World Health Organization (WHO) Part- I

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.  

  • The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency's governing structure and  principles, states its main objective as "the attainment by all peoples of the highest  possible level of health."  
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices  and 150 field offices worldwide 
  • The WHO was established by the constitution on 7 April 1948, which is commemorated as World Health Day. 
  • The first meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the agency's governing body,  took place on 24 July 1948.


The WHO was established by the constitution on 7 April 1948, which is commemorated as  World Health Day. 


  • Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. 
  • The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. 
  • The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States. 
  • The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all. 
  • Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of  diseases, especially communicable disease, is a common danger. 
  • Healthy development of the child is of basic importance; the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment is essential to such development. 
  • The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health. 
  • Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people.
  • Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled  only by the provision of adequate health and social measures. 


  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work;  
  • 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;  
  • To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services;  
  • To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the  request or acceptance of Governments;  
  • 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;  
  • To establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required,  including epidemiological and statistical services;  
  • To stimulate and advance work to eradicate epidemic, endemic and other diseases;  
  • To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the  prevention of accidental injuries;  
  • 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;  
  • To promote co-operation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to  the advancement of health;  
  • 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:  

  • providing leadership on matters critical to the 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, 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)


  • WHO works worldwide to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.  
  • Their goal 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. 
For universal health coverage, they:  
  • focus on primary health care to improve access to quality essential services  
  • work towards sustainable financing and financial protection  
  • improve access to essential medicines and health products  
  • train the health workforce and advise on labour policies  
  • support people's participation in national health policies  
  • improve monitoring, data and information. 

For health emergencies, they:  

  • prepare for emergencies by identifying, mitigating and managing risks  
  • prevent emergencies and support the development of tools necessary during outbreaks 
  • detect and respond to acute health emergencies 
  • support delivery of essential health services in fragile settings. 

For health and well-being they:  

  • address social determinants  
  • promote intersectoral approaches for health  
  • prioritize health in all policies and healthy settings 

Through our work, they address:  

  • human capital across the life-course  
  • non-communicable diseases prevention 
  • mental health promotion  
  • climate change in small island developing states  
  • antimicrobial resistance  
  • elimination and eradication of high-impact communicable diseases. 

Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019−2023 

The Thirteenth General Programme of Work (GPW 13) defines WHO’s strategy for the five-year period, 2019-2023. It focuses on measurable impacts on people’s health at the country level.

WHO’s the mission to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable is linked to  three bold targets: 

  • One billion more people to benefit from universal health coverage 
  • One billion more people better protected from health emergencies 
  • One billion more people enjoying better health and well-being 


  • They support the Member States as they coordinate the efforts of multiple sectors of the government and partners – including bi- and multilateral, funds and foundations, civil society organizations and private sector – to attain their health objectives and support their national health policies and strategies. 


World Health Assembly 
  • The Health Assembly is composed of delegates representing Members. 
  • Each Member is represented by not more than three delegates, one of whom is designated by the Member as chief delegate. 
  • These delegates are chosen from among persons most qualified by their technical competence in the field of health, preferably representing the national health administration of the Member. 
  • The Health Assembly meets in regular annual sessions and sometimes in special sessions as well. 
  • The Health Assembly determines the policies of the Organization. 
  • It supervises the financial policies of the Organization and reviews and approves the budget. 
  • It reports to the Economic and Social Council in accordance with any agreement between the Organization and the United Nations. 
The Secretariat 
  • The Secretariat comprises the Director-General and such technical and administrative staff as the Organization may require. 
  • The Director-General is appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the  Board on such terms as the Health Assembly may determine. 
Membership and Associate Membership 
  • Members of the United Nations may become Members of the Organization.
  • Territories or groups of territories which are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations may be admitted as Associate Members by the Health Assembly. 
  • The head of the organization is the Director-General, elected by the World Health  Assembly. 
  • The term lasts for 5 years, and Directors-General is typically appointed in May when the Assembly meets.  
  • The current Director-General is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was appointed  on 1 July 2017 

Global institutions 

  • Apart from regional, country and liaison offices, the World Health Assembly has also established other institutions for promoting and carrying on research.  
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

This blog pertains to UPSC papers on GS 2, International Organisation, Political Science optional paper 2 and Essay Type Question. Also, do check our previous blogs on various topics. Subscribe today so that you don’t miss out on any important topics.

Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor