO said it is working with countries to generate new investments to ensure health care workers are trained and paid "decent salaries."

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9. Adolescent safety

Each year, more than one million adolescents ages 10 to 19 die, with road injuries, HIV, suicide, lower respiratory infections, and interpersonal violence leading as causes of death among teens. According to WHO, a number of factors—including harmful alcohol use, unprotected sex, and lack of physical activity—increase the risks of these types of death.

WHO said it will aim to promote mental health and curb harmful behaviors among adolescents in 2020 by issuing new guidance and working to bolster emergency trauma care.

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10. Improving public trust of health care workers

The spread of misinformation, coupled with weakening trust of public institutions, is playing an increasing role in the health decisions patients make, according to WHO. But when patients trust health care systems, they are more likely to follow a health care workers' advice on how to stay healthy and are more likely to rely on health services, WHO said.

In order to bolster public trust in health care workers and systems, WHO said it is working to help countries "strengthen primary care" and to combat misinformation on social media platforms. Further, WHO added that "scientists and the public health community need to do a better job of listening to the communities they serve," and there is a need for investments "in better public health data information systems."

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11. Capitalizing on technological advancements

Breakthroughs in technology have revolutionized disease diagnosis, prevention, and treatment, WHO said, and genome editing, digital health technologies, and synthetic biology have the potential to solve a number of health problems.

However, WHO also noted that these technologies raise a number of questions regarding how they should be regulated and monitored. WHO cautioned that without the appropriate guardrails, these technological advancements have the potential to create new organisms and harm people, and said it is setting up new advisory committees to review evidence and provide guidance on the technologies.

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12. Threat of anti-microbial resistance and other medicines

Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) has the potential to undo decades of medical advancements and has increased due to a number of factors, including limited access to quality and low-cost medications, the unregulated prescription and use of antibiotics, poor infection control, and more, WHO said.

The organization said it is working to combat AMR "by addressing its root causes, while advocating for research and development into new antibiotics."

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13. Health care sanitation

Billions of people across the world live in communities without adequate sanitation services or potable water, which are major causes of disease. And about one-fourth of health care facilities across the world lack basic water services, which are critical to health systems, WHO said. A lack of water and other basic resources results in poor-quality care and increases the likelihood of infections, according to WHO.

To address the issue, WHO and its partners are working with low- and middle-income countries to improve hygiene, sanitation, and water conditions at the countries' health care facilities. WHO also is calling on all countries to ensure all health care facilities have basic hygiene, sanitation, and water services by 2030 (WHO, "Urgent health challenges for the next decade," 1/13).

The 13 biggest threats to global health, according to WHO (2024)


What is the biggest threat to global health? ›

Obesity is now the biggest preventable health threat, according to the Australian Medical Association. The World Health Organization notes that obesity can cause numerous health complaints, including cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, cancers, and diabetes.

WHO releases list of 10 threats to global health? ›

WHO: Ten threats to global health in 2019
  • Air pollution and climate change.
  • Noncommunicable diseases.
  • Global Influenza Pandemic.
  • Fragile and vulnerable settings.
  • Antimicrobial resistance.
  • Ebola and other high-threat pathogens.
  • Weak primary health care.
  • Vaccine hesitancy.
Feb 10, 2019

WHO top 10 global health risks? ›

The 10 biggest threats to health worldwide, according to WHO
  • Air pollution and climate change. ...
  • Noncommunicable diseases. ...
  • Influenza. ...
  • Fragile and vulnerable settings. ...
  • Antimicrobial resistance. ...
  • Ebola and high-threat pathogens. ...
  • Weak primary care. ...
  • Vaccine hesitancy.
Jan 28, 2019

What is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century? ›

A major report on managing the health effects of climate change, launched jointly by The Lancet and University College London (UCL), says that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

WHO are the top 10 causes of death? ›

Leading Causes of Death
  • Heart disease: 695,547.
  • Cancer: 605,213.
  • COVID-19: 416,893.
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 224,935.
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 162,890.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,342.
  • Alzheimer's disease: 119,399.
  • Diabetes: 103,294.

WHO top ten emerging threats? ›

WHO Releases List of 10 Threats to Global Health
  • Threat of a global influenza pandemic.
  • Fragile and vulnerable settings, such as regions affected by drought and conflict.
  • Antimicrobial resistance.
  • Ebola and high-threat pathogens.
  • Weak primary care.
  • Vaccine hesitancy.
  • Dengue.
  • HIV.
Jan 18, 2019

WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity? ›

The World Health Organisation has declared Antimicrobial Resistance as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity and animals are also at risk. It is a major issue which requires nations throughout the world to take action to ensure antibiotics remain effective.

