On April 7, 1948, the World Health Organization was founded in Geneva, Switzerland. The agency, part of the United Nations, is concerned with public health, and works to improve access to medical treatment and medical knowledge for people all over the world. That’s why on April 7 of each year, the organizations celebrates the anniversary of its founding with World Health Day, focusing on a different public health concern. Sunday, when the organization turns 65, the topic is high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can affect anyone. Blood pressure fluctuates moment to moment in most people, but if it is chronically elevated it can lead to kidney failure, blindness, stroke, and brain impairment, and causes more than nine million deaths annually. Globally, more than one in three people has chronic high blood pressure, many of them showing no symptoms. The good news is that it the condition can be prevented, and responds well to treatment when it is necessary. In fact, most of the lifestyle changes that can help someone avoid high blood pressure can also lower it if it is elevated: eating a balanced diet low in salt, using alcohol in moderation or not at all, and not smoking. In addition, there are medications to treat chronic hypertension.
The World Health Organization has six primary activities:
- Fostering economic growth by providing people in developing countries with the health resources that can be instrumental in allowing them to get out of poverty.
- Creating health security by responding quickly to contain outbreaks and epidemics.
- Strengthening health systems so that treatments and care can reach the people who need them everywhere in the world.
- Organizing and coordinating medical research, information gathering, and data analysis.
- Working with world governments and non-governmental organizations, along with other world partners, to help improve health outcomes worldwide.
- Improving its own performance to better achieve its aims.
WHO achieves these goals with technical and tactical support, communications, and advocacy within the UN and on the world stage.