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What Does The World Health Organization Do What Does The World Health Organization Do


What Does The World Health Organization Do

Discover what the World Health Organization does and why it is a featured organization in global healthcare. Learn about its impactful initiatives and contributions to public health.


The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is dedicated to promoting global health and ensuring the well-being of people worldwide. Established on April 7, 1948, the WHO performs a critical role in developing policies, providing guidance, and coordinating international efforts to combat diseases, improve healthcare systems, and advance public health initiatives.

With its headquarters located in Geneva, Switzerland, the WHO operates on a global scale, working closely with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other partners to address pressing health issues. The organization’s goal is to achieve the highest possible level of health for all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographical location.

The WHO is guided by the principle that health is a fundamental human right. It recognizes that health is not merely the absence of disease, but rather a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. In pursuit of this vision, the WHO works towards ensuring equitable access to healthcare services, promoting healthy lifestyles, and addressing the social determinants of health.

Throughout its existence, the WHO has played a crucial role in responding to global health emergencies, such as outbreaks of infectious diseases, natural disasters, and other humanitarian crises. The organization also actively participates in research and development efforts, collaborates with member states to strengthen healthcare systems, and advocates for evidence-based policies to improve health outcomes.

This article will explore the history of the World Health Organization, delve into its mandate and role, highlight some of its global health priorities, discuss its achievements, and examine challenges and criticisms the organization has faced. Additionally, we will explore the WHO’s collaborations and partnerships, as well as its funding and governance structure. By shedding light on these aspects, we can gain a deeper understanding of the WHO’s impact and its efforts to promote the health and well-being of people around the globe.


History of the World Health Organization

The establishment of the World Health Organization (WHO) can be traced back to the aftermath of the Second World War, when global leaders recognized the need for a united effort to address international health concerns. The WHO was officially founded on April 7, 1948, with the aim of coordinating global health policies and responses.

Historically, the WHO’s roots can be traced back to the International Sanitary Conferences, which began in the mid-19th century and focused on addressing the spread of epidemics and diseases. In the early 20th century, health issues gained recognition as a global concern, and the League of Nations established the Health Organization in 1920. However, it lacked sufficient resources and political support to effectively tackle global health challenges.

Following World War II, the health landscape had undergone significant changes with the emergence of new diseases, the devastating impact of war on healthcare systems, and the need for international cooperation to rebuild and advance public health. The WHO was created as a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), with an emphasis on global health coordination and collaboration.

Since its inception, the WHO has played a pivotal role in shaping international health policies and strategies. It has actively worked towards eradicating smallpox, a disease that plagued humanity for centuries, and was declared eradicated in 1980. The WHO has also made significant contributions in the areas of immunization, health promotion, and disease prevention.

Over the years, the WHO has adapted to the changing global health landscape and expanded its scope of work. It has been responsive to emerging challenges such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola outbreaks, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The organization leverages its technical expertise and global network to facilitate collaboration, data-sharing, and research efforts.

The history of the WHO is marked by landmark initiatives and campaigns. The Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978 highlighted the importance of primary healthcare as the cornerstone of achieving health for all. The WHO’s efforts in the field of mental health led to the development of the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan in 2013, aiming to improve mental health services worldwide.

Despite facing various challenges and criticisms, the WHO has remained committed to its mission of ensuring the highest possible level of health for all. As we move into an increasingly interconnected and complex world, the WHO’s role in coordinating global health efforts and advocating for equitable access to healthcare remains as vital as ever.


Mandate and Role of the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is guided by a clear mandate and plays a crucial role in promoting global health, shaping health policies, and coordinating international efforts to address health challenges. The organization’s mandate is derived from its constitution, which outlines its core functions and responsibilities.

The primary role of the WHO is to act as the directing and coordinating authority for international health within the United Nations system. It provides leadership in setting health priorities, advocating for evidence-based policies, and mobilizing resources to address global health concerns.

One of the key functions of the WHO is to provide technical support and guidance to its member states. The organization assists countries in strengthening their healthcare systems, conducting research and surveillance, and implementing effective health interventions. Through its extensive network of experts and partnerships, the WHO facilitates knowledge exchange and capacity building.

The WHO also acts as a global health advocate, promoting health as a fundamental right and addressing the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health. The organization works towards achieving universal health coverage, ensuring equitable access to essential healthcare services, and reducing health inequalities within and between countries.

Furthermore, the WHO is responsible for coordinating responses to global health emergencies and outbreaks. The organization deploys rapid response teams, provides technical expertise, and coordinates international aid to mitigate the impact of disease outbreaks and other health emergencies. This includes monitoring, detecting, and responding to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Another critical role of the WHO is its commitment to health research and development. The organization promotes scientific advancements, supports innovation, and fosters collaboration among researchers and institutions worldwide. By fostering research and development, the WHO contributes to the discovery of new treatments, vaccines, and health technologies.

