Reforming the World Health Organization

Authored by: Yanzhong Huang , Gabriella Meltzer

Routledge Handbook on the Politics of Global Health

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138238596
eBook ISBN: 9781315297255
Adobe ISBN:


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The World Health Organization (WHO) was established in 1948 to ensure ