World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organisation, was an agency of the League of Nations.

The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by 61 countries on 22 July 1946, with the first meeting of the World Health Assembly finishing on 22 July 1946. It incorporated the Office International d'Hygiène Publique and the League of Nations Health Organization. Since its establishment, it has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases such as sexual and reproductive health, development, and aging; nutrition, food security and healthy eating; occupational health; substance abuse; and driving the development of reporting, publications, and networking.

The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, the worldwide World Health Survey, and World Health Day. The current Director-General of the WHO is Tedros Adhanom, who started his five-year term on 1 July 2017.[1]

World Health Organization
Emblem of the United Nations
World Health Organization Logo
Formation7 April 1948
TypeUnited Nations specialized agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Tedros Adhanom
Parent organization
United Nations Economic and Social Council
UN emblem blue.svg United Nations portal



The International Sanitary Conferences, originally held on 23 June 1851, were the first predecessors of the WHO. A series of 14 conferences that lasted from 1851 to 1938, the International Sanitary Conferences worked to combat many diseases, chief among them cholera, yellow fever, and the bubonic plague. The conferences were largely ineffective until the seventh, in 1892; when an International Sanitary Convention that dealt with cholera was passed. Five years later, a convention for the plague was signed.[2] In part as a result of the successes of the Conferences, the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau, and the Office International d'Hygiène Publique were soon founded in 1902 and 1907, respectively. When the League of Nations was formed in 1920, they established the Health Organization of the League of Nations. After World War II, the United Nations absorbed all the other health organizations, to form the WHO.[3]


During the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization, Szeming Sze, a delegate from China, conferred with Norwegian and Brazilian delegates on creating an international health organization under the auspices of the new United Nations. After failing to get a resolution passed on the subject, Alger Hiss, the Secretary General of the conference, recommended using a declaration to establish such an organization. Sze and other delegates lobbied and a declaration passed calling for an international conference on health.[4] The use of the word "world", rather than "international", emphasized the truly global nature of what the organization was seeking to achieve.[5] The constitution of the World Health Organization was signed by all 51 countries of the United Nations, and by 10 other countries, on 22 July 1946.[6] It thus became the first specialized agency of the United Nations to which every member subscribed.[7] Its constitution formally came into force on the first World Health Day on 7 April 1948, when it was ratified by the 26th member state.[6] The first meeting of the World Health Assembly finished on 24 July 1948, having secured a budget of US$5 million (then GB£1,250,000) for the 1949 year. Andrija Stampar was the Assembly's first president, and G. Brock Chisholm was appointed Director-General of WHO, having served as Executive Secretary during the planning stages.[5] Its first priorities were to control the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, and to improve maternal and child health, nutrition and environmental hygiene.[8] Its first legislative act was concerning the compilation of accurate statistics on the spread and morbidity of disease.[5] The logo of the World Health Organization features the Rod of Asclepius as a symbol for healing.[9]

Operational history

Directors of Global Smallpox Eradication Program
Three former directors of the Global Smallpox Eradication Programme read the news that smallpox had been globally eradicated, 1980

In 1947 the WHO established an epidemiological information service via telex, and by 1950 a mass tuberculosis inoculation drive using the BCG vaccine was under way. In 1955, the malaria eradication programme was launched, although it was later altered in objective. 1965 saw the first report on diabetes mellitus and the creation of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.[10]

In 1958, Viktor Zhdanov, Deputy Minister of Health for the USSR, called on the World Health Assembly to undertake a global initiative to eradicate smallpox, resulting in Resolution WHA11.54.[11] At this point, 2 million people were dying from smallpox every year.

In 1966, the WHO moved its headquarters from the Ariana wing at the Palace of Nations to a newly constructed HQ elsewhere in Geneva.[10][12]

In 1967, the World Health Organization intensified the global smallpox eradication by contributing $2.4 million annually to the effort and adopted a new disease surveillance method.[13][14] The initial problem the WHO team faced was inadequate reporting of smallpox cases. WHO established a network of consultants who assisted countries in setting up surveillance and containment activities.[15] The WHO also helped contain the last European outbreak in Yugoslavia in 1972.[16] After over two decades of fighting smallpox, the WHO declared in 1979 that the disease had been eradicated – the first disease in history to be eliminated by human effort.[17] Also in 1967, the WHO launched the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases and the World Health Assembly voted to enact a resolution on Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation, with a focus on community-driven care.

In 1974, the Expanded Programme on Immunization and the control programme of onchocerciasis was started, an important partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank.

In 1977, the first list of essential medicines was drawn up, and a year later the ambitious goal of "Health For All" was declared.

In 1986, the WHO began its global programme on HIV/AIDS. Two years later preventing discrimination against sufferers was attended to and in 1996 UNAIDS was formed.

In 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was established.[10]

In 1998, WHO's Director-General highlighted gains in child survival, reduced infant mortality, increased life expectancy and reduced rates of "scourges" such as smallpox and polio on the fiftieth anniversary of WHO's founding. He, did, however, accept that more had to be done to assist maternal health and that progress in this area had been slow.[18]

In 2000, the Stop TB Partnership was created along with the UN's formulation of the Millennium Development Goals. In 2001 the measles initiative was formed, and credited with reducing global deaths from the disease by 68% by 2007. In 2002, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was drawn up to improve the resources available.[10] In 2006, the organization endorsed the world's first official HIV/AIDS Toolkit for Zimbabwe, which formed the basis for global prevention, treatment, and support the plan to fight the AIDS pandemic.[19]

Overall focus

The WHO's Constitution states that its objective "is the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health".[20]

The WHO fulfills this objective through its functions as defined in its Constitution: (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.

