United Nations World Health Organization
Current Director - General of The WHO is Dr. Margaret CHAN
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats.
WHO is reforming to be better equipped to address the increasingly complex challenges of the health of populations in the 21st century. From persisting problems to new and emerging public health threats, WHO needs to be flexible enough to respond to this evolving environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, with its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organization, was an agency of the League of Nations.
The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by all 61 countries of the United Nations by 22 July 1946, with the first meeting of the World Health Assembly finishing on 24 July 1948. It incorporated the Office International d'Hygiène Publique and the League of Nations Health Organization. Since its creation, it has been responsible for playing a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities includecommunicable diseases, in particular, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases; sexual and reproductive health, development, and aging; nutrition, food security and healthy eating; occupational health; substance abuse; and drive the development of reporting, publications, and networking. WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, a leading international publication on health, the worldwide World Health Survey, and World Health Day (7th-April of every Year).
The head of the organization is the Director-General, appointed by the World Health Assembly. The current Director-General is Margaret Chan, who was appointed on 9 November 2006. On 18 January 2012, Chan was nominated by the WHO's Executive Board for a second term. If confirmed by the World Health Assembly in May 2012, Dr Chan will remain Director-General until the end of June 2017.
WHO employs 8,500 people in 147 countries. In support of the principle of a tobacco-free work environment the WHO does not recruit cigarette smokers. The organization has previously instigated the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.
The WHO operates "Goodwill Ambassadors", members of the arts, sport 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 Sasakawaand the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and a further ambassador associated with a partnership project (Craig David).
Dr. Margaret CHAN
Dr Margaret Chan, from the People's Republic of China, obtained her medical degree from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She joined the Hong Kong Department of Health in 1978, where her career in public health began.
In 1994, Dr Chan was appointed Director of Health of Hong Kong. In her nine-year tenure as director, she launched new services to prevent the spread of disease and promote better health. She also introduced new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance and response, enhance training for public health professionals, and establish better local and international collaboration. She effectively managed outbreaks of avian influenza and of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
In 2003, Dr Chan joined WHO as Director of the Department for Protection of the Human Environment. In June 2005, she was appointed Director, Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Response as well as Representative of the Director-General for Pandemic Influenza. In September 2005, she was named Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases.
Dr Chan was elected to the post of Director-General on 9 November 2006. The Assembly appointed Dr Chan for a second five-year term at its sixty-fifth session in May 2012. Dr Chan's new term will begin on 1 July 2012 and continue until 30 June 2017.
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The use of the word "world", rather than "international", emphasized the truly global nature of what the organization was seeking to achieve. The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by all 61 countries of the United Nations by 22 July 1946. It thus became the first specialised agency of the United Nations to which every member subscribed. 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. The first meeting of the World Health Assembly finished on 24 July 1948, having secured a budget of US$5 million (then GBP£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. Its first priorities were to control the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, and to improvematernal and child health, nutrition and environmental hygiene. Its first legislative act was concerning the compilation of accurate statistics on the spread and morbidity of disease. The logo of the World Health Organization features the Rod of Asclepius as a symbol for healing.
The WHO's Constitution states that its objective "is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health".
WHO fulfils its objective through its functions as defined in its Constitution: (a) to act as the directing and co-ordinating 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.
WHO currently defines its role in public health as follows:
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;
setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
providing technical support, catalyzing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.
The 2012–2013 budget further identified thirteen areas among which funding was distributed
WHO also 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, genderresponsive, 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".
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 making. It also strives to "ensure improved access, quality and use of medical products and technologies".
Governance and support
The remaining two of WHO's thirteen identified policy areas relate to the role of WHO itself: firstly, "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 secondly "to develop and sustain WHO as a flexible, learning organization, enabling it to carry out its mandate more efficiently and effectively".
As of 2013, the WHO has 194 member states: all Member States of the United Nations except Liechtenstein, as well as the Cook Islands and Niue.(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. Several other entities have been granted observer status. Palestine is an observer as a "national liberation movement" recognised 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. In 2010, Taiwan was invited under the name of "Chinese Taipei".
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 web site, "other countries may be admitted as members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the World 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 along the other NGOs.