World Health Organization

IJ Akre, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the intergovernmental organization within the United Nations (UN) system that acts as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work. It performs its functions through three principal bodies—the World Health Assembly, the Executive Board, and the Secretariat. The objective of WHO, which has 191 member states, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. While its headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland, the organization is decentralized in six regions, each with its own regional committee and regional office. WHO's regular budget—US$842 654 000 for the biennium 1998-1999—is augmented by voluntary contributions, which are roughly equivalent to regular budget levels. WHO works closely with and through others, including other agencies of the UN system, nongovernmental organizations, and collaborating centres around the world in numerous disciplines. In restructuring its programs in the mid-1990s in the face of resource constraints, WHO decided to place emphasis on meeting the most pressing health needs. In seeking to prevent and overcome malnutrition, WHO promotes the tailoring of approaches to fit circumstances. While the rapidly increasing threat of noncommunicable diseases accounts for at least 40% of all deaths in developing countries and 75% in industrialized countries, many millions still cannot meet basic needs for energy and protein, are deficient in essential micronutrients, or are severely malnourished. Thus, coordinated action is called for on both fronts. Consistent with the unique normative, scientific, and advisory role that WHO has played for the last half century, the organization strives to support all its member states in developing food and nutrition policies that will make healthy choices the easy choices for their populations.

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