The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on April 7, 1948, with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health Organization, which was an agency of the League of Nations.
Constitution and history
The WHO's constitution states that its objective "is the attainment by all people 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 people of the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the original agencies of the United Nations, its constitution formally coming into force on the first World Health Day, (April 7, 1948), when it was ratified by the 26th member state. Jawarharlal Nehru, a major freedom fighter of India had given an opinion to start WHO. Prior to this its operations, as well as the remaining activities of the League of Nations Health Organization, were under the control of an Interim Commission following an International Health Conference in the summer of 1946. The transfer was authorized by a Resolution of the General Assembly. The epidemiological service of the French Office International d'Hygiène Publique was incorporated into the Interim Commission of the World Health Organization on January 1, 1947.
Apart from coordinating international efforts to control outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as SARS, malaria, Tuberculosis, swine flu, and AIDS the WHO also sponsors programmes to prevent and treat such diseases. The WHO supports the development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, pharmaceutical diagnostics, and drugs. After over two decades of fighting smallpox, the WHO declared in 1980 that the disease had been eradicated – the first disease in history to be eliminated by human effort.
The WHO aims to eradicate polio within the next few years. The organization has already endorsed the world's first official HIV/AIDS Toolkit for Zimbabwe (from 3 October 2006), making it an international standard.
In addition to its work in eradicating disease, the WHO also carries out various health-related campaigns — for example, to boost the consumption of fruits and vegetables worldwide and to discourage tobacco use. Experts met at the WHO headquarters in Geneva in February, 2007, and reported that their work on pandemic influenza vaccine development had achieved encouraging progress. More than 40 clinical trials have been completed or are ongoing. Most have focused on healthy adults. Some companies, after completing safety analysis in adults, have initiated clinical trials in the elderly and in children. All vaccines so far appear to be safe and well-tolerated in all age groups tested.
The WHO also promotes the development of capacities in Member States to use and produce research that addresses national needs, by bolstering national health research systems and promoting knowledge translation platforms such as the Evidence Informed Policy Network -EVIPNet. WHO and its regional offices are working to develop regional policies on research for health -the first one being the Regional Office for the Americas PAHO/AMRO that had its Policy on Research for Health approved in September 2009 by its 49th Directing Council Document CD 49.10.
WHO also conducts health research in communicable diseases, non-communicable conditions and injuries; for example, longitudinal studies on ageing to determine if the additional years we live are in good or poor health, and, whether the electromagnetic field surrounding cell phones has an impact on health. Some of this work can be controversial, as illustrated by the April, 2003, joint WHO/FAO report, which recommended that sugar should form no more than 10% of a healthy diet. This report led to lobbying by the sugar industry against the recommendation, to which the WHO/FAO responded by including in the report the statement "The Consultation recognized that a population goal for free sugars of less than 10% of total energy is controversial", but also stood by its recommendation based upon its own analysis of scientific studies.
The World Health Organization's suite of health studies is working to provide the needed health and well-being evidence through a variety of data collection platforms, including the World Health Survey covering 308,000 respondents aged 18+ years and 81,000 aged 50+ years from 70 countries and the Study on Global Aging and Adult Health (SAGE) covering over 50,000 persons aged 50+ across almost 23 countries. The World Mental Health Surveys, WHO Quality of Life Instrument, WHO Disability Assessment Scales provide guidance for data collection in other health and health-related areas. Collaborative efforts between WHO and other agencies, such as the Health Metrics Network and the International Household Surveys Network, serve the normative functions of setting high research standards.
Non-state territories of UN Member States may join as Associate Members (with full information but limited participation and voting rights) if approved by an Assembly vote: Puerto Rico and Tokelau are Associate Members.
WHO Member States appoint delegations to the World Health Assembly, WHO's supreme decision-making body. All UN member states are eligible for WHO membership, and, according to the WHO web site, “Other countries may be admitted as members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the World Health Assembly.”
The WHO Assembly generally meets in May each year. In addition to appointing the Director-General every five years, the Assembly considers the financial policies of the Organization and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget. The Assembly elects 34 members, technically qualified in the field of health, to the Executive Board for three-year terms. The main functions of the Board are to carry out the decisions and policies of the Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work in general.
The WHO is financed by contributions from member states and from donors. In recent years, the WHO's work has involved increasing collaboration with external bodies; there are currently around 80 partnerships with NGOs and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as with foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Voluntary contributions to the WHO from national and local governments, foundations and NGOs, other UN organizations, and the private sector, now exceed that of assessed contributions (dues) from the 193 member nations.Template:PDFlink
Uncharacteristically for a UN Agency, the six Regional Offices of the WHO enjoy remarkable autonomy. Each Regional Office is headed by a Regional Director (RD), who is elected by the Regional Committee for a once-renewable five-year term. The name of the RD-elect is transmitted to the WHO Executive Board in Geneva, which proceeds to confirm the appointment. It is rare that an elected Regional Director is not confirmed.
Each Regional Committee of the WHO consists of all the Health Department heads, in all the governments of the countries that constitute the Region. Aside from electing the Regional Director, the Regional Committee is also in charge of setting the guidelines for the implementation, within the region, of the Health and other policies adopted by the World Health Assembly. The Regional Committee also serves as a progress review board for the actions of the WHO within the Region.
