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From the Field Global

World Health Day: Health For All

From the Field Global

World Health Day: Health For All

Volunteer nurses Lora Edwards of the UK, left, Karen Allen of Australia 10-month-old Ezhan during Operation Smile India's February 2020 surgical program in Durgapur. Photo: Rohanna Mertens.

Celebrated every year on April 7, World Health Day creates awareness of a specific global health topic every year.

To draw attention to a concern affecting people all around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed 2023’s theme as “Health For All.”

Yet, the world we live in is an unequal one. 

While we’ve known this to be true, health care inequities were further exposed by the pandemic, political unrest and economic chaos, especially in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Many families continue to struggle to access basic health care. All around the world, many people have little or no access to safe medical care, which leads to unnecessary suffering. 

The accessibly of resources that enable some people to live healthier lives is often entirely based on the developmental conditions of the countries where they are born, grow, live and work. Mothers and fathers should never encounter a moment where they’ll need to choose between feeding their family or using their weekly income to afford much-needed medicine for one of their children. But for many of the families we serve, this is oftentimes the harsh reality they face. 

This is not only unfair – it is preventable. 

At Operation Smile, we believe that everyone deserves access to safe medical care and that access to safe surgery is not a privilege, but a universal human right. This year’s theme for World Health Day is Health for All, a theme that aims to motivate action to tackle the health challenges of today and tomorrow. Health For All envisions that all people have good health for a fulfilling life in a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

Nine-year-old Aljay and her mother, Anita, during a 2015 Operation Smile surgical program to Cauayan City, Philippines. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

Worldwide, it’s estimated that 143 million more surgeries are needed annually, requiring 2.2 million more surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians.

But for many people living in areas of the world where access to care and resources is limited or local hospitals simply lack the proper infrastructure needed to safely perform cleft surgery, their healthier and brighter futures remain out of reach for months, years or sometimes even an entire lifetime. This inequality leaves patients in the most remote parts of the world unable to receive care for their cleft conditions until much later in life. Operation Smile strongly believes all children deserve access to high-quality health care.

Volunteer plastic surgeon Dr. Mike Earley of Ireland shares a moment with 9-month-old Tatyana during a 2004 surgical program. Photo: Marc Ascher.

We always strive to honor World Health Day as a celebration of health awareness and advocacy. April 7 also marks the anniversary of the founding of the WHO in 1948, with the vision of universal health for all people.

Through its work providing life-changing surgery and related care to underserved communities, Operation Smile is helping to build a fairer, healthier world. We’re committed to providing patients with health that lasts and will continue to advocate for access to quality health services in areas of the world where it is needed most.

“We must collectively work to strengthen surgical systems to be more reliable in order to create a fairer and healthier world,” said Desmond Jumbam, Operation Smile’s director of policy and advocacy. “We must engage with policy and decision makers to ensure that they prioritize health care, including surgical systems, to be able to care for their own people.”

Rwandan surgical residents observe as a volunteer cleft surgeon performs surgery during Operations Smile’s April 2019 surgical training rotation at Rwinkwavu District Hospital in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

There are many families who travel far distances to get to our care. These are the stories that have inspired the creation of our education and training programs in countries like Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Building capacity and strengthening the skills of local health workers enable patients to receive surgery closer to their communities. Lack of financial resources is another barrier to care in many countries. The cost of cleft surgery can be a devastating expense, leading to overwhelming despair and hopelessness. For our patients, the care we provide is free.

But our level of commitment to patients shines brightest in the work we achieve after the surgery is over.

Siham, 16 years old, attends her follow-up dental appointment with volunteer orthodontist Dr. Abderrahmane Harouga at Operation Smile Morocco's Casablanca care center. Photo: Lorenzo Monacelli.

Over the years, we recognized that in order to treat the whole patient, we must go beyond just one surgery. 

Through our approach to increasing accessibly and availability of ongoing services like speech therapy, dentistry, nutrition and more, our community of medical professionals brings comprehensive care to those who need it most.

We don’t think that families should have to sacrifice their livelihoods to pay for the surgery and medical care they need to stay healthy. 

Operation Smile Co-Founders Dr. Bill and Kathy Magee. Photo: Kristy Walker.

Founded in 1982 by Dr. Bill Magee and Kathy Magee, Operation Smile exists so a child or parent doesn’t have to feel alone – bringing families renewed hope through free cleft surgery and related care, at the quality you’d expect for you and your loved ones.

Seeing a family’s relief and hope firsthand after their child receives a long-awaited surgery reinforces why our work must continue.

Join us on World Health Day to celebrate our teams around the world who continue working toward health for all. 

The World Health Organization created a toolkit to support their Health For All Campaign. In this toolkit, you can find more information on the theme, key messages, and imagery to support your social medial efforts. 

Nguyen smiles wide before surgery during a 2015 Operation Smile Vietnam surgical program. Photo: Max-Michel Kolijn.


It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.