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What are the highest 10 public health challenges in 2023?

A recent study published within the journal Public Health Challenges discussed the highest public health challenges in 2023. 



Global public health challenges in 2022 included the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), health financing, human resources for health, mental health, climate change, poverty, reproductive health, infodemic, and humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, global health challenges will proceed to emerge in 2023. Thus, it is important to discover top health priority areas to handle them. 

In the current study, the authors presented ten global public health priorities for 2023. They identified 1) health systems, 2) mental health crises, 3) reproductive and sexual health, 4) malnutrition and food safety, 5) diabetes, 6) cancer, 7) environmental pollution, 8) substance abuse, 9) infectious diseases, and 10) climate change.

Study: Top 10 public health challenges to trace in 2023: Shifting focus beyond a worldwide pandemic. Image Credit: Sepp photography / Shutterstock

Healthcare systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered critical vulnerabilities in health systems across countries, no matter income levels. Inadequate access to health systems is a health threat, with at the least half the worldwide population lacking access to essential healthcare services. Challenges in healthcare systems vary across countries. Strengthening primary healthcare systems is pivotal to effectively and holistically address health issues. 

Mental health and substance abuse

Mental health and related disorders were historically not a worldwide health priority. Nonetheless, mental health concerns have increased resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the next incidence than cancer. As such, the international community should include and fund mental health support programs even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. 

Substance use is estimated to cause over eight million deaths each year. The usage of recreational drugs resulted in a lack of about 42 million years of healthy life in 2017, reflecting 1.3% of the worldwide disease burden. More proactive and modern strategies are required since punishment and criminalization have been ineffective. Educational programs, recovery support, exercise, and nutrition-based interventions ought to be introduced to handle substance abuse. 

Infectious diseases, malnutrition, and food safety

The increasing scope of infectious diseases warrants the development of the standard of services in healthcare delivery. Functional and resilient primary healthcare can boost health services geared toward stopping infectious diseases. Financial assistance to public health infrastructure and efforts for poverty alleviation are critical for effective measures against infectious disease threats. 

Malnutrition affects around 29% of the world’s population and stays a major concern amongst children. Malnutrition has been linked to numerous socioeconomic aspects, including limited access to healthy foods and a general lack of information of healthy diets. Further, healthy diets are increasingly unaffordable, as food prices have sharply spiked prior to now few years resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and climatic disasters. Food safety is one other significant health concern. 

The globalization of food production and provide has increased the extent and speed of transmission of foodborne pathogens. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled the Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-30 in October 2022, emphasizing a One Health approach. This strategy involves communication and collaboration to discover and address safety risks and implement surveillance and risk assessment to detect, prevent, and reply to foodborne diseases. 

Sexual and reproductive health

The numerous challenges in sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHRs) include gender-based violence, inadequate comprehensive sexuality education, early marriage, teenage pregnancy, maternal health, sexually transmitted infections, infertility, unsafe abortion, reproductive cancers, and poor access to SRHR services. Subsequently, achieving universal health coverage through higher access to SRHR is needed for improving demographic outcomes and promoting sustainable development. 

Environmental pollution and climate change

Environmental pollution threatens humans, wildlife, and their habitats. Human activities cause soil, air, and water pollution, especially in developing countries. The opposed health effects of toxic heavy metals in fuel and paint products remain a major threat in countries yet to adopt alternatives. As well as, environmental pollution may trigger security and political threats. Subsequently, immediate measures and sustainable solutions are needed to scale back pollution.

The WHO has recognized climate change as humanity’s most vital health threat within the intermediate term. The worldwide disease profile is evolving with increasing temperatures and climate-related concerns. Various diseases are emerging or resurging in some regions. Climate change incessantly causes environmental disasters. Heat waves have develop into prevalent, related to increased risks of illness and mortality and lower access to food and nutrition. 

Cancer and diabetes

Cancer is globally a number one reason for death. The shortage of timely access to screening, diagnosis, and treatment contributes to the increased cancer-related mortality rate across many countries. Stopping cancer-associated mortality is considered one of the sustainable development goals. Appropriate and timely detection of cancer, followed by effective therapy, can preserve the standard of lifetime of affected individuals. 

Diabetes is a debilitating condition severely affecting people, healthcare systems, and the economy. Despite the long-standing association between diabetes and obesity/obese, the prevalence of diabetes has been increasing in normal-weight individuals, presenting a singular challenge. Higher investments in self-management education and support are integral for stopping and mitigating complications and the impact of the disease. 

Concluding remarks

In sum, identifying the foremost public health challenges is critical for effective and sustainable health delivery. Greater prioritization, funding, collaboration, and cooperation are essential to attain the 2030 universal healthcare targets. Global efforts should initiate before these challenges develop into public health emergencies. 

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