Interestingly, achieving the creation of such an organization wasn’t an easy task. The 1945 UN conference found itself in conflict when delegates from China, Norway, and Brazil worked to pass a resolution that would form a branch of the UN that was dedicated to international health. At the advice of the Secretary General of the 1945 conference, the triad of delegates decided to take another route and declare that a conference be had with the sole purpose of forming an international health organization.
It was at this conference that the respected delegates around the table decided to nix the word “international” in favor of “world”. They decided that if they were going to have an organization tasked with something as vital and delicate as human health, it needed to be emphasized that it was an organization focused on the global nature of the problems at hand. In agreement, all current UN members (which encompassed 51 countries) signed the constitution of such an organization, as well as 10 other non-member countries who wanted to take part. Their constitution stated their objective as being “the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health.”
By 1948, the WHO would have its first assembly. The assembly brought forth a budget, a governing body, and its very first objectives. Their tasks set before them were the controlling of the ever-spreading malaria, tuberculosis, and getting sexually transmitted infections under control. They also were focused on reproductive health and reducing infant mortality rates and helping to make general improvements to the world’s nutrition and hygiene issues.
Currently there are over 7000 people employed in the service of the World Health Organization. These people originate from over 150 different countries, territories, and areas and work in any number of service centers throughout the world. It’s staffed by scientists, epidemiologists, specialists in public health, medical doctors, health statisticians, economists, emergency relief experts, and numerous administrative and managerial staff. The WHO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and headed by Director-General Tedros Adhanom.
What is the WHO’s role in the world?
The WHO’s constitution defines its objectives and functions as:
(a) to act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work (b) to establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate (c) to assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services (d) to furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments (e) to provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the United Nations, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the peoples of trust territories (f) to establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required, including epidemiological and statistical services (g) to stimulate and advance work to eradicate epidemic, endemic and other diseases (h) to promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the prevention of accidental injuries (i) to promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene (j) to promote co-operation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health (k) to propose conventions, agreements and regulations, and make recommendations with respect to international health matters and to perform.