World Health Organization


The World Health Organization (WHO) was established on April 7, 1948 by the United Nations and has headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It was previously called the Health Organization by the United Nations predecessor, the League of Nations. The organization is responsible for authorizing and directing public health within the United Nations system. It not only provides leadership for global health matters, but also sets standards and policies, provides technical support to countries and monitors health trends. In this century and in the coming years, health is becoming more of a shared responsibility between several countries, and the World Health Organization is there to watch over the transition.

According to the World Health Organization website their agenda consists of the six following initiatives:
"1. Promoting development
During the past decade, health has achieved unprecedented prominence as a key driver of socioeconomic progress, and more resources than ever are being invested in health. Yet poverty continues to contribute to poor health, and poor health anchors large populations in poverty. Health development is directed by the ethical principle of equity: Access to life-saving or health-promoting interventions should not be denied for unfair reasons, including those with economic or social roots. Commitment to this principle ensures that WHO activities aimed at health development give priority to health outcomes in poor, disadvantaged or vulnerable groups. Attainment of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, preventing and treating chronic diseases and addressing the neglected tropical diseases are the cornerstones of the health and development agenda.
2. Fostering health security
Shared vulnerability to health security threats demands collective action. One of the greatest threats to international health security arises from outbreaks of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases. Such outbreaks are occurring in increasing numbers, fueled by such factors as rapid urbanization, environmental mismanagement, the way food is produced and traded, and the way antibiotics are used and misused. The world's ability to defend itself collectively against outbreaks has been strengthened since June 2007, when the revised International Health Regulations came into force.
3. Strengthening health systems
For health improvement to operate as a poverty-reduction strategy, health services must reach poor and under served populations. Health systems in many parts of the world are unable to do so, making the strengthening of health systems a high priority for WHO. Areas being addressed include the provision of adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff, sufficient financing, suitable systems for collecting vital statistics, and access to appropriate technology including essential drugs.
4. Harnessing research, information and evidence
Evidence provides the foundation for setting priorities, defining strategies, and measuring results. WHO generates authoritative health information, in consultation with leading experts, to set norms and standards, articulate evidence-based policy options and monitor the evolving global heath situation.
5. Enhancing partnerships
WHO carries out its work with the support and collaboration of many partners, including UN agencies and other international organizations, donors, civil society and the private sector. WHO uses the strategic power of evidence to encourage partners implementing programs within countries to align their activities with best technical guidelines and practices, as well as with the priorities established by countries.
6. Improving performance
WHO participates in ongoing reforms aimed at improving its efficiency and effectiveness, both at the international level and within countries. WHO aims to ensure that its strongest asset - its staff - works in an environment that is motivating and rewarding. WHO plans its budget and activities through results-based management, with clear expected results to measure performance at country, regional and international levels."

All countries that are members of the United Nations are allowed to be assimilated into the world health organization, but they must first agree to accept the WHO constitution to become a member.


The World Health Organization constitution states that its objective "is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health." Its major task is to combat disease, especially key infectious diseases, and to promote the general health of the peoples of the world. Each year, the WHO publishes a world health report, which discusses the current state of public health. On August 23, 2007, this year's world health report was published, titled "The World Health Report 2007 - A safer future: global public health security in the 21st century." The current director-general of the WHO is Margaret Chan from Hong Kong, China who has been in that position since January 4, 2007.

The World Health Organization has a page that links to all of their projects, initiatives and activities that span numerous health topics including breastfeeding, condoms, gender-based violence, medical informatics, poverty, travel, and youth. The list of health topics that they are involved in is massive and can be found at World Health Organization - Health Topics.

Some of their key health publications are The World Health Report, International Travel and Health, International Health Regulations, The International Classification of Diseases, and the International Pharmacopoeia which can be found on WHO - Publications.

The WHO Statistical Information System in the World Health Statistics that is published every March contains the most up to date health information statistics for every member state that is a part of the organization. This WHOSIS contains "over 50 core health indicators" which are split into the six sections of "mortality and burden of disease, health service coverage, risk factors, health system inputs, differentials in health outcome and coverage, as well as basic socio-demographic statistics". These statistics are then stored in an online database that can be queried at Core Health Indicators.

Recently (as of February 8th, 2008) the WHO has released their global plan to fight smoking. This is just one of the very many topics that they are covering in the world in order to bring better health to those who live in it.

Web Resources:

World Health Organization Official Site
WHO Constitution
2007 World Health Report
WHO Unveils Global Plan to fight smoking

Related Terminology:

  • National Alliance for Health Information Technology
  • Health Social Networks
  • American Health Information Community


World Health Organization Official Site


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Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

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