World Heart Day 2020: History, significance and theme
World Heart Day is annually observed on September 29 around the globe in an effort to raise public awareness about cardiovascular diseases, their prevention and global impact. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) claim the lives of around 17.9 million people each year, as per data collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and it results in 31% of all global deaths. These diseases, which manifest primarily as heart attacks and strokes, are triggered by excessive use of tobacco, unhealthy diets, a lack of physical activity and alcohol abuse. All of these unhealthy lifestyle choices result in raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, overweight and obesity, and risks detrimental to good heart health.
In May 2012, world leaders committed to raising awareness and scaling up the prevention of heart attack and strokes in an attempt to reduce global mortality from non communicable diseases by at least 25% by 2025. According to the World Heart Federation, “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is accountable for nearly half of all NCD deaths making it the world’s number one killer.” Even though cardiovascular diseases are often considered as afflictions that mostly affect people living in developed countries, where this type of sedentary lifestyle is common, more than 80% of these deaths occur in low and middle income, developing countries.
World Health Day was first founded in 1999 with the World Heart Federation (WHF) collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The idea of an annual event was conceived by Antoni Bayés de Luna, the president of WHF from 1997-2011. Originally, World Heart Day was observed on the last Sunday of September, with the first celebration taking place on September 24, 2000.
World Heart Federation is a non-governmental organisation and has, since its inception, sponsored various events around the world, assembling and distributing information and even declaring themes for the celebration of this day. In 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Heart Federation urges people around the world to ‘Use Heart to Beat CVD’, saying that, “In the time of Covid-19, taking care of your heart is more important than ever before.”