World Health Organization

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World Health Organization

World Health Organization (WHO), specialized agency of the United Nations, established in 1948, with its headquarters at Geneva. WHO admits all sovereign states (including those not belonging to the United Nations) to full membership, and it admits territories that are not self-governing to associate membership. There are 193 member nations. WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, consisting of representatives of the entire membership, which meets once a year in Geneva; an executive board of 34 health experts elected by the World Health Assembly; and a secretariat headed by a director-general. There are regional organizations in Africa, the E Mediterranean, SE Asia, Europe, the W Pacific, and the Americas. WHO is authorized to issue global health alerts and take other measures to prevent the international spread of health threats. The agency worked to eradicate smallpox, has made notable strides in checking polio, leprosy, cholera, malaria, and tuberculosis, has taken the lead within the UN community on matters related to HIV/AIDS, and sponsors medical research on tropical and other diseases. WHO also has drafted conventions for preventing the international spread of disease, such as sanitary and quarantine requirements, and for reducing smoking, and has given attention to the problems of environmental pollution.


See C. F. Brockington, World Health (1958); M. C. Morgan, Doctors to the World (1958); G. Mikes, The Riches of the Poor: A Journey Round the World Health Organization (1988); P. Wood, ed., World Health Organization; A Brief Summary of Its Work (1989); J. Siddiqi, World Health and World Politics (1995); G. L. Burci and C.-H. Vignes, World Health Organization (2004); K. Lee, The World Health Organization (2008).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

World Health Organization


(WHO), a specialized agency of the United Nations that has as its objective “the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health” (art. 1 of the WHO constitution). On Jan. 1, 1971, WHO had 128 member states and three associate members. It was founded on Apr. 7, 1948, when its constitution was ratified by 26 states, members of the UN. The day is celebrated each year as World Health Day. WHO organizes campaigns for the eradication of disease (for example, international campaigns for the elimination of malaria and smallpox). In addition, it helps various countries to combat infectious and noninfectious diseases, conducts international work in the fields of quarantine and epidemiological inspection, controls the quality of pharmaceutical preparations and narcotics, develops international standards for medicines, and so forth. WHO organizes and carries out scientific research work and establishes information centers based on national scientific research institutions, and it organizes scientific conferences, meetings, and symposia, as well as the education and training of scientific medical workers. The organization is also active in improving health services in less developed countries and in training national medical personnel.

On the initiative of the USSR, resolutions were adopted on the tasks of WHO in connection with the adoption of the UN declaration on granting independence to colonial countries and peoples (1961), the resolution on the protection of man-kind against atomic radiation (1961), and on the tasks of WHO in connection with the adoption of the resolution on general and complete disarmament (1960). WHO is organized on a regional basis. It includes six regional committees, whose executive organs are the regional offices: the European regional committee (office in Copenhagen, Denmark), the African committee (office in Brazzaville, People’s Republic of the Congo), the Eastern Mediterranean regional committee (office at Alexandria, the Arab Republic of Egypt), the Southeast Asia committee (office in New Delhi, India), the Western Pacific regional committee (office in Manila, the Philippines), and the regional committee for the Americas (office in Washington, D. C., USA).

The highest organ of WHO is the World Health Assembly, which meets annually. The Assembly determines the policies and programs of WHO, appoints its director general, and examines and approves long-term and annual work plans, budget, and questions of admission to WHO, deprivation of the right to vote, service rights, and collaboration with other organizations. The other governing body of WHO is the Executive Board, which consists of 24 persons chosen by the same number of member states and elected to three-year terms by the World Health Assembly. The Executive Board has the power to adopt emergency measures in the case of matters that demand immediate action, such as the outbreak of epidemics, natural disasters, and so forth. The central administrative organ of WHO is a secretariat, which has its seat in Geneva and is headed by a director general (since 1953, M. Candau of Brazil). On Jan. 1, 1971, the staff, including personnel in the field, numbered 4,750. WHO’s activities are mainly financed from its regular budget, which consists of contributions from member nations. In addition, it is financed by a voluntary fund for health promotion, established in 1960 and consisting of voluntary contributions made by the member states of WHO, the UN Development Program, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The total sum available to WHO in 1970 was US $112 million.


Pervye desiat’ let VOZ. Moscow, 1963. (Translation.)
The Second Ten Years of the WHO (1958-1967). Geneva, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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