World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO: Global Health Initiative for Healthier World

World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. It coordinates responses to health emergencies, sets global health standards, and provides leadership on issues ranging from disease prevention to health equity, striving for a healthier world for all.



World Health Organization (WHO) stands as a beacon of global health governance, embodying the collective effort of nations to address and combat pressing health challenges worldwide. Established on April 7, 1948, WHO has since played a pivotal role in shaping health policies, coordinating international health responses, and advocating for equitable access to healthcare for all. This article by Academic Block provides a detailed examination of WHO, including its history, organizational structure, functions, achievements, challenges, and future prospects.

Historical Background

The roots of the World Health Organization trace back to the aftermath of World War II when the international community recognized the need for a global health body to address the health crises arising from the war’s devastation. The United Nations Conference on International Organization, held in San Francisco in 1945, laid the groundwork for the establishment of WHO. Subsequently, the WHO Constitution was adopted at the International Health Conference in New York in 1946, and it came into force on April 7, 1948.

Organizational Structure

WHO operates as a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), with its headquarters located in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization’s governance structure consists of several key components:

World Health Assembly (WHA): The World Health Assembly serves as the supreme decision-making body of WHO. Comprising representatives from all member states, the WHA meets annually to set priorities, approve the budget, and formulate policies. Each member state has one vote, and decisions are made by a simple majority.

Executive Board: The Executive Board is composed of 34 members elected by the World Health Assembly. These members are technically qualified individuals in the field of health, nominated by member states and appointed by the Assembly. The Executive Board meets at least twice a year to implement the decisions and policies of the WHA.

Secretariat: The Secretariat, headed by the Director-General, serves as the administrative arm of WHO. It is responsible for implementing the decisions and policies formulated by the WHA and the Executive Board. The Secretariat also coordinates the organization’s activities at the regional and country levels.

Regional Offices: WHO operates six regional offices, each responsible for coordinating health activities within its respective region. These regional offices are located in Africa, the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific.

World Health Organisation


The primary functions of the World Health Organization encompass a wide range of activities aimed at promoting global health and well-being. These functions include:

Health Advocacy and Policy Development: WHO advocates for evidence-based health policies and provides technical support to member states in developing and implementing health strategies. The organization plays a crucial role in setting global health priorities and promoting international cooperation in addressing health challenges.

Disease Surveillance and Response: One of WHO’s core functions is monitoring global health trends and responding to disease outbreaks and emergencies. The organization works closely with national health authorities and other partners to track the spread of infectious diseases, provide timely information and guidance, and coordinate response efforts.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: WHO promotes health education, encourages healthy behaviors, and supports efforts to prevent the spread of diseases through vaccination campaigns, sanitation initiatives, and other public health interventions. The organization also works to address risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

Health Systems Strengthening: WHO assists member states in strengthening their health systems to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare services. This includes efforts to improve infrastructure, train healthcare workers, and enhance health financing mechanisms. WHO also provides technical assistance in health policy development and implementation.

Research and Innovation: WHO supports research and innovation in the field of health, facilitating the generation of new knowledge and the development of effective interventions. The organization collaborates with academic institutions, research agencies, and other partners to advance scientific understanding and promote the translation of research findings into policy and practice.


Since its inception, the World Health Organization has achieved numerous milestones in advancing global health. Some of its notable achievements include:

Eradication of Smallpox: In 1980, WHO declared smallpox, a highly contagious and deadly disease, eradicated through a global vaccination campaign. This historic achievement marked the first and only time a human disease has been eradicated through deliberate efforts.

Control of Polio: WHO has played a leading role in the global effort to eradicate polio, a crippling infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Through vaccination campaigns and surveillance efforts, the organization has made significant progress in reducing polio cases worldwide.

Response to Global Health Emergencies: WHO has responded to numerous global health emergencies, including outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, SARS, and COVID-19. The organization provides technical assistance, coordinates international response efforts, and mobilizes resources to control disease outbreaks and minimize their impact.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: WHO’s health promotion and disease prevention efforts have contributed to significant improvements in global health outcomes. The organization’s initiatives in areas such as vaccination, sanitation, and tobacco control have helped reduce the burden of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases worldwide.