As of 2012, the WHO has defined its role in public health as follows:[21]

  • providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
  • shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation, and dissemination of valuable knowledge;[22]
  • setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
  • articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
  • providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
  • monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.
  • CRVS (Civil Registration and Vital Statistics) to provide monitoring of vital events (birth, death, wedding, divorce).[23]

Communicable diseases

The 2012–2013 WHO budget identified 5 areas among which funding was distributed.[24] Two of those five areas related to communicable diseases: the first, to reduce the "health, social and economic burden" of communicable diseases in general; the second to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in particular.[24]

As of 2015, the WHO has worked within the UNAIDS network and strives to involve sections of society other than health to help deal with the economic and social effects of HIV/AIDS.[25] In line with UNAIDS, WHO has set itself the interim task between 2009 and 2015 of reducing the number of those aged 15–24 years who are infected by 50%; reducing new HIV infections in children by 90%; and reducing HIV-related deaths by 25%.[26]

During the 1970s, WHO had dropped its commitment to a global malaria eradication campaign as too ambitious, it retained a strong commitment to malaria control. WHO's Global Malaria Programme works to keep track of malaria cases, and future problems in malaria control schemes. As of 2012, the WHO was to report as to whether RTS,S/AS01, were a viable malaria vaccine. For the time being, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and insecticide sprays are used to prevent the spread of malaria, as are antimalarial drugs – particularly to vulnerable people such as pregnant women and young children.[27]

Between 1990 and 2010, WHO's help has contributed to a 40% decline in the number of deaths from tuberculosis, and since 2005, over 46 million people have been treated and an estimated 7 million lives saved through practices advocated by WHO. These include engaging national governments and their financing, early diagnosis, standardising treatment, monitoring of the spread and effect of tuberculosis and stabilising the drug supply. It has also recognized the vulnerability of victims of HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis.[28]

In 1988, WHO launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to eradicate polio. It has also been successful in helping to reduce cases by 99% since which partnered WHO with Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and smaller organizations. As of 2011, it has been working to immunize young children and prevent the re-emergence of cases in countries declared "polio-free".[29] In 2017, a study was conducted where why Polio Vaccines may not be enough to eradicate the Virus & conduct new technology. Polio is now on the verge of extinction, thanks to a Global Vaccination Drive. the World Health Organization (WHO) stated the eradication programme has saved millions from deadly disease.

Non-communicable diseases

Another of the thirteen WHO priority areas is aimed at the prevention and reduction of "disease, disability and premature deaths from chronic noncommunicable diseases, mental disorders, violence and injuries, and visual impairment".[24][30] The Division of Noncommunicable Diseases for Promoting Health through the Life-course Sexual and Reproductive Health has published the magazine, Entre Nous, across Europe since 1983.[31]

Environmental health

The WHO estimates that 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 – this accounts for nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths. Environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation, contribute to more than 100 diseases and injuries. This can result in a number of pollution-related diseases.[32]

  • 2018 (30 October – 1 November) : 1 WHO’s first global conference on air pollution and health (Improving air quality, combatting climate change – saving lives) ; organized in collaboration with UN Environment, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)[33]

Life course and life style

WHO works to "reduce morbidity and mortality and improve health during key stages of life, including pregnancy, childbirth, the neonatal period, childhood and adolescence, and improve sexual and reproductive health and promote active and healthy aging for all individuals".[24][34]

It also tries to prevent or reduce risk factors for "health conditions associated with use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and other psychoactive substances, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity and unsafe sex".[24][35][36]

The WHO works to improve nutrition, food safety and food security and to ensure this has a positive effect on public health and sustainable development.[24]

Surgery and trauma care

The WHO promotes road safety as a means to reduce traffic-related injuries.[37]

The WHO has also worked on global initiatives in surgery, including emergency and essential surgical care,[38] trauma care,[39] and safe surgery.[40] The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist is in current use worldwide in the effort to improve patient safety.[41]

Emergency work

The World Health Organization's primary objective in natural and man-made emergencies is to coordinate with member states and other stakeholders to "reduce avoidable loss of life and the burden of disease and disability."[24]

On 5 May 2014, WHO announced that the spread of polio was a world health emergency – outbreaks of the disease in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East were considered "extraordinary".[42][43]

On 8 August 2014, WHO declared that the spread of Ebola was a public health emergency; an outbreak which was believed to have started in Guinea had spread to other nearby countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. The situation in West Africa was considered very serious.[44]

Health policy

WHO addresses government health policy with two aims: firstly, "to address the underlying social and economic determinants of health through policies and programmes that enhance health equity and integrate pro-poor, gender-responsive, and human rights-based approaches" and secondly "to promote a healthier environment, intensify primary prevention and influence public policies in all sectors so as to address the root causes of environmental threats to health".[24]

The organization develops and promotes the use of evidence-based tools, norms and standards to support member states to inform health policy options. It oversees the implementation of the International Health Regulations, and publishes a series of medical classifications; of these, three are over-reaching "reference classifications": the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD), the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and the International Classification of Health Interventions (ICHI).[45] Other international policy frameworks produced by WHO include the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (adopted in 1981),[46] Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (adopted in 2003)[47] and the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel (adopted in 2010).[48]

In terms of health services, WHO looks to improve "governance, financing, staffing and management" and the availability and quality of evidence and research to guide policy. It also strives to "ensure improved access, quality and use of medical products and technologies".[24] WHO – working with donor agencies and national governments – can improve their use of and their reporting about their use of research evidence.[49]

Governance and support

The remaining two of WHO's thirteen identified policy areas relate to the role of WHO itself:[24]

  • "to provide leadership, strengthen governance and foster partnership and collaboration with countries, the United Nations system, and other stakeholders in order to fulfill the mandate of WHO in advancing the global health agenda"; and
  • "to develop and sustain WHO as a flexible, learning organization, enabling it to carry out its mandate more efficiently and effectively".


The WHO along with the World Bank constitute the core team responsible for administering the International Health Partnership (IHP+). The IHP+ is a group of partner governments, development agencies, civil society and others committed to improving the health of citizens in developing countries. Partners work together to put international principles for aid effectiveness and development co-operation into practice in the health sector.[50]

The organization relies on contributions from renowned scientists and professionals to inform its work, such as the WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardization,[51] the WHO Expert Committee on Leprosy,[52] and the WHO Study Group on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice.[53]

WHO runs the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, targeted at improving health policy and systems.[54]

WHO also aims to improve access to health research and literature in developing countries such as through the HINARI network.[55]

WHO collaborates with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNITAID, and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief[56] to spearhead and fund the development of HIV programs.

WHO created the Civil Society Reference Group on HIV,[56] which brings together other networks that are involved in policy making and the dissemination of guidelines.

WHO, a sector of the United Nations, partners with UNAIDS[56] to contribute to the development of HIV responses in different areas of the world.

