World Health Organisation (WHO): Purpose and Achievements

UN Economic and Social Council organised an international conference to counter formation of a single health institution which finally adopted the Constitution of World Health Organisation (WHO) on 22 July, 1946. The WHO came into existence on 7th April, 1948.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, 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.


UN Economic and Social Council organised an international conference to counter formation of a single health institution which finally adopted the Constitution of WHO on 22 July, 1946. The WHO came into existence on 7th April, 1948.

Functions of World Health Organisation (WHO)

• The objective is the attainment of the highest possible level of health for all the people.

• It establishes and maintains collaboration with the UN specialised agencies, governmental health administration, professional and other groups related with the health.

• Assist governments to strengthen their public health services.

• To stimulate and advance work to eradicate diseases.

• To promote maternal and child health.

• To ensure mental health, medical research and prevention of accidents.

• To improve standards of training and teaching for study in the member health professions.

• To improve nutrition, sanitation, working conditions and other aspects of environmental health.

• Empowered to propose conventions, agreements and regulations and make  recommendations about international health matters.

• Empowered to revise the international nomenclature of diseases, cause of death and public health services.

• WHO can also develop, establish and promote inter- national standards relating food, biological, pharmaceutical and similar substances.

Working Methodology of World Health Organisation (WHO)

• Co-operation is extended to country projects only on the request of the government concerned through the six regional offices.

• WHO makes available worldwide technical services.

• Expert committees, drawn from 55 advisory panels of experts, advise the Director- General on a given subject.

• Scientific groups and consultative meetings are also convened for similar purposes.

• Seminars, technical conferences and training courses are conducted to keep the health personnel fully abreast.

• Advisors, consultants and lecturers are arranged for upgrading skills of health personnel.

• WHO awards fellowships for the study to the member countries.

Pattern of activities of World Health Organisation (WHO)

(a) The main emphasis has been to promote national, regional and global strategies for attaining the main social goal of the member countries.

(b) The motto Health for all in the 21st Century shall enable the citizens of the world to lead a socially and economically productive life.

(c) The 50th World Health Assembly held its session in 1997 and adopted a number of resolutions on public health.

(d) The World Health Report, 1997, conquering suffering, enriching humanity, dwelt on non-communicable diseases. It warned of huge  human and social costs of  diseases like cancer, heart  diseases and other chronic  diseases.

(e) The projected increase in diseases is as a result of combination of factors, and not because of populating ageing and the rising prevalence of unhealthy life styles.

(f) Average life expectancy of birth globally reached 65 years in 1996 and in many countries exceeds 80 years.

(g) The leading bitter disease is coronary heart diseases.

(h) WHO has called for an intensified and sustained global campaign to encourage healthy life styles. Main risk factors should be attached to combat incidence of these fatal diseases.

World Health Organisation (WHO) and initiatives to control AIDS

The Assembly  reviewed the impact of implementation of world-wide strategy in  order to prevent and control AIDS  during its session in 1996 progress  of Joint UN Programme on  HIV/AIDS was also assessed. The following factors were noted by the Assembly:

• Impact of HIV/AIDS was found to be expanding and intensifying in developing countries.

• New resources for mobilisation were contemplated in order to combat HIV/AIDS.

• The Assembly requested WHO to incorporate UN-AIDS-specific policies, norms and strategies in their activities and also to collaborate on all aspects of resource mobilisation for effective controlling of HIV/AIDS.

World Health Organisation (WHO) and Polio Eradication

Polio is an acute viral disease marked by inflammation of nerve cells of the brain stem and spinal cord which became feared worldwide because it striking suddenly and paralysing mainly children for life. Then WHO came forward to eradicate this global disease with larger private-public partnership for health and as a result polio is reduced by 99% but unfortunately this disease survives only in vulnerable section of the society i.e. world’s poorest and most marginalized communities.

Governing Bodies of World Health Organisation (WHO)

The Executive Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health. Members are elected for three-year terms. The main Board meeting, at which the agenda for the forthcoming Health Assembly is agreed upon and resolutions for forwarding to the Health Assembly are adopted, is held in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly, for more administrative matters. The main functions of the Board are to give effective decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.

World Health Assembly: The apex decision-making body for WHO is the World Health Assembly whose main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. It generally meets in Geneva in May each year, and is attended by delegations from all 194 Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization.

The Health Assembly appoints the Director-General, supervises the financial policies of the Organization, and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget. It similarly considers reports of the Executive Board, which it instructs in regard to matters upon which further action, study, investigation or report may be required.

Secretariat: The Secretariat of WHO is staffed by some 7000 health and other experts and support staff on fixed-term appointments, working at headquarters, in the six regional offices, and in countries. The Organization is headed by the Director-General, who is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Executive Board.

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