World Health Organization: Who is the WHO?

Have You Ever?

Have you noticed that in today’s globalized world, it is very common for diseases to travel from one country to another? Did you know that people around the globe suffer from similar issues related to healthcare, including chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, lack of access to good healthcare or insurance, as well as poverty and hunger? Have you ever wondered whose job it is to help protect the health and well-being of people all over the world? Did you know that there is an organization that is part of the United Nations that does just that? 

The Answer

The World Health Organization was founded in 1948, just three years after the United Nations was established. Throughout its history, the WHO has worked on projects for developing and distributing vaccines, improving water, sanitation, and hygiene systems, and protecting the health and safety of women and girls, among many other essential, life saving interventions.  

The World Health Organization

The United Nations included in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care”. The work of the WHO is an essential part of trying to guarantee that right to all humans. 

How It Works

In order to do its work and achieve its desired outcomes, the WHO works with country governments, non-state actors like companies and nonprofit organizations, researchers, and other UN organizations. Creating a healthy world for all people is no easy goal and it takes a lot of collaboration. 

Why Care?

It is important to remember that there are systems in place that are bigger than any one country or government. The United Nations was founded on the principle of guaranteeing fundamental human rights to all people, no matter their country, race, gender, or language, and one of those fundamental rights is the right to health and well-being. So, when there is a global health emergency like a pandemic, or even the fact that billions of people don’t have access to adequate medical care or insurance, remember that we all have to work together, locally and internationally, to hold our health systems accountable. 

Think Further

  1. How do you think ordinary people can help support the work of the WHO? 
  2. How can knowing about international standards and organizations help you engage more meaningfully with your own local and national government? 
  3. What is one health issue that you’re interested in/passionate about/affected by? Does the WHO have a policy or program related to that issue? Visit their website and research what they’re doing. 


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