WHO facilitates technical partnerships through the Technical Advisory Committee on HIV,[57] which they created to develop WHO guidelines and policies.

Public health education and action

Each year, the organization marks World Health Day and other observances focusing on a specific health promotion topic. World Health Day falls on 7 April each year, timed to match the anniversary of WHO's founding. Recent themes have been vector-borne diseases (2014), healthy ageing (2012) and drug resistance (2011).[58]

The other official global public health campaigns marked by WHO are World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day, and World AIDS Day.

As part of the United Nations, the World Health Organization supports work towards the Millennium Development Goals.[59] Of the eight Millennium Development Goals, three – reducing child mortality by two-thirds, to reduce maternal deaths by three-quarters, and to halt and begin to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS – relate directly to WHO's scope; the other five inter-relate and affect world health.[60]

Data handling and publications

The World Health Organization works to provide the needed health and well-being evidence through a variety of data collection platforms, including the World Health Survey covering almost 400,000 respondents from 70 countries,[61] and the Study on Global Aging and Adult Health (SAGE) covering over 50,000 persons over 50 years old in 23 countries.[62] The Country Health Intelligence Portal (CHIP), has also been developed to provide an access point to information about the health services that are available in different countries.[63] The information gathered in this portal is used by the countries to set priorities for future strategies or plans, implement, monitor, and evaluate it.

The WHO has published various tools for measuring and monitoring the capacity of national health systems[64] and health workforces.[65] The Global Health Observatory (GHO) has been the WHO's main portal which provides access to data and analyses for key health themes by monitoring health situations around the globe.[66]

The WHO Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS), the WHO Quality of Life Instrument (WHOQOL), and the Service Availability and Readiness Assessment (SARA) provide guidance for data collection.[67] Collaborative efforts between WHO and other agencies, such as through the Health Metrics Network, also aim to provide sufficient high-quality information to assist governmental decision making.[68] WHO promotes the development of capacities in member states to use and produce research that addresses their national needs, including through the Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet).[69] The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/AMRO) became the first region to develop and pass a policy on research for health approved in September 2009.[70]

On 10 December 2013, a new WHO database, known as MiNDbank, went online. The database was launched on Human Rights Day, and is part of WHO's QualityRights initiative, which aims to end human rights violations against people with mental health conditions. The new database presents a great deal of information about mental health, substance abuse, disability, human rights, and the different policies, strategies, laws, and service standards being implemented in different countries.[71] It also contains important international documents and information. The database allows visitors to access the health information of WHO member states and other partners. Users can review policies, laws, and strategies and search for the best practices and success stories in the field of mental health.[71]

The WHO regularly publishes a World Health Report, its leading publication, including an expert assessment of a specific global health topic.[72] Other publications of WHO include the Bulletin of the World Health Organization,[73] the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal (overseen by EMRO),[74] the Human Resources for Health (published in collaboration with BioMed Central),[75] and the Pan American Journal of Public Health (overseen by PAHO/AMRO).[76]

In 2016, the World Health Organization drafted a global health sector strategy on HIV. In the draft, the World Health Organization outlines its commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic by the year 2030[77] with interim targets for the year 2020. In order to make achievements towards these targets, the draft lists actions that countries and the WHO can take, such as a commitment to universal health coverage, medical accessibility, prevention and eradication of disease, and efforts to educate the public. Some notable points made in the draft include addressing gender inequity where females are nearly twice as likely as men to get infected with HIV and tailoring resources to mobilized regions where the health system may be compromised due to natural disasters, etc. Among the points made, it seems clear that although the prevalence of HIV transmission is declining, there is still a need for resources, health education, and global efforts to end this epidemic.


The World Health Organization is a member of the United Nations Development Group.[78]


World Health Organization membership status map
Countries by World Health Organization membership status

As of 2016, the WHO has 194 member states: all of them Member States of the United Nations except for the Cook Islands and Niue.[79] (A state becomes a full member of WHO by ratifying the treaty known as the Constitution of the World Health Organization.) As of 2013, it also had two associate members, Puerto Rico and Tokelau.[80] Several other countries have been granted observer status. Palestine is an observer as a "national liberation movement" recognized by the League of Arab States under United Nations Resolution 3118. The Holy See also attends as an observer, as does the Order of Malta.[81] In 2010, Taiwan was invited under the name of "Republic of China".[82]

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 website, "other countries may be admitted as members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the World Health Assembly".[79] Liechtenstein is currently the only UN member not in the WHO membership. The World Health Assembly is attended by delegations from all Member States, and determines the policies of the Organization.

The Executive Board is composed of members technically qualified in health, and gives effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly. In addition, the UN observer organizations International Committee of the Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have entered into "official relations" with WHO and are invited as observers. In the World Health Assembly they are seated alongside the other NGOs.[81]

World Health Assembly and Executive Board

World Health Organisation building south face 2
WHO Headquarters in Geneva

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the legislative and supreme body of WHO. Based in Geneva, it typically meets yearly in May. It appoints the Director-General every five years and votes on matters of policy and finance of WHO, including the proposed budget. It also reviews reports of the Executive Board and decides whether there are areas of work requiring further examination. 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.[83] The current chairman of the executive board is Dr. Assad Hafeez.

Regional offices

World Health Organisation regional offices
Map of the WHO's Regional offices and their respective operating regions.
  Africa; HQ: Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
  Western Pacific; HQ: Manila, Philippines
  Eastern Mediterranean; HQ: Cairo, Egypt
  South East Asia; HQ: New Delhi, India
  Europe; HQ: Copenhagen, Denmark
  Americas; HQ: Washington D.C., USA

The regional divisions of WHO were created between 1949 and 1952, and are based on article 44 of the WHO's constitution, which allowed the WHO to "establish a [single] regional organization to meet the special needs of [each defined] area". Many decisions are made at regional level, including important discussions over WHO's budget, and in deciding the members of the next assembly, which are designated by the regions.[84]

Each region has a Regional Committee, which generally meets once a year, normally in the autumn. Representatives attend from each member or associative member in each region, including those states that are not fully recognized. For example, Palestine attends meetings of the Eastern Mediterranean Regional office. Each region also has a regional office.[84] Each Regional Office is headed by a Regional Director, who is elected by the Regional Committee. The Board must approve such appointments, although as of 2004, it had never over-ruled the preference of a regional committee. The exact role of the board in the process has been a subject of debate, but the practical effect has always been small.[84] Since 1999, Regional Directors serve for a once-renewable five-year term, and typically take their position on 1 February.[85]

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 WHO within the Region.