The Regional Director is effectively the head of the WHO for his or her Region. The RD manages and/or supervises a staff of health and other experts at the regional headquarters and in specialized centres. The RD is also the direct supervising authority—concomitantly with the WHO Director General—of all the heads of WHO country offices, known as WHO Representatives, within the Region.
The Regional Offices are:
- Regional Office for Africa (AFRO)I, with headquarters in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. AFRO includes most of Africa, with the exception of Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and Morocco which belong to EMRO. Somalia is also not counted as it does not have an official government, though it is in the process of getting one.
- Regional Office for Europe (EURO), with headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Regional Office for South East Asia (SEARO), with headquarters in New Delhi, India. North Korea is served by SEARO.
- Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), with headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. EMRO includes the countries of Africa, and particularly in the Maghreb, that are not included in AFRO, as well as the countries of the Middle East, except for Israel. Pakistan is served by EMRO.
- Regional Office for Western Pacific (WPRO), with headquarters in Manila, Philippines. WPRO covers all the Asian countries not served by SEARO and EMRO, and all the countries in Oceania. South Korea is served by WPRO.
- Regional Office for the Americas (AMRO), with headquarters in Washington, D.C., USA. It is better known as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Since it predates the establishment of WHO, PAHO is by far the most autonomous of the 6 regional offices.
WHO liaison and other offices
WHO has a number of specialist offices/agencies, as well as liaison offices at the most important international institutions.
- IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer (Lyon, France)
- WHO Centre for Health Development – WHO Kobe Center (Kobe, Japan)
- WHO Lyon Office for National Epidemic Preparedness and Response (LYO) (Lyon, France)
- WHO Mediterranean Centre for Vulnerability Reduction (Tunisia)
- WHO Office at the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
- WHO Liaison Office in Washington (USA)
- WHO Office at the European Union (Brussels, Belgium)
- WHO Office at the United Nations (New York, USA)
- WHO Office at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (Washington, USA)
The World Health Organization operates 147 country and liaison offices in all its regions. The presence of a country office is generally motivated by a need, stated by the member country. There will generally be one WHO country office in the capital, occasionally accompanied by satellite-offices in the provinces or sub-regions of the country in question.
The country office is headed by a WHO Representative (WR), who is a trained physician, not a national of that country, who holds diplomatic rank and is due privileges and immunities similar to those of an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. In most countries, the WR (like Representatives of other UN agencies) is de facto and/or de jure treated like an Ambassador – the distinction here being that instead of being an Ambassador of one sovereign country to another, the WR is a senior UN civil servant, who serves as the "Ambassador" of the WHO to the country to which he or she is accredited. Hence, the title of Resident Represaentative, or simply Representative. The WR is member of the UN system country Team which is coordinated by the UN system resident Coordinator.
The country office consists of the WR, and several health and other experts, both foreign and local, as well as the necessary support staff. The main functions of WHO country offices include being the primary adviser of that country's government in matters of health and pharmaceutical policies.
International liaison offices serve largely the same purpose as country offices, but generally on a smaller scale. These are often found in countries that want WHO presence and cooperation, but do not have the major health system flaws that require the presence of a full-blown country office. Liaison offices are headed by a liaison officer, who is a national from that particular country, without diplomatic immunity.
The World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations and as such shares a core of common personnel policy with other agencies.
The World Health Organization has recently banned the recruitment of cigarette smokers, to promote the principle of a tobacco-free work environment.The World Health Organization(WHO) successfully rallied 168 countries to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003. The Convention is designed to push for effective legislation and its enforcement in all countries to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco. On August 28, 2005, the National People’s Congress of China signed the Convention.
Condoms and the Roman Catholic Church
In 2003, the WHO denounced the Roman Curia's health department, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million." 
Intermittent Preventive Therapy
The aggressive support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for intermittent preventive therapy which included the commissioning a report from the Institute of Medicine triggered a memo from the former WHO malaria chief Dr. Akira Kochi. Dr. Kochi wrote, “although it was less and less straightforward that the health agency should recommend IPTi, the agency’s objections were met with intense and aggressive opposition from Gates-backed scientists and the foundation”.
- World Health Day
- International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France
- WHO Centre for Health Development in Kobe, Japan
- Open Learning for Development
- Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize
- Health Sciences Online – a virtual learning resources center from the WHO
- Alliance for Healthy Cities
- "Constitution of the World Health Organization" (PDF). World Health Organization. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hist/official_records/constitution.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-18. – For an easier to read version see "Constitution of the World Health Organization (English only version)" (PDF). World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/entity/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- "Chronicle of the World Health Organization, April 1948" (PDF). World Health Organization. pp. 54. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hist/chronicles/chronicle_1948.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- "Chronicle of the World Health Organization, 1947" (PDF). http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hist/chronicles/chronicle_1947.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- Template:UN document
- Iriye, Akira (2002). Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 052023179.
- "Appendix 1, Members of the World Health Organization (at 31 May 2009)". World Health Organization. http://apps.who.int/gb/bd/PDF/bd47/EN/members-en.pdf. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- WHO Palestine status
- WHO liaison and other offices.
- Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids
- New York Times, February 16, 2008 Gates Foundation’s Influence Criticized By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
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- World Health Organization
- Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER)
- Multi-country Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE)
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