In 1948, the United Nations founded the World Health Organization.  Since  1950, World Health Day has been celebrated annually on April 7.  This observance is an opportunity to focus on key public health issues throughout the world.  Local, regional and international events are linked to the theme chosen, and these organizations sponsor events all through the year.  This year’s World Health Day is focusing on educating people of all ages to the dangers of antimicrobial resistance in microorganisms and its impact on a global level.  

The first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered by accident by Alexander Fleming, after he noticed the substance repelling bacteria from a laboratory plate.  Before the discovery of antibiotics, persons were easy prey to infections.  By the 1940’s antibiotics had become commonplace.  After more than sixty plus years of antibiotic use, and increases in the use of antimicrobials in humans, animals, and agriculture, many microbes have developed a resistance to these drugs.  Many antibiotics (antimicrobials) now produce only a weakened effect or none at all.  We may be on the brink of a worldwide threat, as it has been discovered that more microorganisms are becoming resistant to these drugs. 

This type of resistance, or drug resistance, happens when virus, fungi, bacteria, or parasite mutate, or change, in such a way the medication that is being used is ineffective.  Some strains of microorganisms succumb to drugs and others survive and become resistant.  The resistance is passed on to their offspring and over generations certain microorganisms become resistant to most antibiotics or antimicrobials and become “super-bugs.”  An example of a “super-bug” is MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or Staph infection – a very difficult infection to treat.  “Super-bug” infection causes  major concerns, as it can spread easily or even be fatal.  Other diseases that have become increasingly hard to control are HIV, TB, influenza and malaria. 

The only way man can win this war against microorganisms is through the judicious use of drugs.  The World Health Organization will issue a call for action to halt the spread of this resistance on April 7, 2011.  They will ask everyone in all countries to combat antimicrobial resistance.  They will be asked to think, act, and take responsibility for combating drug resistance. These professionals  include: 

  • Practitioners and prescribers;
  • The public and patients;
  • Pharmacists, and dispensers;
  • The pharmaceutical industry;
  • Policy-makers and planners. 

Over the past ten years, here are other key themes issued by the World Health Organization:

  • 2001 – Mental Health: Stop Exclusion, Dare to Care;
  • 2002 – Move for Health;
  • 2003 – Shape the Future of Life;
  • 2004 – Road Safety;
  • 2005 – Make Every Mother and Child Count;
  • 2006 – Working  Together for Health;
  • 2007 – International Health Security;
  • 2008 – Protecting Health from Climate Change;
  • 2009 – Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies;
  • 2010 – Urbanization and Health – 1000 Cities, 1000 Lives.

As you can see, every theme has important implications for the lives of humans all over the world.  We, as individuals, must be cautious about the over-use of antibiotics.   (Please note that the public and patients are on the above list.)  It is very important that the world pay attention to this year’s theme from the World Health Organization. 

W.H.O., U.S. Global Health Initiative