The Regional Director is effectively the head of WHO for his or her Region. The RD manages and/or supervises a staff of health and other experts at the regional offices 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.

Regional Offices of WHO
Region Headquarters Notes Website
Africa Brazzaville, Republic of Congo AFRO includes most of Africa, with the exception of Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Tunisia, Libya, Somalia and Morocco (all fall under EMRO).[86] The Regional Director is Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, a Botswanan national. (Tenure: -Present).[87] AFRO
Europe Copenhagen, Denmark. EURO includes all of Europe (except Liechtenstein) Israel, and all of the former USSR.[88] The Regional Director is Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, a Hungarian national (Tenure: 2010 – present).[89] EURO
South-East Asia New Delhi, India North Korea is served by SEARO.[90] The Regional Director is Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, an Indian national (Tenure: 2014 – present).[91] SEARO
Eastern Mediterranean Cairo, Egypt The Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office serves the countries of Africa that are not included in AFRO, as well as all countries in the Middle East except for Israel. Pakistan is served by EMRO.[92] The Regional Director is Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, an Omani national (Tenure: 2018 – present).[93] EMRO
Western Pacific 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.[94] The Regional Director is Dr. Shin Young-soo, a South Korean national (Tenure: 2009 – present).[95] WPRO
The Americas Washington D.C., USA. Also known as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and covers the Americas.[96] The WHO Regional Director is Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, a Dominican national (Tenure: 2013 – present).[97] AMRO


Directors-General of the WHO[98]
Name and Nationality Years of tenure
Ethiopia Tedros Adhanom 2017 – present
Hong Kong Margaret Chan 2007–2017
Sweden Anders Nordström* 2006–2007
South Korea Lee Jong-wook 2003–2006
Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland 1998–2003
Japan Hiroshi Nakajima 1988–1998
Denmark Halfdan T. Mahler 1973–1988
Brazil Marcolino Gomes Candau 1953–1973
Canada Brock Chisholm 1948–1953
*Appointed acting Director-General following the death of Lee Jong-wook while in office

The head of the organization is the Director-General, elected by the World Health Assembly.[99] The term lasts for 5 years, and Director-Generals are typically appointed in May, when the Assembly meets. The current Director-General is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was appointed on 1 July 2017.[100]


The WHO employs 8,500 people in 147 countries.[101] In support of the principle of a tobacco-free work environment, the WHO does not recruit cigarette smokers.[102] The organization has previously instigated the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.[103]

Goodwill Ambassadors

The WHO operates "Goodwill Ambassadors"; members of the arts, sports, or other fields of public life aimed at drawing attention to WHO's initiatives and projects. There are currently five Goodwill Ambassadors (Jet Li, Nancy Brinker, Peng Liyuan, Yohei Sasakawa and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and a further ambassador associated with a partnership project (Craig David).[104]

Country and liaison offices

The World Health Organization operates 150 country offices in six different regions.[105] It also operates several liaison offices, including those with the European Union, United Nations and a single office covering the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It also operates the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and the WHO Centre for Health Development in Kobe, Japan.[106] Additional offices include those in Pristina; the West Bank and Gaza; the US-Mexico Border Field Office in El Paso; the Office of the Caribbean Program Coordination in Barbados; and the Northern Micronesia office.[107] 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). As of 2010, the only WHO Representative outside Europe to be a national of that country was for the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ("Libya"); all other staff were international. WHO Representatives in the Region termed the Americas are referred to as PAHO/WHO Representatives. In Europe, WHO Representatives also serve as Head of Country Office, and are nationals with the exception of Serbia; there are also Heads of Country Office in Albania, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.[107] 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.[105] The main functions of WHO country offices include being the primary adviser of that country's government in matters of health and pharmaceutical policies.[108]

Financing and partnerships

The WHO is financed by contributions from member states and outside donors. As of 2012, the largest annual assessed contributions from member states came from the United States ($110 million), Japan ($58 million), Germany ($37 million), United Kingdom ($31 million) and France ($31 million).[109] The combined 2012–2013 budget has proposed a total expenditure of $3,959 million, of which $944 million (24%) will come from assessed contributions. This represented a significant fall in outlay compared to the previous 2009–2010 budget, adjusting to take account of previous underspends. Assessed contributions were kept the same. Voluntary contributions will account for $3,015 million (76%), of which $800 million is regarded as highly or moderately flexible funding, with the remainder tied to particular programmes or objectives.[110]

In recent years, the WHO's work has involved increasing collaboration with external bodies.[111] As of 2002, a total of 473 non-governmental organizations (NGO) had some form of partnership with WHO. There were 189 partnerships with international NGOs in formal "official relations" – the rest being considered informal in character.[112] Partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation[113] and the Rockefeller Foundation.[114]


IAEA – Agreement WHA 12–40

Alexei Yablokov, Rosa Goncharova, Vassili Nesterenko
Alexey Yablokov (left) and Vassili Nesterenko (farthest right) protesting in front of the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in 2008.
Devant OMS 5
Demonstration on Chernobyl disaster day near WHO in Geneva

In 1959, the WHO signed Agreement WHA 12–40 with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A selective reading of this document (clause 3) can result in the understanding that the IAEA is able to prevent the WHO from conducting research or work on some areas, as seen hereafter. The agreement states here that the WHO recognizes the IAEA as having responsibility for peaceful nuclear energy without prejudice to the roles of the WHO of promoting health. However, the following paragraph adds that

"whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement".[115]

The nature of this statement has led some pressure groups and activists (including Women in Europe for a Common Future) to claim that the WHO is restricted in its ability to investigate the effects on human health of radiation caused by the use of nuclear power and the continuing effects of nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima. They believe WHO must regain what they see as "independence".[116][117][118] However as pointed out by Foreman[119] in clause 2 it states.

