World Health Day 2021: Making every person's health matter


What is World Health Day all about? And, what can you do to get involved in this campaign on 7 April and raise awareness of this year's powerful theme: "Building a fairer, healthier world". Add your voice to the call to make every day a reminder of the bigger picture - how important access to healthcare is to us all.

Unpacking this World Health Day

"The COVID-19 pandemic has really put the spotlight on the unequal access to healthcare across the world," says Head of Discovery Health's Centre for Clinical Excellence, Dr Noluthando Nematswerani. "World Health Day 2021 - a World Health Organization campaign - is all about shedding light on this imbalance and looking for solutions."

"People from poor communities have acutely felt the serious consequences of the pandemic - from the impact of experiencing serious COVID-19 illness to the way in which restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of infection have dented global economies and affected people's ability to earn a living and access resources."

"It's important that we never lose sight of the bigger picture - the need to extend access to healthcare to ever more people across the world - especially those in the poorest communities."

Some people can live healthier lives and enjoy better access to healthcare services than others. This is entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age, according to the World Health Organization. People who experience poverty also face limited access to healthcare, good housing, quality education and employment opportunities, and access to safe environments (clean water and air, food security and health services).

"The World Health Organization says categorically that the experience is one of unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness and premature death. This harms individual and global societies and economies. This is not only unfair; it is preventable," adds Dr Nematswerani.

Some fascinating facts about World Health Day

  1. In general, World Health Day is all about focusing on a specific theme that is globally relevant and reflects what is currently taking place in the world - always with the aim of finding solutions.
  2. World Health Day turns 73 in 2021. The first World Health Day was celebrated in the 1948!
  3. Past World Health Days have focused on various themes, for example:
    • 2020 focused on the hard work by the world's nurses and midwives.
    • 2019 and 2018 focused on Universal Health Coverage and extending care to more and more people.
    • 2017 focused on depression and mental illness.
    • 2016 focused on the world's growing number of people living with diabetes.
    • 2014 focused on vector-borne diseases like malaria and others.
    • 2011 focused on antimicrobial resistance.

Making every day World Health Day: The Discovery Foundation invests millions in healthcare for all South Africans

Completely aligned to the theme of "Building a fairer, healthier world", the Discovery Foundation invests in human resources for South Africa's healthcare sector, and awards research and training grants to SA's most talented future healthcare leaders and experts, on an ongoing basis. The Discovery Foundation, an independent trust established in 2006, has invested R24.5 million in the training of and research led by public sector doctors for 2020. The foundation has also, since 2006, invested a staggering R261 million to support 473 medical specialists and institutions across South Africa. The aim is to invest over R300 million towards specialised healthcare services over 20 years. This investment is all to support and strengthen South Africa's public healthcare system and to bring medical expertise to as many people as possible especially in under-resourced areas.

"The Discovery Foundation believes that our country's doctors are in a position to solve most of our perplexing health and clinical challenges. By giving our healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn and grow, we can facilitate a home-grown response to some of the world's most challenging health problems," says Dr Vincent Maphai, Discovery Foundation chair.

  • Several South African public sector doctors at the COVID-19 frontline are recipients of grants from the Discovery Foundation. In this podcast, recorded in late 2020, Azania Mosaka talks to Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Prof Salome Maswime and to Nuclear Medicine Physician Dr Dineo Mpanya to hear all about how Discovery Foundation's support has influenced their work. Azania also chats to Dr Vincent Maphai, to explore the Foundation's inner workings in detail.
- Want to be inspired? Read all our Discovery Foundation content today and explore the stories of incredible, passionate public sector doctors who are giving back in the most extraordinary way!

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