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World Health Organization

The WHO is Composed of 193 Member Countries

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Worth Health Organization

The World Health Organization is composed of 193 member countries around the globe.

Christine Balderas/Getty Images
Updated June 18, 2014
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the world’s leading organization devoted to the improvement of the health of the world’s nearly seven billion people. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization is affiliated with the United Nations. Thousands of health experts around the world coordinate many programs to ensure that more people, and especially those living in dire poverty, have access to equitable, affordable care so that they can lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. The WHO’s endeavors have been tremendously successful, causing world life expectancy to steadily increase.

Founding of the WHO

The World Health Organization is the successor to the Health Organization of the League of Nations, which was formed in 1921, after World War I. In 1945, after World War II, the United Nations was formed. The need for a global permanent organization devoted to health became evident. A constitution about health was written, and the WHO was founded on April 7, 1948, as a specialized agency of the United Nations. Now, every April 7th is celebrated as World Health Day.

Structure of the WHO

More than 8000 people work for the WHO’s many offices around the world. The WHO is led by several boards. The World Health Assembly, composed of representatives from all member countries, is the supreme decision making body of the WHO. Every May, they approve the organization’s budget and its main priorities and research for the year. The Executive Board is composed of 34 people, primarily doctors, who advise the Assembly. The Secretariat is composed of thousands of additional medical and economic experts. The WHO is also supervised by a Director-General, who is elected every five years.

Geography of the WHO

The World Health Organization is currently composed of 193 members, of which 191 are independent countries and members of the United Nations. The other two members are the Cook Islands and Niue, which are territories of New Zealand. Interestingly, Liechtenstein is not a member of the WHO. In order to facilitate administration, WHO members are divided into six regions, each with its own “regional office” - Africa, (Brazzaville, Congo) Europe (Copenhagen, Denmark), Southeast Asia (New Delhi, India), the Americas (Washington, DC, USA), the Eastern Mediterranean (Cairo, Egypt), and the Western Pacific (Manila, Philippines). The official languages of the WHO are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and Russian.

Disease Control of the WHO

A major cornerstone of the World Health Organization is the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. The WHO investigates and treats many people who suffer from polio, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza, measles, cancer, and other diseases. The WHO has vaccinated millions of people against preventable diseases. The WHO achieved tremendous success when it treated and vaccinated millions against smallpox and declared that scourge eradicated from the world in 1980. In the last decade, the WHO worked to identify the cause of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002 and the H1N1 virus in 2009. The WHO provides antibiotics and other medications and medical supplies. The WHO ensures that more people have access to safe drinking water, better housing and sanitation systems, sterile hospitals, and trained doctors and nurses.

Promotion of Healthy and Safe Lifestyles

The WHO reminds everyone to have healthy habits such as not smoking, avoiding drugs and excessive alcohol, exercising, and healthy eating to prevent both malnutrition and obesity. The WHO helps women during pregnancy and childbirth. They work so that more women have access to prenatal care, sterile places to deliver, and contraception. The WHO also aids in injury prevention around the world, especially traffic deaths.

Numerous Additional Health Issues

The World Health Organization promises to help people improve their health and safety in several additional areas. The WHO improves dental care, emergency care, mental health, and food safety. The WHO would like a cleaner environment with fewer hazards like pollution. The WHO aids victims of natural disasters and wars. They also advise people of the precautions they should take while traveling. Aided by GIS and other technology, the WHO creates detailed maps and publications about health statistics, such as the World Health Report.

Supporters of the WHO

The World Health Organization is funded by contributions from all member countries and from donations from philanthropists, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The WHO and the United Nations work closely with other international organizations like the European Union, the African Union, the World Bank, and UNICEF.

Compassion and Expertise of the World Health Organization

For more than sixty years, the diplomatic, benevolent World Health Organization has encouraged governments to collaborate to improve the health and wellbeing of billions of people. The poorest and most vulnerable members of global society have particularly benefited from the WHO’s research and implementation of its standards. The WHO has already saved millions of lives, and it continuously looks to the future. The WHO will undoubtedly educate more people and devise more cures so that no one suffers due to imbalances of medical knowledge and wealth.
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