"2. In particular, and in accordance with the Constitution of the World Health Organization and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its agreement with the United Nations together with the exchange of letters related thereto, and taking into account the respective co-ordinating responsibilities of both organizations, it is recognized by the World Health Organization that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the primary responsibility for encouraging, assisting and co- ordinating research and development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world without prejudice to the right of the World Health Organization to concern itself with promoting, developing, assisting and co-ordinating international health work, including research, in all its aspects."

Clearly suggesting that the WHO is free to do as it sees fit on nuclear, radiation and other matters which relate to health.

Roman Catholic Church and AIDS

In 2003, the WHO denounced the Roman Curia's health department's opposition to the use of condoms, 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."[120] As of 2009, the Catholic Church remains opposed to increasing the use of contraception to combat HIV/AIDS.[121] At the time, the World Health Assembly President, Guyana's Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, has condemned Pope Benedict's opposition to contraception, saying he was trying to "create confusion" and "impede" proven strategies in the battle against the disease.[122]

Intermittent preventive therapy

The aggressive support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for intermittent preventive therapy of malaria triggered a memo from the former WHO malaria chief Akira Kochi.[123]

Diet and sugar intake

Some of the research undertaken or supported by WHO to determine how people's lifestyles and environments are influencing whether they live in better or worse health can be controversial, as illustrated by a 2003 joint WHO/FAO report on nutrition and the prevention of chronic non-communicable disease,[124] which recommended that free sugars should form no more than 10% of a healthy diet. The report led to lobbying by the sugar industry against the recommendation, to which the WHO/FAO responded by including in the report this statement: "The Consultation recognized that a population goal for free sugars of less than 10% of total energy is controversial". It also stood by its recommendation based upon its own analysis of scientific studies.[125] In 2014, WHO reduced recommended free sugars levels by half and said that free sugars should make up no more than 5% of a healthy diet.[126]

2009 swine flu pandemic

In 2007, the WHO organized work on pandemic influenza vaccine development through clinical trials in collaboration with many experts and health officials.[127] A pandemic involving the H1N1 influenza virus was declared by the then Director-General Margaret Chan in April 2009.[128] Margret Chan declared in 2010 that the H1N1 has moved into the post-pandemic period.[129]

By the post-pandemic period critics claimed the WHO had exaggerated the danger, spreading "fear and confusion" rather than "immediate information".[130] Industry experts countered that the 2009 pandemic had led to "unprecedented collaboration between global health authorities, scientists and manufacturers, resulting in the most comprehensive pandemic response ever undertaken, with a number of vaccines approved for use three months after the pandemic declaration. This response was only possible because of the extensive preparations undertaken during the last decade".[131]

2013–2016 Ebola outbreak and reform efforts

Following the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the organization was heavily criticized for its bureaucracy, insufficient financing, regional structure, and staffing profile.[132]

An internal WHO report on the Ebola response pointed to underfunding and the lack of "core capacity" in health systems in developing countries as the primary weaknesses of the existing system. At the annual World Health Assembly in 2015, Director-General Margaret Chan announced a $100 million Contingency Fund for rapid response to future emergencies,[133][134] of which it had received $26.9 million by April 2016 (for 2017 disbursement). WHO has budgeted an additional $494 million for its Health Emergencies Programme in 2016–17, for which it had received $140 million by April 2016.[135]

The program was aimed at rebuilding WHO capacity for direct action, which critics said had been lost due to budget cuts in the previous decade that had left the organization in an advisory role dependent on member states for on-the-ground activities. In comparison, billions of dollars have been spent by developed countries on the 2013–2016 Ebola epidemic and 2015–16 Zika epidemic.[136]

FCTC implementation database

The WHO has a Framework Convention on Tobacco implementation database which is one of the only mechanisms to help enforce compliance with the FCTC.[137] However, there have been reports of numerous discrepancies between it and national implementation reports on which it was built. As researchers Hoffman and Rizvi report "As of July 4, 2012, 361 (32·7%) of 1104 countries' responses were misreported: 33 (3·0%) were clear errors (eg, database indicated “yes” when report indicated “no”), 270 (24·5%) were missing despite countries having submitted responses, and 58 (5·3%) were, in our opinion, misinterpreted by WHO staff".[138]

IARC controversies

The World Health Organization sub-department, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has been criticized for the way it analyses the tendency of certain substances and activities to cause cancer and for having a politically motivated bias when it selects studies for its analysis. Ed Yong, a British science journalist, has criticized the agency and its "confusing" category system for misleading the public.[139] Marcel Kuntz, a French director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, criticized the agency for its classification of potentially carcinogenic substances. He claimed that this classification did not take into account the extent of exposure: for example, red meat is qualified as probably carcinogenic, but the quantity of consumed red meat at which it could become dangerous is not specified.[140]

Controversies have erupted multiple times when the IARC has classified many things as Class 2a (probable carcinogens), including cell phone signals, glyphosate, drinking hot beverages, and working as a barber.[141]

Block of Taiwanese participation

Political pressure from China has led to Taiwan being barred from membership of the WHO and other UN-affiliated organizations, and in both 2017 and 2018 the WHO refused to allow Taiwanese delegates to attend the WHO annual assembly.[142] On multiple occasions Taiwanese journalists have been denied access to report on the assembly.[143]

In May 2018, 172 members of the United States House of Representatives wrote to the Director General of the World Health Organization to argue for Taiwan's inclusion as an observer at the WHA.[144]

Travel expenses

According to The Associated Press, the WHO routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel expenses, more than it spends to tackle mental health problems, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria combined. In 2016, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO from November 2006 to June 2017,[145] stayed in a $1000 per night hotel room while visiting West Africa.[146]

Robert Mugabe's role as a goodwill ambassador

On 21 October 2017, the Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appointed former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador to help promote the fight against non-communicable diseases. The appointment address praised Mugabe for his commitment to public health in Zimbabwe.

