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Who is WHO? by Selenay Tüfekçioğlu

History of The World Health Organization

WHO (World Health Organization) is an authority that leads and coordinates international actions relating to public health. It is under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN). When the UN was established in 1945, the most important thing according to the diplomats was the creation of an international organization working for health. According to this aim, they passed the World Health Organization Constitution on April 7, 1948. That day is now celebrated as the “World Health Day”. More than 7,000 people work for WHO, headquartered in Geneva and operating in 150 countries (Samar, 2020). WHO, which aims to provide better health for all, works with 194 member states in 6 different regions (About WHO, 2020). The election of Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the chairman of the organization in 2017 marked the first time an African became the WHO’s chairman.

WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL (Picture from EuroNews)

What is the aim of the WHO?

In the WHO charter, the purpose of establishment is stated as “To enable all people to reach the highest possible health level”. The organization coordinates international health efforts to achieve this goal. While WHO advises countries on measures they may take against diseases and for the prevention of disease outbreaks, it does not have the power to impose policies on countries. The goals of this organization, which works worldwide, are to improve health, to offer the right to access healthcare for anyone in need, and to help vulnerable people. Their aim is to “ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being.” (About WHO, 2020).


They focus on ensuring that it is a financially sustainable organization, facilitating everyone’s access to essential medications and healthcare equipment, preparing training for health workers, advising on the development of healthcare labor policies, supporting people’s participation in national health policies and improving monitoring, data and information to provide universal health coverage for everyone (About WHO, 2020). The values of the World Health Organization also coincide with the principles of human rights, universality and equality.

In short, it reflects the ethical values of the organization. In line with these values, the WHO aims to ensure that every person reaches the highest level of health possible (Our Values, Our DNA, WHO, 2020) To that aim, it promotes cross-sectoral approaches to health and collaborates with countries to make health a priority in all policies and settings.

3 Main Working Areas of WHO

  • Working for general health insurance to cover all citizens in every country,
  • Taking immediate action with preventive policies in emergencies,
  • Carrying out awareness-raising activities for everyone (Samar, 2020).

Thus they advance towards the goal of universal health.


WHO struggled against smallpox which appeared in the 1970s and played an important role in controlling the disease. It is currently struggling with theon a global scale, which threatens the health of the population in certain parts of the world by causing the polio disease. Previously, WHO had organized international health studies against Ebola and Zika viruses, however, it also received the criticism that it was late to act against these viruses. It is also criticized for failing to act against the COVID-19 pandemic on time. Criticism came specifically from US President Trump. Trump held the organization responsible for the spread of the outbreak (Samar, 2020).

WHO’s highest decision-making body is the World Health Assembly. The Assembly takes part in the decision-making with the participation of delegations of its 194 member states. It takes place in May every year and gathers in Geneva, Switzerland. Its main task is determining the policies of the organization. The director general is also appointed by the World Health Assembly. Additionally, the Assembly oversees the financial policies of the organization along with examining and approving budgets of the programmes to be conducted. If further studies, investigations or reports are required, the Assembly also examines the reports of the board of directors to which it had given instructions (Information and Rules of Procedure, 2020).



WHO struggled against smallpox which ap




About WHO. (2020). Word Health Organization:

Information and Rules of Procedure. (2020). WHO:

Our Values, Our DNA. (2020). WHO:

Samar, K. (2020, 05 14). 5 soruda Dünya Sağlık Örgütü: Nedir, nasıl işler, kimler finanse ediyor? Euronesw:



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