Despite its achievements, the World Health Organization faces several challenges in fulfilling its mandate and addressing global health threats. Some of the key challenges include:

Funding Shortfalls: WHO relies heavily on voluntary contributions from member states and other donors, which can be unpredictable and insufficient to meet the organization’s needs. Funding shortfalls constrain WHO’s ability to implement its programs effectively and respond to emerging health threats.

Political Interference: WHO operates in a complex geopolitical environment, where political considerations can sometimes influence decision-making and impede the organization’s ability to act independently. Political interference can undermine the credibility and effectiveness of WHO’s efforts to address global health challenges.

Emergence of New Health Threats: The emergence of new and re-emerging infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and other health threats poses significant challenges to global health security. WHO must remain vigilant and adaptive in responding to these evolving threats and coordinating international efforts to mitigate their impact.

Health Inequities: Health inequities persist both within and between countries, disproportionately affecting marginalized and vulnerable populations. Addressing health inequities requires a comprehensive approach that addresses social, economic, and environmental determinants of health, which can be challenging to implement at the global level.

Future Prospects

Looking ahead, the World Health Organization faces both opportunities and challenges as it strives to advance global health in the 21st century. Some key considerations for the organization’s future include:

Strengthening Health Systems: WHO must continue to prioritize efforts to strengthen health systems and improve access to quality healthcare services, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This includes investments in infrastructure, workforce development, and health financing mechanisms.

Enhancing Global Health Security: In an increasingly interconnected world, enhancing global health security is paramount to preventing and controlling infectious disease outbreaks and other health emergencies. WHO must work collaboratively with member states and other partners to strengthen surveillance systems, improve pandemic preparedness, and build resilient health systems.

Addressing Health Inequities: Addressing health inequities requires a multisectoral approach that tackles the root causes of disparities in health outcomes. WHO must advocate for policies that promote social justice, address structural barriers to health, and empower marginalized communities to participate in decision-making processes.

Embracing Innovation: Advances in technology and innovation offer new opportunities to improve health outcomes and strengthen health systems. WHO must embrace innovation in areas such as digital health, precision medicine, and vaccine development, while ensuring equitable access to innovative technologies for all.

Final Words

In conclusion, the World Health Organization plays a vital role in promoting global health and well-being, advancing scientific knowledge, and coordinating international efforts to address health challenges. Despite facing numerous challenges, WHO remains committed to its mission of achieving “health for all” and continues to work tirelessly to improve the health and quality of life of people worldwide. As the world grapples with new and emerging health threats, the importance of a strong and effective WHO has never been greater, making it imperative for the international community to support and strengthen the organization’s efforts to safeguard global health security and promote health equity. Hope you liked this article by Academic Block, please provide your insightful thoughts in comment section to make this article better. Thanks for Reading!

This Article will answer your questions like:

What does the World Health Organization do?

World Health Organization coordinates international health responses, sets global health standards, and provides leadership on health-related issues to promote global health equity and well-being for all.

Who is the founder of World Health Organization?

The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded on April 7, 1948, and its formation was initiated by the United Nations, with Dr. Brock Chisholm serving as its first Director-General.

When did India join WHO?

India became a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) on April 12, 1948, shortly after the organization’s establishment, showcasing its commitment to global health cooperation and initiatives.

What are the 5 objectives of WHO?

World Health Organization aims to promote universal health coverage, address health emergencies, enhance health systems, combat noncommunicable diseases, and foster health-related research and innovation worldwide.

What is the main purpose of the WHO?

The primary purpose of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to promote global health, prevent diseases, and ensure equitable access to healthcare for all people, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.

What is the role of WHO in India?

The World Health Organization (WHO) plays a crucial role in India by providing technical support, guidance, and expertise to strengthen the country’s healthcare systems, address public health challenges, and promote health equity and universal health coverage.

What is the WHO's stance on controversial health issues?

World Health Organization (WHO) takes evidence-based approaches to address controversial health issues, relying on scientific research and expert consensus to formulate policies and recommendations that prioritize public health and well-being globally.

What was the role of WHO during COVID-19?

During COVID-19, the WHO led global response efforts, provided guidance on prevention and treatment, coordinated research, and assisted countries in managing outbreaks, aiming to minimize the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact on public health.

Role of WHO in India

Technical Support and Capacity Building: WHO provides technical assistance to India in various areas of public health, including disease surveillance, health systems strengthening, and healthcare delivery. It helps build the capacity of healthcare professionals and institutions through training programs and knowledge sharing.