What are 3 threats to public health? ›

For youth, the threats to public health most often mentioned are obesity and overweight, mental health, drug abuse, and (other) lifestyle behaviours, including physical inactivity. Other important issues are (traffic) injuries and violence.

What is the #1 leading health problem? ›

1. Heart Disease – 655,381 deaths per year. Heart disease encompasses many heart conditions, including heart valve disease, heart infection, disease of the heart muscle, congenital heart defects, heart rhythm issues, coronary artery disease, and more.

What was the #1 leading health problem in the US? ›

The No. 1 health condition in the U.S. is heart disease. It is one of the leading causes of death, comprising more than a quarter of all deaths annually. It is estimated that someone has a heart attack in the U.S. every 43 seconds.

What are the top 10 most common health issues? ›

Top 10 Most Common Health Issues
  • Physical Activity and Nutrition.
  • Overweight and Obesity.
  • Tobacco.
  • Substance Abuse.
  • Mental Health.
  • Injury and Violence.
  • Environmental Quality.

What are the 3 major problems facing the healthcare system in the US quizlet? ›

What are 3 major problems facing the health care system in the US?
  • Cost containment.
  • Access.
  • Quality.

What are 7 example of community health problems? ›

Example Community Problems: Adolescent pregnancy, access to clean drinking water, child abuse and neglect, crime, domestic violence, drug use, pollution, mismanagement of resources, lack of funding for schools and services, ethnic conflict, health disparities, HIV/ AIDS, hunger, inadequate emergency services, ...

What are the biggest health issues and concerns around the world face today? ›

Top public health problems for the modern age
  • Heart disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Unintentional injuries.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases.
  • Stroke.
  • Alzheimer's disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Influenza and pneumonia.

What are the most serious health problems facing the world today? ›

Last updated on July 11, 2022.
  • The World-Wide Rise Of Obesity And Extreme Obesity. ...
  • High Blood Pressure: The World's Most Significant Killer. ...
  • Tobacco Use And Smoking: The Leading Cause of Preventable Death. ...
  • Diabetes: The Silent Stealer Of Life. ...
  • The Rise Of The Couch Potato. ...
  • The Explosion Of New Psychoactive Substances.
Jul 11, 2022

What are the main global health issues in the 21st century? ›

Health systems in the 21st century face new and complex challenges such as rapid population ageing, increasing disability attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and multimorbidity of NCDs, antimicrobial resistance, rapid transfer of pathogens through travel and migration that have the potential to create ...

What is the number 1 killer of children? ›

Firearms are now the number one cause of death for children in the United States, but rank no higher than fifth in 11 other large and wealthy countries, a new KFF analysis finds.

What will be the leading cause of death in 2030? ›

Future Health of our Nation (Text)

Greater numbers of older people will require care for chronic diseases and age-related health problems. Deaths from Alzheimer's, hepatitis C and certain cancers are rising. By 2030: Cancer may overtake heart disease as the #1 cause of death, killing 640,000 people each year.

What is death in the Bible? ›

What happened on the day Adam and Eve sinned? They came under the judgment and the condemnation of God. And that is what death is in the Bible.

What are the six 6 common types of threats? ›

The six types of security threat
  • Cybercrime. Cybercriminals' principal goal is to monetise their attacks. ...
  • Hacktivism. Hacktivists crave publicity. ...
  • Insiders. ...
  • Physical threats. ...
  • Terrorists. ...
  • Espionage.
Mar 25, 2015

What are the major types of threats? ›

Threats can be classified into four different categories; direct, indirect, veiled, conditional.

WHO top 13 global health issues? ›

The 13 biggest health challenges for the next decade
  • Climate crisis. ...
  • Health care delivery in areas of conflict and crisis. ...
  • Health care equity. ...
  • Access to treatments. ...
  • Infectious disease prevention. ...
  • Epidemic preparedness. ...
  • Unsafe products. ...
  • Underinvestment in health workers.
Jan 15, 2020

Why AMR is a global concern? ›

Why is antimicrobial resistance a global concern? The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens that have acquired new resistance mechanisms, leading to antimicrobial resistance, continues to threaten our ability to treat common infections.

Is antimicrobial resistance one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity? ›

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health and development threat. It requires urgent multisectoral action in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)1. WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

What is a global health threat? ›

Today's top global health security risks include: Emergence and spread of new infectious diseases. Ever-increasing globalization of travel and trade, enabling disease to spread. Rise of drug-resistant, disease-causing pathogens. Potential for accidental release, theft or illicit use of dangerous pathogens.

