Universal Health Day was observed throughout Azad Jammu Kashmir on Monday with renewal of pledge to work hard for materialising the dream of a healthy nation and serve the ailing humanity to make them useful and healthy members of society.

The topic for Universal Health Day 2014 is vector-borne diseases.

The day is celebrated on April 7, every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The day provides an opportunity for individuals in every community to get involved in activities that can lead to better health.

What are vectors and vector-borne diseases?

Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites in human populations. They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic.

The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660,000 deaths in 2010. Most of these were African children. However, the world's fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years. Globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown.

In recent years, renewed commitments from ministries of health, regional and global health initiatives - with the support of foundations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and the scientific community - have helped to lower the incidence and death rates from some vector-borne diseases.

World Health Day 2014 will spotlight some of the most commonly known vectors - such as mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails - responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack humans or animals. Mosquitoes, for example, not only transmit malaria and dengue, but also lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

The AJK Health Department as well as Pakistan Medical Association held various special meetings, seminars and symposiums and walks at different places to highlight the significance of the health day by following the federal government Health Ministry's special emphasis on health including family planning, primary health care - since the health ministry of AJK is giving great importance to the health sector in the AJK.

Addressing a seminar here Monday, speakers including Dr Khalid Yousaf, Medical Expert of Family Medicines, Surgeon Dr Muhammad Ayub Qureshi and others highlighted the importance of the day besides elaborating the role of the medical fraternity.