Disease Control and Prevention: WHO supports India in controlling and preventing communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and vaccine-preventable diseases. It assists in implementing national immunization programs and supports efforts to eliminate diseases like polio.

Health Policy Development: WHO assists India in developing evidence-based health policies and strategies to address public health challenges. It provides guidance on issues such as tobacco control, nutrition, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases.

Emergency Response and Preparedness: WHO collaborates with India to strengthen its capacity for emergency response and preparedness, particularly in the context of disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health emergencies. It provides technical expertise, supplies, and coordination support during health crises.

Surveillance and Monitoring: WHO supports India in strengthening its disease surveillance systems to monitor health trends, detect outbreaks, and assess health risks. It helps improve data collection, analysis, and reporting mechanisms to inform public health decision-making.

Health Promotion and Education: WHO assists India in promoting health awareness and education among the population, focusing on preventive measures, healthy lifestyles, and disease prevention. It supports campaigns and initiatives aimed at raising awareness about various health issues.

Research and Innovation: WHO facilitates research collaborations and knowledge sharing in India to advance scientific understanding of public health challenges and identify innovative solutions. It promotes research on emerging health issues and facilitates the translation of research findings into policy and practice.

Stance of WHO on controversial health issues

Evidence-Based Approach: The WHO typically adopts an evidence-based approach to assessing controversial health issues, relying on scientific research, epidemiological data, and expert consensus to inform its recommendations and policies. It evaluates the strength of the evidence, considers potential biases, and weighs the benefits and risks of various interventions before taking a position.

Public Health Impact: The WHO prioritizes the protection and promotion of public health when addressing controversial issues. Its stance on a particular issue may prioritize interventions or policies that have the greatest potential to improve health outcomes, prevent diseases, and reduce health disparities within and between populations.

Ethical Considerations: The WHO considers ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice when formulating its stance on controversial health issues. It seeks to balance individual rights and freedoms with the collective responsibility to safeguard public health and promote the common good.

Global Consensus and Cultural Sensitivity: The WHO recognizes the diversity of cultural, religious, and social perspectives around the world and seeks to respect and accommodate these differences in its approach to controversial health issues. It may engage with diverse stakeholders, including governments, communities, and civil society organizations, to foster dialogue and consensus-building.

Transparency and Accountability: The WHO strives to maintain transparency and accountability in its decision-making processes, including its stance on controversial health issues. It may communicate openly about the evidence, uncertainties, and limitations underlying its recommendations, and it may periodically review and update its positions based on new evidence or emerging challenges.

Human Rights and Equity: The WHO upholds the principles of human rights, equity, and social justice in its approach to controversial health issues. It considers the potential impact of its recommendations on vulnerable and marginalized populations, including ensuring equitable access to healthcare services and addressing health disparities.

Engagement with Stakeholders: The WHO may engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, policymakers, healthcare providers, advocacy groups, and the public, to gather input and perspectives on controversial health issues. It may consult with relevant experts and stakeholders during the decision-making process to ensure that diverse viewpoints are considered.

Academic References on the World Health Organisation


  1. World Health Organization. (2008). World health report 2008: Primary health care – now more than ever. World Health Organization.
  2. Kickbusch, I., & Szabo, M. M. (2006). A new governance space for health. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
  3. Lee, K., & Smith, R. (Eds.). (2005). Global social policy in the making: The foundations of the social protection floor. International Labour Organization.
  4. Garrett, L. (2007). The challenge of global health. Foreign Affairs, 86(1), 14-38.
  5. Fidler, D. P. (2004). SARS, governance and the globalization of disease. Palgrave Macmillan.

Journal Articles:

  1. Heymann, D. L., Chen, L., Takemi, K., Fidler, D. P., Tappero, J. W., Thomas, M. J., … & Nishtar, S. (2015). Global health security: the wider lessons from the west African Ebola virus disease epidemic. The Lancet, 385(9980), 1884-1901.
  2. Gostin, L. O., & Friedman, E. A. (2014). A retrospective and prospective analysis of the West African Ebola virus disease epidemic: robust national health systems at the foundation and an empowered WHO at the apex. The Lancet, 385(9980), 1902-1909.
  3. Horton, R. (2013). Offline: Why is WHO needed?. The Lancet, 381(9864), 978.
  4. Cassels, A. (2005). Health sector reform: Key issues in less developed countries. Journal of International Development: The Journal of the Development Studies Association, 17(3), 347-361.
  5. Heymann, D. L., & Fineberg, H. V. (2015). Global health: the essential role of public health. Infectious Disease Clinics, 29(4), 971-984.

