Editor‚Äôs Opinion: Priorities Beyond the Headlines
Usually, the World Health Organization is in the news only when there is an outbreak of a communicable disease, particularly when the disease is spreading rapidly or threatens major metropolitan areas or countries where the disease does not, or rarely, occurs. The 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, ongoing concerns about avian flu, and the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease in several West African countries awaken our realization of and appreciation for the value of WHO surveillance and global alert and response system efforts. If these systems were not in place, how long would it take for the world to find out what was going on and mount a coordinated, effective response? The 2003 SARS outbreak eventually resulted in 8,000 cases and 900 deaths in 30 countries (the people at greatest risk for acquiring SARS were healthcare workers).1 And while communicable diseases remain an important focus of all global health efforts, the burden of noncommunicable disease is higher in both developed and developing countries. This is due, in part, to the fact that for the first time in recorded history, the number of adults >65 years of age is expected to be higher than the number of children <5 years of age.2
Healthcare professionals are often on the front lines of treating disease and increasingly at the heart and center of disease prevention. Lesser-known WHO efforts and reports illustrate the important role of healthcare professionals worldwide. The number one priority of WHO leadership for 2014–2020 is advancing access to healthcare providers through universal health coverage. According to the WHO’s 2013 annual report,2 “Consensus has emerged on the need to foster Universal Health Coverage (UHC) among Member States, WHO and the World Bank. UHC combines these fundamental components: access to the services needed to achieve good health (promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, including those that address health determinants) with the financial protection that prevents ill health leading to poverty.”
Another top WHO leadership priority is increasing access to essential, high-quality, affordable medical products (medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other health technologies, including assistive devices), an effort closely related to the increasing numbers of older adults.2 OWM readers are familiar with health technologies; we use them daily to facilitate independent living, prevent injuries, and/or help wounds heal, especially in the elderly. In this issue of OWM, Polak et al report the results of their controlled clinical study using an ultrasound device to treat pressure ulcers in geriatric patients. Girolami et al present a device to enhance pressure redistribution characteristics of mattresses (used by 100% of patients) and hospital chairs. Halama et al share a technique to facilitate use of a negative pressure wound treatment device in challenging anatomical locations. The potential of a commonly used product such as a mattress to provide comfort and prevent complications or an intriguing way to seal leaky negative pressure dressings may not speak to the imagination as much as a communicable disease outbreak, but these innovations certainly affect a great many more people and underscore the WHO’s vision of ensuring access to the latest technology.
Healthcare professionals in general, and readers of OWM in particular, will continue to remain on the front lines, implementing the evidence-based findings of published research and working diligently to extend not just life expectancy, but also healthy life expectancy (now separated by a 5-year gap). Armed with valuable surveillance data on communicable and noncommunicable disease, knowledge of efficacious prevention and treatment strategies, and a solid understanding of the importance of accessible care, clinicians worldwide can unmask fears born of sensationalistic headlines and proliferate protocols for global health.
This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.