World Health Day – April 7, 2016
I am delighted to mark World Health Day today. This day celebrates the birth of the World Health Organization (WHO) on April 7, 1948.
The WHO is a special agency of the United Nations. As a physician who has worked in Africa, I have seen what the WHO does to save lives and relieve suffering. It plays a hugely important role in our world, directing international health efforts in response to disease outbreaks and other health related emergencies and coordinating the delivery of medical services and supplies to countries in need.
But that’s only part of what the WHO does. It also leads global efforts to prevent and control non-communicable diseases. Non-communicable, or chronic, diseases — such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, along with violence and injuries — are responsible for more than 70% of all deaths worldwide.
Every year, the World Health Organization selects a health priority area as the theme for World Health Day. This year, the WHO is focusing on diabetes because this chronic disease is on the rise in Canada and around the globe.
The WHO estimates that 422 million people in the world have diabetes. This includes an estimated 2.4 million Canadians. That’s a lot of people.
Canada has made major contributions to the understanding and treatment of this chronic disease, starting with the discovery of insulin by Frederick Banting and Charles Best in 1921 at the University of Toronto. Insulin therapy has saved the lives of countless people with Type 1 diabetes.
The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is preventable. The Government of Canada is helping understand and address the challenge of diabetes through surveillance activities, diabetes awareness and health promotion programs. For example, today I announced funding to support the expansion of the APPLE Schools project in rural and remote communities in Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. This project focuses on improving physical activity, mental well-being and healthy eating among school children with the goal of reducing the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The Government of Canada supports leading edge research on diabetes. I recently announced funding for a new cross-Canada research network focused on improving the care of Canadians with diabetes and related complications. Through the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases, we are supporting the work of Canadian researchers who are working to improve the prevention and treatment of Type 2 diabetes in low- and middle-income countries.
On this World Health Day, the WHO will also launch the first WHO global report on diabetes, which explains the rising epidemic, its burden, and actions to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease. I encourage all Canadians to learn more about diabetes, and the steps they can take to help prevent this serious disease. Together, we can beat diabetes!
The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.