The WHO also plays an essential role in health regulation and standard-setting. It develops and promotes global norms and standards in areas such as pharmaceuticals, vaccines, food safety, and public health emergencies. The organization’s leadership in setting standards ensures that health interventions and products meet the highest quality and safety standards.

Overall, the WHO’s mandate and role revolve around advancing global health, promoting health equity, and working towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals related to health. Its leadership, technical expertise, and collaborative approach make it a vital actor in the global health landscape, shaping policies, and driving actions to improve the health and well-being of people around the world.


Global Health Priorities

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies and addresses several global health priorities to improve the health and well-being of people worldwide. These priorities reflect the most pressing health challenges and guide the organization’s efforts in setting policies, delivering interventions, and mobilizing resources.

1. Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases continue to pose a significant threat to global health. The WHO focuses on preventing, controlling, and eliminating infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases. The organization spearheads campaigns for vaccinations, strengthens disease surveillance, and promotes access to treatment and care.

2. Non-communicable Diseases: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory conditions are on the rise globally. The WHO works towards preventing and managing these diseases by advocating for healthy lifestyles, promoting early detection and treatment, and supporting countries in developing effective strategies.

3. Mental Health: Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, yet it is often neglected. The WHO advocates for the integration of mental health services into healthcare systems, reduces stigma and discrimination, and supports countries in developing mental health policies and programs.

4. Maternal and Child Health: Ensuring the health and well-being of mothers and children is a priority for the WHO. The organization focuses on improving access to quality reproductive healthcare, preventing maternal and child deaths, promoting nutrition, and addressing the social determinants of maternal and child health.

5. Emergency Preparedness and Response: The WHO plays a crucial role in preparing for and responding to health emergencies, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises. The organization coordinates international responses, deploys rapid response teams, and supports countries in strengthening their emergency preparedness and response capacities.

6. Health Systems Strengthening: Strengthening health systems is fundamental to improving overall health outcomes. The WHO supports countries in developing robust and resilient healthcare systems that provide equitable access to quality services. This includes strengthening healthcare workforce, improving infrastructure, and promoting effective health financing mechanisms.

7. Health Equity: The WHO advocates for health equity by addressing the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health. The organization promotes policies that reduce health disparities, increase access to healthcare for vulnerable populations, and work towards achieving universal health coverage.

These global health priorities guide the WHO’s programs and initiatives, framing its efforts to address the most critical health challenges faced by communities worldwide. By focusing on these priorities, the WHO strives to make lasting improvements in global health and contribute to a healthier and more equitable world.


Achievements of the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made significant achievements in its efforts to promote global health, address health challenges, and improve the well-being of people around the world. Here are some key accomplishments of the organization:

1. Eradication of Smallpox: One of the greatest achievements of the WHO is the successful eradication of smallpox, a devastating disease that plagued humanity for centuries. Through an intensive global vaccination campaign, smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1980, making it the first disease to be completely eradicated in human history.

2. Polio Eradication Efforts: The WHO has played a crucial role in the global fight against polio. Through its leadership and partnerships, the organization has contributed to significant progress in reducing polio cases globally. As of 2021, there are only a few remaining countries where polio transmission has not been interrupted.

3. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: The WHO has been instrumental in promoting health education, advocating for healthy lifestyles, and implementing disease prevention strategies. The organization’s campaigns on tobacco control, physical activity, and healthy diets have helped raise awareness and reduce the burden of preventable diseases.

4. Global Immunization Efforts: The WHO spearheads global immunization campaigns, ensuring access to life-saving vaccines for millions of people. Through initiatives like the Expanded Program on Immunization, the organization has contributed to significant reductions in vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, tetanus, and hepatitis B.

5. Response to Global Health Emergencies: The WHO plays a vital role in coordinating responses to global health emergencies, such as disease outbreaks and natural disasters. The organization deploys rapid response teams, provides technical expertise, and coordinates international efforts to control and mitigate the impact of emergencies.

6. Tackling HIV/AIDS: The WHO has been at the forefront of the global response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The organization has supported countries in developing prevention programs, expanding access to treatment and care, and reducing stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.

7. Improving Maternal and Child Health: The WHO’s efforts to improve maternal and child health have resulted in significant progress. The organization has advocated for increased access to reproductive healthcare services, promoted breastfeeding, and supported strategies to reduce maternal and child mortality rates.

8. Health Systems Strengthening: The WHO has played a crucial role in strengthening healthcare systems in countries around the world. The organization supports capacity building, assists in developing healthcare infrastructure, and promotes effective health financing mechanisms to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare.

These achievements highlight the impactful work of the World Health Organization in advancing global health. Through its leadership, technical expertise, and collaborative efforts, the WHO continues to make substantial contributions to the well-being of individuals, communities, and nations worldwide.


Challenges and Criticisms

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has made significant contributions to global health, it has not been immune to challenges and criticisms. These issues have prompted discussions and debates regarding the organization’s effectiveness and its ability to address complex health challenges. Here are some of the key challenges and criticisms faced by the WHO:

1. Funding and Resource Constraints: The WHO heavily relies on voluntary contributions from member states and external donors, which can result in fluctuating funding levels and resource limitations. This can impact the organization’s ability to respond effectively to emergencies and address health priorities comprehensively.

2. Political Interference: The WHO operates in a political landscape where member states may exert influence over the organization’s decisions and actions. This can potentially compromise the objectivity and impartiality of the WHO in addressing global health challenges.

3. Pandemic Preparedness: The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in global pandemic preparedness. Some critics argue that the WHO’s early response and communication about the severity of the virus were insufficient. There have been calls for enhancing the organization’s ability to detect and respond rapidly to emerging threats.

4. Slow Decision-Making Process: The WHO’s decision-making process has been criticized for being slow and bureaucratic. Some stakeholders argue that the organization needs to streamline its processes and improve its ability to make timely decisions during health emergencies.

5. Transparency and Accountability: The WHO has faced scrutiny over issues related to transparency and accountability. Critics have called for greater transparency in decision-making, public health guidelines, and the disclosure of potential conflicts of interest among experts and advisors.

6. Communication Challenges: Effective communication is crucial during health emergencies, yet the WHO has faced criticism for the clarity and consistency of its communications. Clear and timely messaging is essential to ensure that the public and policymakers have accurate information to make informed decisions.

7. Inequities in Global Health: Some critics argue that the WHO needs to do more to address health inequities between and within countries. They emphasize the need for a stronger focus on social determinants of health and ensuring equitable access to healthcare services for all individuals.

8. Coordination and Collaboration: Coordinating with national and international partners can be complex due to differing priorities, policies, and perspectives. The WHO faces the ongoing challenge of fostering effective collaboration and coordination among multiple stakeholders to maximize the impact of its efforts.

Addressing these challenges and criticisms requires ongoing commitment and continuous improvement within the WHO. The organization must adapt to an ever-evolving global health landscape, strive for transparency and accountability, enhance its decision-making processes, and prioritize equitable health outcomes for all.


Collaborations and Partnerships

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of collaborations and partnerships in addressing global health challenges. As a leading global health agency, the WHO actively engages with various stakeholders to leverage expertise, resources, and knowledge. These collaborations and partnerships play a vital role in advancing the organization’s mission of promoting health and well-being worldwide.

1. Member States: Collaboration with member states is at the core of the WHO’s work. The organization works closely with governments to develop and implement health policies, strengthen healthcare systems, and coordinate efforts towards achieving global health goals. Member states provide financial support, technical expertise, and political commitment, enabling the WHO to respond effectively to health challenges.

2. United Nations System: The WHO collaborates closely with other United Nations (UN) agencies, programs, and funds to address interconnected health and development issues. This collaboration ensures alignment with broader UN goals and enables efforts to be more comprehensive and integrated. Partnerships with agencies like UNICEF, UNAIDS, and the World Food Programme help optimize resources and avoid duplication of efforts.

3. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): The WHO collaborates with a wide range of NGOs, including humanitarian organizations, advocacy groups, and grassroots community organizations. These partnerships bring specialized knowledge, on-the-ground expertise, and community engagement, enabling the WHO to better understand the needs and realities of vulnerable populations and implement effective interventions.

4. Academic and Research Institutions: Collaborations with academic and research institutions enhance the scientific basis of the WHO’s work. By partnering with universities, research centers, and think tanks, the WHO gains access to cutting-edge research, technical expertise, and data analysis. This collaboration fuels evidence-based policy development, fosters innovation, and strengthens the organization’s capacity to address complex health challenges.

5. Private Sector: The WHO recognizes the value of engaging with the private sector to leverage resources, technical expertise, and innovative solutions. Partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, technology firms, and philanthropic organizations can contribute to advancing healthcare technologies, accelerating research and development, and improving access to essential medicines and vaccines.

6. Civil Society Organizations: Collaboration with civil society organizations – including patient advocacy groups, professional associations, and community-based organizations – is vital for the WHO’s work. These partnerships facilitate community engagement, advocacy efforts, and the translation of policies into action at the local level. Civil society organizations provide valuable perspectives, ensuring that the WHO’s work is grounded in the needs and voices of those affected by health issues.

7. International Financing Institutions: Partnerships with international financing institutions like the World Bank and regional development banks help mobilize financial resources for health programs and initiatives. These collaborations enable countries to secure funding for strengthening healthcare systems, implementing disease control strategies, and prioritizing health in national development agendas.

The WHO recognizes that collaboration and partnerships are essential in addressing complex global health challenges. By working together with various stakeholders, the organization can harness collective expertise, resources, and strengths to achieve better health outcomes for all.


Funding and Governance of the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) relies on a combination of funding sources and operates under the governance structure of its member states. Adequate funding and effective governance are crucial for the organization to fulfill its mandate and carry out its work effectively.


The funding of the WHO comes from various sources, including assessed contributions from member states and voluntary contributions from other entities. Assessed contributions are the dues paid by member states, which are determined based on their respective gross national income and ability to pay. These assessed contributions form the core funding of the WHO and provide a stable financial base for its operations.

In addition to assessed contributions, voluntary contributions play a significant role in the funding of the WHO. These contributions can come from member states, non-governmental organizations, foundations, and the private sector. Voluntary contributions are earmarked for specific programs, initiatives, or projects, allowing flexibility in addressing emerging health challenges and priorities.

The reliance on voluntary contributions, however, can pose challenges, as it can lead to uneven funding and potential influence from specific donors. The WHO has been working towards increasing the proportion of assessed contributions to ensure greater financial stability and predictability.


The governance of the WHO is structured around the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is the decision-making body of the organization. The WHA is composed of delegations from member states and meets annually to set policies, approve the budget, and shape the overall direction of the WHO’s work.

The Executive Board, consisting of representatives from 34 member states, is responsible for implementing the decisions of the WHA. The Executive Board meets throughout the year to discuss specific health issues, oversee the organization’s operations, and provide guidance to the Director-General.

The Director-General, the chief executive officer of the WHO, is elected by the WHA and serves as the organization’s spokesperson and leader. The Director-General is responsible for providing strategic direction, managing resources, and coordinating the WHO’s work at the global level.

In addition to the governance structure involving member states, the WHO also engages with various stakeholders, including non-state actors, through mechanisms such as public consultations, partnerships, and expert advisory groups. These engagements ensure a broad range of perspectives and expertise in shaping the organization’s policies and actions.

Effective governance is critical to maintaining the integrity, transparency, and accountability of the WHO. The organization continuously works towards enhancing its governance mechanisms, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that decisions are driven by scientific evidence, ethical considerations, and the needs of member states and populations.

By ensuring adequate funding and maintaining effective governance, the WHO can fulfill its role as the leading global health authority and drive efforts towards achieving better health outcomes for all.



The World Health Organization (WHO) has played a crucial role in promoting global health, addressing health challenges, and advancing the well-being of people across the globe. With a mandate rooted in international cooperation and a commitment to health as a fundamental right, the WHO has made significant achievements and faced various challenges and criticisms along the way.

Throughout its history, the WHO has been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate diseases, such as smallpox, and combat the spread of infectious diseases through immunization programs. It has worked to improve maternal and child health, promote mental well-being, and address the social determinants of health. The organization’s commitment to health systems strengthening and emergency preparedness has been instrumental in responding to global health emergencies and ensuring access to quality healthcare services in communities worldwide.

However, the WHO also faces challenges and criticisms, including funding constraints, political influences, and the need to strengthen pandemic preparedness. The organization is continuously striving to improve transparency, accountability, and communication while navigating complex global health dynamics.

Collaborations and partnerships have been integral to the WHO’s efforts, enabling it to harness diverse expertise, leverage resources, and foster meaningful engagement with member states, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. These partnerships are critical in addressing global health challenges and shaping effective policies and interventions.

The funding and governance of the WHO are central to its operations. While the organization relies on a combination of assessed contributions and voluntary funding, efforts are ongoing to increase the proportion of assessed contributions for greater financial stability. The governance structure, with member states at its core, ensures representation and decision-making that aligns with the health priorities and needs of nations.

In conclusion, the World Health Organization plays a pivotal role in advancing global health by coordinating international efforts, providing technical guidance, and advocating for equitable access to healthcare services. Its achievements in disease control, health promotion, emergency response, and health system strengthening are testament to its commitment to improving the health and well-being of people around the world. Through collaboration, funding, and effective governance, the WHO continues to drive progress towards achieving the highest possible level of health for all individuals.