By Dr Bilal Shirazi | 31 Mar 2021

World Health Day 2021

April 7th marks the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Day, which in 2021 focuses on building a fairer, healthier world.


World Health Day is one of the world’s oldest health awareness days. Taking place annually on April 7th, the first World Health Day took place in 1950, with the specific date chosen to mark the World Health Organization's (WHO) establishment on April 7th, 1948.

What is the purpose of World Health Day?

While the WHO is involved with organising and promoting several condition-specific health awareness events, it uses World Health Day to draw global attention to broader issues. The themes chosen by the WHO for World Health Day aren't always directly related to health conditions and healthcare issues. For example, 2004's World Health Day aimed to promote road safety, while in 2010, the event aimed to raise awareness of the impact of global urbanisation on general health.

Global governments, non-governmental organisations, and non-profits like the Global Health Council widely participate in World Health Day in addition to engaging with each year’s theme and associated awareness events.

What is the theme of World Health Day 2021?

For World Health Day 2021, the WHO is promoting a theme of “building a fairer, healthier world.”

The inspiration for this theme, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

On World Health Day 2021, the WHO is aiming to highlight the inequality in global healthcare systems, which it says brings harm to societies and economies on a worldwide scale, rather than solely affecting the places where it is most profound. The COVID-19 has proven instrumental in highlighting inequalities in healthcare, even in higher-income countries where those from more deprived areas have been hardest hit by the virus.

Key to the WHO's message, and this theme, is the belief that such inequality is preventable.

As with each World Health Day event, the WHO is highlighting specific case studies for different locations within its regional websites.

This year’s theme and messaging ties in with the WHO's ongoing campaign for universal healthcare for all citizens. This long-term campaign, which was the focus of World Health Day in both 2018 and 2019, was also highlighted as part of events marking the recent World Tuberculosis Day.

What action is the WHO calling for on World Health Day 2021?

Ahead of World Health Day 2021, the WHO is promoting four critical actions that it wants to see from governments and other groups involved in global health leadership.

Working together

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the difference that collaboration can make as opposed to individuality. With this in mind, the WHO is calling for governments and health leaders to collaborate with communities hardest hit by health inequalities to recognise the problems and implement effective, sustainable, long-term solutions.

Improve data collection, so we understand where to focus

To correctly identify inequality and ensure that the most vulnerable communities are prioritised to receive the necessary support, efficient data collection is essential.

To this end, the WHO is asking leaders to ensure data is collected and aggregated correctly to ensure it is reliable and used promptly to ensure maximum impact in disadvantaged communities.

Identify and tackle the root cause of inequities

This is another message with a strong focus on the WHO’s drive to ensure universal healthcare for all. As part of World Health Day 2021, the WHO is again calling on leaders to identify and tackle the root cause of inequities rather than just throwing money at the visible inequality itself.

Act beyond borders

This call to action relates specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic. It complements the WHO's ongoing demands for higher-income nations to send resources such as testing kits, treatment drugs, and vaccinations to low and middle-income countries.

What additional materials are available for World Health Day 2021?

As part of this year’s World Health Day campaign, the WHO has also provided updates to a range of its resources and factsheets.

These include:

How you can get involved with World Health Day 2021

While World Health Day is marked on April 7th, the event is more the beginning of a months-long campaign to raise awareness of issues surrounding that year's theme rather than a one-day event.

In fact, many events related to this year’s World Health Day have already been taking place throughout March!

The best way to stay up to date with everything associated with World Health Day is to follow the WHO’s social media channels, while also researching what the government and non-governmental organisations are doing around the event where you live.