The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized branch of the United Nations (UN) concerned with public health. It was established on April 7, 1948, following a declaration calling for an international conference on health. The origins of the WHO can be traced to the International Sanitary Conferences, which was established in 1851 to combat diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, and the bubonic plague. At the beginning of the 20th century, more health organizations were formed to combat pandemics. In 1920, the Health Organization was formed as part of the League of Nations to promote international integration. After the end of the Second World War, the UN unified all the health organizations under the umbrella of the World Health Organization. The organization recognizes its establishment annually on April 7 through the commemoration of the World Health Day.
The World Health Organization headquarters are located in Geneva, which is the largest city in Switzerland. The WHO building is located at the end of Avenue Appia, three kilometers from the town center and about one and a half kilometers from the Palais des Nations, which is home to the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). It serves as the operation office for the WHO Secretariat and the Executive Board, who meet annually to deliberate on the progress of matters relating to international public health. Switzerland was chosen as the headquarters since it is a neutral country in most world affairs. The fact that it did not participate in the Second World War made it a safe haven for officials from all over the world.
Moreover, Switzerland has a well-established service industry conventional in the lines of hospitality, transport, and banking, thus providing exceptional services to diplomats. Since the country lacks the advantage of agriculture and manufacturing due to its geographic location, the government has made efforts in promoting the service industry to sustain its economy.
Role of the WHO
During its establishment, the WHO was given the mandate to promote the accomplishment of the highest possible levels of health for all people worldwide. Through the WHO Secretariat, the organization establishes priorities aimed at helping the Executive Board meet its goals, which are reviewed every five years. The 2014-19 goals aim to increase access to essential medical products, assisting countries establish capacity towards meeting universal health coverage, addressing the role of social, economic, and environmental factors in public health, and ensuring public health goals are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The WHO has sponsored various processes aimed at eradicating and controlling epidemic and endemic diseases, such as global campaigns for vaccination, use of antibiotics, improved diagnostic procedures, and public health education for rural communities. Campaign efforts have been successful in the fight against malaria, aids, tuberculosis, and smallpox. To promote its work, the WHO updates member countries on the latest developments in research for cancer, disease prevention, and control of drug abuse, drug development, vaccine use, and health hazards of chemical substances.