What are the three 3 major factors affecting health? ›

The determinants of health include:
  • the social and economic environment,
  • the physical environment, and.
  • the person's individual characteristics and behaviours.
Feb 3, 2017

What are 4 major factors that affect public health? ›

Health is influenced by many factors, which may generally be organized into five broad categories known as determinants of health: genetics, behavior, environmental and physical influences, medical care and social factors.

What are 3 main reasons why healthcare costs in the United States are so high and on the rise? ›

Premium increases, higher deductibles and copays, and soaring prescription drug prices result in spikes in healthcare costs. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services1, in 2021, healthcare costs skyrocketed to $4.3 trillion.

What are 3 factors of society that influence the healthcare industry? ›

Path to improved health
  • Education. Your education level can have an effect on how healthy you are. ...
  • Income. The amount of money you make has an effect on your health. ...
  • Housing. Where you live has a significant impact on your health. ...
  • Access to health care.
Mar 12, 2018

What is the most common health problem in the United States? ›

The 10 most common health conditions in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, obesity, Alzheimer's, diabetes, substance abuse disorders, the flu, kidney disease, and mental health conditions.

What are 6 health issues? ›

The most common health issues are physical inactivity and food, obesity, tobacco, substance abuse, AIDS, mental health, falling and injury, environmental quality, immunization, and healthcare access. These all-personal health issues require attention to improve the quality of life and keep you free from diseases.

What are the 7 types of health? ›

Wellness is commonly viewed as having seven dimensions: mental, physical, social, financial, spiritual, environmental, and vocational.

What are the list released by World Health Organization as threats to global health? ›

This watchlist for priority research and development includes Ebola, several other haemorrhagic fevers, Zika, Nipah, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and disease X, which represents the need to prepare for an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious ...

Which agency held global health issues? ›

Founded in 1948, WHO is the United Nations agency that connects nations, partners and people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health.

WHO monitors global health? ›

Since its postwar founding, the UN agency has garnered both praise and criticism for its response to international public health crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO is the UN agency responsible for coordinating international health efforts.

Which agency relates to global health issues? ›

Founded in 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency dedicated to global health and safety. The Organization connects nations, partners and communities to promote health and serve the vulnerable.

What are 10 global health issues concerns and trends? ›

Their comments have been lightly edited for clarity.
  • Long COVID.
  • Mental health.
  • Impact of climate change.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Lower respiratory infections.
  • Poverty's role in health.
  • Health systems strengthening.
  • Diabetes.
Dec 20, 2022

What are the biggest health issues and concerns? ›

  • Physical Activity and Nutrition. ...
  • Overweight and Obesity. ...
  • Tobacco. ...
  • Substance Abuse. ...
  • HIV/AIDS. ...
  • Mental Health. ...
  • Injury and Violence. ...
  • Environmental Quality.

What are the 3 main goals of WHO? ›

WHO works worldwide to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable. Our goal is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being.

Is CDC a global health organization? ›

CDC's Global Health Center works to protect Americans from dangerous and costly public health threats, including COVID-19, vaccine-preventable diseases, HIV, TB, and malaria—responding when and where health threats arise.

Is CDC under World Health Organization? ›

CDC works with an array of partners, including the WHO. WHO convenes its 194 member nations, including the U.S., to direct and coordinate global health strategies, tactics and priorities.

WHO is working to improve global health? ›

The CDC aspires to create a world where people – in the United States and around the globe – live healthier, safer, and longer lives. CDC's global health mission is to improve and protect the health, safety, and security of Americans while reducing morbidity and mortality worldwide.

What does the WHO do for global health? ›

CDC's Global Health Center coordinates and manages the agency's resources and expertise to address global challenges such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, emergency and refugee health, non-communicable diseases, injuries, and more.

What are 3 international health organizations that work to improve public health? ›

Examples of NGOs dedicated to international health include:
  • Pakistan Heart Foundation.
  • CARE.
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross.
  • International Medical Corps.
  • Oxfam.
  • Partners in Health.
  • Project HOPE.

What is the most important organization that works on global health issues Why? ›

Top International Health Organizations

The World Health Organization. The World Bank. The United States Agency for International Development.

What government agency investigates serious health problems throughout the world? ›

A. International agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), sponsored by the United Nations, compile statistics and information on disease; publish health information; and investigate and address health problems throughout the world.

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