The appointment attracted widespread condemnation and criticism in WHO member states and international organizations due to Robert Mugabe's poor record on human rights and presiding over a decline in Zimbabwe's public health.[147][148] Due to the outcry, the following day the appointment was revoked.[149]

World headquarters

The seat of the organization is in Geneva, Switzerland. It was designed by Swiss architect Jean Tschumi and inaugurated in 1966.[150] In 2017, the organization launched an international competition to redesign and extend its headquarters.[151]

Early views

Stairwell in World Health Organization headquarters, Geneva, 1969

Stairwell, 1969

Patio of World Health Organization headquarters building, 1969

Internal courtyard, 1969

Women sunning selves at Geneva headquarters of World Health Organization, 1969

Exterior, 1969

Views 2013

WHO HQ main building, Geneva from Southwest

WHO Headquarters from Southwest

WHO HQ main building, Geneva from South

WHO Headquarters from South

WHO HQ main building, Geneva, from East

WHO Headquarters from East

WHO HQ main building, Geneva, from North

WHO Headquarters from North

WHO HQ main building, Geneva, from West

WHO Headquarters from West

WHO HQ main entrance, Geneva

WHO Headquarters main entrance

The entrance hall WHO HQ, Geneva

WHO Headquarters entrance hall

World Health Organization Executive Board Room

WHO Headquarters main conference room

See also


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External links

Coordinates: 46°13′56″N 06°08′03″E / 46.23222°N 6.13417°E

Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System

The Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System is a drug classification system that classifies the active ingredients of drugs according to the organ or system on which they act and their therapeutic, pharmacological and chemical properties. It is controlled by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology (WHOCC), and was first published in 1976.This pharmaceutical coding system divides drugs into different groups according to the organ or system on which they act, their therapeutic intent or nature, and the drug's chemical characteristics. Different brands share the same code if they have the same active substance and indications. Each bottom-level ATC code stands for a pharmaceutically used substance, or a combination of substances, in a single indication (or use). This means that one drug can have more than one code, for example acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) has A01AD05 (WHO) as a drug for local oral treatment, B01AC06 (WHO) as a platelet inhibitor, and N02BA01 (WHO) as an analgesic and antipyretic; as well as one code can represent more than one active ingredient, for example C09BB04 (WHO) is the combination of perindopril with amlodipine, two active ingredients that have their own codes (C09AA04 (WHO) and C08CA01 (WHO) respectively) when prescribed alone.

The ATC classification system is a strict hierarchy, meaning that each code necessarily has one and only one parent code, except for the 14 codes at the topmost level which have no parents. The codes are semantic identifiers, meaning they depict in themselves the complete lineage of parenthood.


Cloxacillin is an antibiotic useful for the treatment of a number of bacterial infections. This includes impetigo, cellulitis, pneumonia, septic arthritis, and otitis externa. It is not effective for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It is used by mouth and by injection.Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. Clostridium difficile diarrhea may also occur. It is not recommended in people who have previously had a penicillin allergy. Use during pregnancy appears to be relatively safe. Cloxacillin is in the penicillin family of medications.Cloxacillin was patented in 1960 and approved for medical use in 1965. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about US$0.16 per day for the pills. It is not commercially available in the United States.


Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) is a medication used in the treatment of filariasis including lymphatic filariasis, tropical pulmonary eosinophilia, and loiasis. It may also be used for prevention of loiasis in those at high risk. While it has been used for onchocerciasis (river blindness), ivermectin is preferred. It is taken by mouth.Common side effects include itching, facial swelling, headaches, and feeling tired. Other side effects include vision loss and dizziness. It is a recommended treatment in pregnancy and appears to be safe for the baby. The World Health Organization; however, recommends waiting until after pregnancy for treatment when feasible. It is made from piperazine.Diethylcarbamazine was discovered in 1947. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is less than US$0.01 per dose. It is not commercially available in the United States but can be acquired from the Center for Disease Control.

Disability-adjusted life year

The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. It was developed in the 1990s as a way of comparing the overall health and life expectancy of different countries.

The DALY is becoming increasingly common in the field of public health and health impact assessment (HIA). It "extends the concept of potential years of life lost due to premature death... to include equivalent years of 'healthy' life lost by virtue of being in states of poor health or disability." In so doing, mortality and morbidity are combined into a single, common metric.

Ebola virus disease

Ebola virus disease (EVD), also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) or simply Ebola, is a viral hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by ebolaviruses. Signs and symptoms typically start between two days and three weeks after contracting the virus with a fever, sore throat, muscular pain, and headaches. Vomiting, diarrhea and rash usually follow, along with decreased function of the liver and kidneys. At this time, some people begin to bleed both internally and externally. The disease has a high risk of death, killing between 25 and 90 percent of those infected, with an average of about 50 percent. This is often due to low blood pressure from fluid loss, and typically follows six to sixteen days after symptoms appear.The virus spreads through direct contact with body fluids, such as blood from infected humans or other animals. Spread may also occur from contact with items recently contaminated with bodily fluids. Spread of the disease through the air between primates, including humans, has not been documented in either laboratory or natural conditions. Semen or breast milk of a person after recovery from EVD may carry the virus for several weeks to months. Fruit bats are believed to be the normal carrier in nature, able to spread the virus without being affected by it. Other diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid fever, meningitis and other viral hemorrhagic fevers may resemble EVD. Blood samples are tested for viral RNA, viral antibodies or for the virus itself to confirm the diagnosis.Control of outbreaks requires coordinated medical services and community engagement. This includes rapid detection, contact tracing of those who have been exposed, quick access to laboratory services, care for those infected, and proper disposal of the dead through cremation or burial. Samples of body fluids and tissues from people with the disease should be handled with special caution. Prevention includes limiting the spread of disease from infected animals to humans by handling potentially infected bushmeat only while wearing protective clothing, and by thoroughly cooking bushmeat before eating it. It also includes wearing proper protective clothing and washing hands when around a person with the disease. An Ebola vaccine has been studied in Africa with promising results. No specific treatment is available, although a number of potential treatments are being studied. Supportive efforts, however, improve outcomes. This includes either oral rehydration therapy (drinking slightly sweetened and salty water) or giving intravenous fluids as well as treating symptoms.The disease was first identified in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks: one in Nzara (a town in South Sudan) and the other in Yambuku (Democratic Republic of the Congo), a village near the Ebola River from which the disease takes its name. EVD outbreaks occur intermittently in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1976 and 2013, the World Health Organization reports a total of 24 outbreaks involving 1,716 cases. The largest outbreak to date was the epidemic in West Africa, which occurred from December 2013 to January 2016 with 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths. It was declared no longer an emergency on 29 March 2016. Other outbreaks in Africa began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May 2017, and 2018.

