World Health Organization

a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organization, was an agency of the League of Nations.

The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by 61 countries on 7 April 1948, with the first meeting of the World Health Assembly finishing on 24 July 1948. It incorporated the Office International d’Hygiène Publique and the League of Nations Health Organization. Since its creation, it has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases such as sexual and reproductive health, development, and aging; nutrition, food security and healthy eating; occupational health; substance abuse; and driving the development of reporting, publications, and networking.

The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, the worldwide World Health Survey, and World Health Day.

Ethical principles

As a specialized agency of the UN system, WHO is firmly committed to the following ethical principles:

  • Integrity: To behave in accordance with ethical principles, and act in good faith, intellectual honesty and fairness.
  • Accountability: To take responsibility for one’s actions, decisions and their consequences.
  • Independence and impartiality: To conduct oneself with the interests of WHO only in view and under the sole authority of the Director-General, and to ensure that personal views and convictions do not compromise ethical principles, official duties or the interests of WHO.
  • Respect: To respect the dignity, worth, equality, diversity and privacy of all persons.
  • Professional Commitment: To demonstrate a high level of professionalism and loyalty to the Organization, its mandate and objectives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) – Purposes

WHO’s main functions can be summed up as follows: to act as a directing and coordinating authority on international health work, to ensure valid and productive technical cooperation, and to promote research.

The objective of WHO is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health, as defined in the WHO Constitution, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In support of its main objective, the organization has a wide range of functions, including the following:

  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work;
  • To promote technical cooperation;
  • To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services;
  • To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid, upon the request or acceptance of Governments;
  • To stimulate and advance work on the prevention and control of epidemic, endemic, and other diseases;
  • To promote, in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions, and other aspects of environmental hygiene;
  • To promote and coordinate biomedical and health services research;
  • To promote improved standards of teaching and training in the health, medical and related professions;
  • To establish and stimulate the establishment of international standards for biological, pharmaceutical, and similar products, and to standardize diagnostic procedures;
  • To foster activities in the field of mental health, especially those activities affecting the harmony of human relations.

WHO also proposes conventions, agreements, and regulations and makes recommendations about international nomenclature of diseases, causes of death, and public health practices. It develops, establishes, and promotes international standards concerning foods and biological, pharmaceutical, and similar substances.