WHO Launches Initiative To Combat Loneliness, Co-Led By Black Women

The initiative is prioritizing loneliness as a growing health threat.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working to combat loneliness as the holiday season is fully underway. In a new commission co-led by Black women, their mission is to remedy social isolation for all age groups.

According to WHO, a quarter of older adults are suffering from loneliness and lack of communal engagement, which is a concern given the increased risk of chronic illness. As a response, the launch of the Commission on Social Connection seeks to study how loneliness affects all facets of one’s health, from the physical to psychological, as shared in their press release.

“High rates of social isolation and loneliness worldwide have serious consequences for health and well-being. People without enough strong social connections are at higher risk of stroke, anxiety, dementia, depression, suicide and more,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This WHO Commission will help establish social connection as a global health priority and share the most promising interventions.”

By designating loneliness as a “pressing health threat,” this prioritization of solutions globally will potentially help lessen its severe health risks. The commission is co-chaired by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy and African Union Youth Envoy, Chido Mpemba. Mpemba’s involvement is ensuring that the efforts are maintained across the generations.

“Young people are not immune to loneliness. Social isolation can affect anyone, of any age, anywhere,” said the global leader. “Across Africa and beyond, we must redefine the narrative around loneliness. Investments in social connection are critical to creating productive, resilient and stable economies that promote the well-being of current and future generations.”

Another commissioner, Haben Girma, shared the “tremendous honor” of being part of this mission.

“We know constraints become catalysts for innovation,” shared the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School. “Understanding how people with different bodies/minds resist isolation is critical. To increase social connection, listen to disabled people.”

The WHO commission is set to have its first meeting on Dec. 6, with a flagship report to be released in the middle of its initial three-year establishment.