Global health

Global health is the health of populations in the global context; it has been defined as "the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide". Problems that transcend national borders or have a global political and economic impact are often emphasized. Thus, global health is about worldwide health improvement (including mental health), reduction of disparities, and protection against global threats that disregard national borders. Global health is not to be confused with international health, which is defined as the branch of public health focusing on developing nations and foreign aid efforts by industrialized countries. Global health can be measured as a function of various global diseases and their prevalence in the world and threat to decrease life in the present day.

The predominant agency associated with global health (and international health) is the World Health Organization (WHO). Other important agencies impacting global health include UNICEF and World Food Programme. The United Nations system has also played a part with cross-sectoral actions to address global health and its underlying socioeconomic determinants with the declaration of the Millennium Development Goals and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals.


Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This definition has been subject to controversy, as it may have limited value for implementation. Health may be defined as the ability to adapt and manage physical, mental and social challenges throughout life.

Health care

Health care or healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in people. Health care is delivered by health professionals (providers or practitioners) in allied health fields. Physicians and physician associates are a part of these health professionals. Dentistry, midwifery, nursing, medicine, optometry, audiology, pharmacy, psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other health professions are all part of health care. It includes work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.

Access to health care may vary across countries, communities, and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as health policies. Health care systems are organizations established to meet the health needs of targeted populations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning health care system requires a financing mechanism, a well-trained and adequately paid workforce, reliable information on which to base decisions and policies, and well maintained health facilities to deliver quality medicines and technologies.An efficient health care system can contribute to a significant part of a country's economy, development and industrialization. Health care is conventionally regarded as an important determinant in promoting the general physical and mental health and well-being of people around the world. An example of this was the worldwide eradication of smallpox in 1980, declared by the WHO as the first disease in human history to be completely eliminated by deliberate health care interventions.

Health system

A health system, also sometimes referred to as health care system or as healthcare system, is the organization of people, institutions, and resources that deliver health care services to meet the health needs of target populations.

There is a wide variety of health systems around the world, with as many histories and organizational structures as there are nations. Implicitly, nations must design and develop health systems in accordance with their needs and resources, although common elements in virtually all health systems are primary healthcare and public health measures. In some countries, health system planning is distributed among market participants. In others, there is a concerted effort among governments, trade unions, charities, religious organizations, or other co-ordinated bodies to deliver planned health care services targeted to the populations they serve. However, health care planning has been described as often evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the international "standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes." Its full official name is International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.The ICD is maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations System. The ICD is originally designed as a health care classification system, providing a system of diagnostic codes for classifying diseases, including nuanced classifications of a wide variety of signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or disease. This system is designed to map health conditions to corresponding generic categories together with specific variations, assigning for these a designated code, up to six characters long. Thus, major categories are designed to include a set of similar diseases. ICD-11 is a major step forward, because it has the necessary terminological and ontological elements for seamless use in digital health.

The ICD is published by the WHO and used worldwide for morbidity and mortality statistics, reimbursement systems, and automated decision support in health care. This system is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of these statistics. Like the analogous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which is limited to psychiatric disorders and almost exclusive to the United States), the ICD is a major project to statistically classify all health disorders, and provide diagnostic assistance. The ICD is a core statistically based classificatory diagnostic system for health care related issues of the WHO Family of International Classifications (WHO-FIC).The ICD is revised periodically and is currently in its 10th revision. ICD-10, as it is therefore known, is from 1992 and the WHO publishes annual minor updates and triennial major updates. The final draft of the ICD-11 system is expected to be submitted to WHO's World Health Assembly (WHA) for official endorsement in 2019. The version for preparation of approval at the WHA was released on 18 June 2018.The ICD is part of a "family" of international classifications (WHOFIC) that complement each other, including also the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) which focuses on the domains of functioning (disability) associated with health conditions, from both medical and social perspectives, and the International Classification of Health Interventions (ICHI) that classifies the whole range of medical, nursing, functioning and public health interventions.

International nonproprietary name

The international nonproprietary name (INN) is an official generic and non-proprietary name given to a pharmaceutical drug or an active ingredient. International Nonproprietary Names make communication more precise by providing a unique standard name for each active ingredient, to avoid prescribing errors. The INN system has been coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1953.

Having unambiguous standard names for each drug (standardization of drug nomenclature) is important because a drug may be sold by many different brand names, or a branded medication may contain more than one drug. For example, the branded medications Celexa, Celapram and Citrol all contain the same active ingredient: citalopram; and the branded preparation Lemsip contains two active ingredients: paracetamol and phenylephrine.

Each drug's INN is unique but may contain a word stem that is shared with other drugs of the same class; for example, the beta blocker drugs propranolol and atenolol share the -olol suffix, and the benzodiazepine drugs lorazepam and diazepam share the -azepam suffix.

The WHO issues INNs in English, Latin, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese, and a drug's INNs are often cognate across most or all of the languages, with minor spelling or pronunciation differences, for example: paracetamol (en) paracetamolum (la), paracétamol (fr) and парацетамол (ru). An established INN is known as a recommended INN (rINN), while a name that is still being considered is called a proposed INN (pINN).

List of countries by suicide rate

The following are lists of countries by suicide rate according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other sources.

A country's rate is determined by its age-adjusted total rate (per 100,000 population) of deaths officially recorded as suicides in the most recent available year. The WHO statistics are based on the official reports from each respective country, therefore are no more accurate than the record-keeping in the specific country, and revisions (updates) are usually performed as well.About one person in 5,000–15,000 dies by suicide every year (1.4% of all deaths), with a reported global rate of 10.7 per 100,000 population in 2015 (was 11.6 in 2008).

In Western countries male and female rates of suicidal behaviors differ at a greater degree compared to those in the rest of the world.

