The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) performing authority functions regarding international public health. WHO also has a leading role in international healthcare by setting international health requirements and professional standards, besides controlling and monitoring international health trends and global health issues.
WHO was established on 7 April 1948, its headquarter is located in Geneva. The organization is subsidized by member country contributions and private donations. It has six regional centers which are situated in Africa, America, in the Eastern-Mediterranean region, in the European-region, in the South-Eastern-Asian region and in the West-Pacific region.
WHO played a leading role in the elimination of smallpox and the near-eradication of polyo, and still plays an important role in ebola and malaria vaccine development, it fights internationally against HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and tuberculosis. WHO proposed to confine lifestyle factors such as smoking and drug consumption, and emphasizes the importance of prevention and fight against non-contagious, chronic diseases and promotes mental health, too.
Furthermore, WHO is concerned with issues related to migration and the fight against climate change and addresses certain economic problems as they may have an impact on international public health and may influence the health of citizens.
WHO’s purpose and scope of activities
WHO’s mandate seeks to provide the best possible health to everyone and defines health as state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Its responsibility extends to certain health safety issues, such as food safety, food poisoning, pandemics, public health issues, environment-related factors and zoonoses.
WHO’s responsibilities include:
- developing health and safety, fighting against healthcare dangers (e.g. environmental pollution and antibiotic misuse);
- health promotion and development, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases (e.g. malignant and mental diseases) and confining lifestyle risk factors;
- fight against contagious diseases (e.g. HIV/ADIS, tbc, hepatitis);
- strengthening healthcare systems and promoting equal access to healthcare, medications and vaccines;
- supporting research, evidence-based medicine and credible information provision;
- credible healthcare information and data in order to set professional regulations and standards and monitor health trends and global health issues;
- cooperation with other international organizations, the civil society, founders, and the private sector;
- developing effectivity, performance, and efficiency internationally;
- solving international issues of healthcare financing, and healthcare employees;
- health-related issues of families, women, and children, including vaccination, mother, infant, and child protection and healthcare and issues related to reproduction and aging.
Furthermore, WHO as an international authority, can decree a healthcare emergency, which have been ordered six times so far: during the swine flu pandemic in 2009, the polyo pandemic in 2014, the ebola pandemic in 2014, the Zika-virus pandemic in 2016, the ebola pandemic in 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.