Location: Switzerland

Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland

Established in: 7 April, 1948


Goals of WHO

Attainment of the Highest Possible Level of Health: WHO aims to facilitate the attainment of the highest possible level of health for all people, regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. This goal encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being and emphasizes the importance of health as a fundamental human right.

Promotion of Health Equity and Social Justice: WHO seeks to promote health equity and social justice by addressing health inequities and disparities within and between countries. This goal emphasizes the importance of addressing social, economic, and environmental determinants of health and ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to achieve good health.

Prevention and Control of Diseases: WHO is committed to preventing and controlling diseases, including infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and emerging health threats. This goal involves promoting disease prevention strategies, implementing immunization programs, strengthening surveillance systems, and responding to disease outbreaks and emergencies.

Provision of Essential Health Services: WHO advocates for the provision of essential health services to meet the health needs of individuals and communities. This goal includes ensuring access to quality healthcare services, promoting primary health care, and advancing universal health coverage to protect people from financial hardship related to healthcare costs.

Strengthening of Health Systems: WHO supports the strengthening of health systems to deliver equitable, efficient, and sustainable health services. This goal involves building capacity in areas such as healthcare infrastructure, health workforce, health financing, health information systems, and access to essential medicines and technologies.

Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles and Behaviors: WHO promotes healthy lifestyles and behaviors to prevent diseases and improve health outcomes. This goal includes promoting tobacco control, healthy diets, physical activity, mental well-being, and the prevention of substance abuse and harmful use of alcohol.

Emergency Preparedness and Response: WHO works to strengthen countries’ capacity for emergency preparedness and response to effectively manage and mitigate health emergencies, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises. This goal involves building resilience, mobilizing resources, and coordinating international efforts to address health emergencies.

Advancement of Research and Innovation: WHO promotes research and innovation in the field of health to generate new knowledge, technologies, and interventions. This goal involves supporting research capacity, facilitating knowledge translation, promoting technology transfer, and fostering collaboration among researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Role of WHO on global health

Setting Global Health Priorities: WHO identifies and prioritizes global health issues based on evidence and epidemiological data. It convenes experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss emerging health threats and develop strategies to address them effectively.

Providing Technical Guidance and Expertise: WHO offers technical guidance and expertise to member states on a wide range of health issues, including disease prevention, health promotion, health system strengthening, and emergency response. It develops evidence-based guidelines, protocols, and recommendations to support countries in implementing effective health interventions.

Disease Surveillance and Monitoring: WHO monitors global health trends and conducts surveillance of infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and other health threats. It collects and analyzes data from member states to track disease outbreaks, assess health risks, and inform public health responses.

Emergency Preparedness and Response: WHO plays a crucial role in preparing for and responding to health emergencies, including disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises. It mobilizes resources, coordinates international response efforts, and provides technical support to countries facing health emergencies.

Promoting Health Equity and Access: WHO advocates for health equity and access to healthcare as fundamental human rights. It works to address social, economic, and environmental determinants of health, promote universal health coverage, and reduce health disparities within and between countries.

Capacity Building and Health System Strengthening: WHO supports member states in strengthening their health systems to deliver quality healthcare services. It provides technical assistance, training, and resources to build capacity in areas such as healthcare infrastructure, workforce development, and health financing.

Facilitating Global Health Partnerships: WHO fosters collaboration and partnerships with governments, international organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector to address complex health challenges. It convenes meetings, coalitions, and alliances to facilitate collective action and resource mobilization.

Advocating for Evidence-Based Policies: WHO advocates for evidence-based policies and interventions to improve health outcomes and prevent diseases. It conducts research, synthesizes scientific evidence, and communicates findings to policymakers, stakeholders, and the public to inform decision-making.

Promoting Research and Innovation: WHO supports research and innovation in the field of health to generate new knowledge, technologies, and interventions. It collaborates with research institutions, academia, and industry partners to advance scientific understanding and promote the development of new vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tools.

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