Around 30% of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries consisting in about 80% world population; some of these pesticides are forbidden by United Nations (UN) conventions. In high-income countries consisting of the remaining 20% world population, the most common methods are firearms, hanging and other self-poisoning. Europe is the most suicidal region in the entire world, while the Eastern Mediterranean the least.A 2014 overview pointed at the economic crisis' years (2007-2008) as a period from which suicide rates surged globally. The study was about China's suicide rates which have been declining instead: in the 1990s China was among the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world (above 20 per 100,000), but by the global economic crisis they kept dropping as significantly (as they were by the end of 1990s) with the main force having been migration from rural to urban areas. The same years were also a turning point for reliability of data: before then, many countries had no globally recognized official rates, particularly African countries.Per recent WHO releases, social stigma, the taboo to openly discuss suicide, and low availability of data lead to poor data quality for both suicide and suicide attempts: "given the sensitivity of suicide – and the illegality of suicidal behaviour in some countries – it is likely that under-reporting and misclassification are greater problems for suicide than for most other causes of death."

In much of the world, suicide is stigmatized and condemned for religious or cultural reasons. In some countries, suicidal behaviour is a criminal offence punishable by law. Suicide is therefore often a secretive act surrounded by taboo, and may be unrecognized, misclassified or deliberately hidden in official records of death.


The term narcotic (, from ancient Greek ναρκῶ narkō, "to make numb") originally referred medically to any psychoactive compound with sleep-inducing properties. In the United States, it has since become associated with opiates and opioids, commonly morphine and heroin, as well as derivatives of many of the compounds found within raw opium latex. The primary three are morphine, codeine, and thebaine (while thebaine itself is only very mildly psychoactive, it is a crucial precursor in the vast majority of semi-synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone).

Legally speaking, the term "narcotic" is imprecisely defined and typically has negative connotations. When used in a legal context in the U.S., a narcotic drug is one that is totally prohibited, such as heroin, or one that is used in violation of governmental regulation.

In the medical community, the term is more precisely defined and generally does not carry the same negative connotations.Statutory classification of a drug as a narcotic often increases the penalties for violation of drug control statutes. For example, although federal law classifies both cocaine and amphetamines as "Schedule II" drugs, the penalty for possession of cocaine is greater than the penalty for possession of amphetamines because cocaine, unlike amphetamines, is classified as a narcotic.

Traditional medicine

Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine) comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as "the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness". Traditional medicine is contrasted with scientific medicine.

In some Asian and African countries, up to 80% of the population relies on traditional medicine for their primary health care needs. When adopted outside its traditional culture, traditional medicine is often considered a form of alternative medicine. Practices known as traditional medicines include traditional European medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, traditional Korean medicine, traditional African medicine, Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, Unani, ancient Iranian Medicine, Iranian (Persian), Islamic medicine, Muti, and Ifá. Scientific disciplines which study traditional medicine include herbalism, ethnomedicine, ethnobotany, and medical anthropology.

The WHO notes, however, that "inappropriate use of traditional medicines or practices can have negative or dangerous effects" and that "further research is needed to ascertain the efficacy and safety" of several of the practices and medicinal plants used by traditional medicine systems. Ultimately, the World Health Organization has implemented a nine year strategy to "support Member States in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy."

Vector (epidemiology)

In epidemiology, a disease vector is any agent who carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; most agents regarded as vectors are organisms, such as intermediate parasites or microbes, but it could be an inanimate medium of infection such as dust particles.

WHO Model List of Essential Medicines

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML), published by the World Health Organization (WHO), contains the medications considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. The list is frequently used by countries to help develop their own local lists of essential medicine. As of 2016, more than 155 countries have created national lists of essential medicines based on the World Health Organization's model list. This includes countries in both the developed and developing world.The list is divided into core items and complementary items. The core items are deemed to be the most cost effective options for key health problems and are usable with little additional health care resources. The complementary items either require additional infrastructure such as specially trained health care providers or diagnostic equipment or have a lower cost-benefit ratio. About 25% of items are in the complementary list. Some medications are listed as both core and complementary. While most medications on the list are available as generic products, being under patent does not preclude inclusion.The first list was published in 1977 and included 212 medications. The WHO updates the list every two years. The 14th list was published in 2005 and contained 306 medications. In 2015 the 19th edition of the list was published and contains around 410 medications. The 20th edition was published in 2017 and comprises 433 drugs. The national lists contain between 334 and 580 medications.A separate list for children up to 12 years of age, known as the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children (EMLc), was created in 2007 and is in its 6th edition. It was created to make sure that the needs of children were systematically considered such as availability of proper formulations. Everything in the children's list is also included in the main list. The list and notes are based on the 19th and 20th edition of the main list. An α indicates a medicine is only on the complementary list.

WHO disease staging system for HIV infection and disease

WHO Disease Staging System for HIV Infection and Disease was first produced in 1990 by the World Health Organization and updated in September 2005. It is an approach for use in resource limited settings and is widely used in Africa and Asia and has been a useful research tool in studies of progression to symptomatic HIV disease. Most of these conditions are opportunistic infections that are easily treated in healthy people. The staging system is different for adults and adolescents and children.

Stage I: HIV disease is asymptomatic and not categorized as AIDS.

Stage II: include minor mucocutaneous manifestations and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections.

Stage III: includes unexplained chronic diarrhea for longer than a month, severe bacterial infections and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Stage IV: includes toxoplasmosis of the brain, candidiasis of the esophagus, trachea, bronchi or lungs and Kaposi's sarcoma; these diseases are used as indicators of AIDS.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day, designated on 1 December every year since 1988, is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died of the disease. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control.

World AIDS Day is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World Hepatitis Day.As of 2017, AIDS has killed between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Thanks to recent improved access to antiretroviral treatment in many regions of the world, the death rate from AIDS epidemic has decreased since its peak in 2005 (1 million in 2016, compared to 1.9 million in 2005).

World Health Organization ranking of health systems in 2000

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the health systems of its 191 member states in its World Health Report 2000. It provided a framework and measurement approach to examine and compare aspects of health systems around the world. It developed a series of performance indicators to assess the overall level and distribution of health in the populations, and the responsiveness and financing of health care services. It was the organization's first ever analysis of the world's health systems.

Functional commissions
Regional commissions
Specialised agencies
Funds and Programmes
World Bank Group
Expert bodies
Research and training
Other entities
Disbanded entities
Occupational diseases
and injuries
Occupational hygiene
Agencies and organizations
See also
United Nations System
Members and observers
Preventive healthcare
Population health
Biological and
epidemiological statistics
Infectious and epidemic
disease prevention
Food hygiene and
safety management
Health behavioral
and history

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