World Health Day

07 Apr 2002

"Move for Health", the theme of this year's World Health Day, should encourage all of us to increase our physical activity. This is important for young people to stay healthy through old age, and for older people to remain healthy and productive.

Better health care, including reproductive health services, throughout the life cycle is critical. Although women live longer than men, they experience more years of ill-health late in life due to poverty and lack of adequate health and family planning services. Births that came too early or were too closely spaced, and poor nutrition and anaemia during the childbearing years increase suffering, disease and hardship in old age.

Around the world, unhealthy lifestyles and poor diets are increasing the incidence of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, which are taking a rising toll in rich and poor countries alike. At the same time, life expectancy is increasing and so is the number of older persons. In the next 50 years, the number of people age 60 years and older is projected to grow from about 600 million to almost 2 billion people.

Individuals must invest in their own health through healthy living. Increased physical activity has been shown to improve physical and mental health, reduce stress and disease, and actually lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Also, governments must increase their investments for health.

Longer lives will only be healthy and productive if there is cleaner water, better sanitation, adequate nutrition, wider access to education and health services, including reproductive healthcare, and better medical services and drugs. This is a far bigger challenge for poor countries than for rich ones and requires far greater investments in international development.

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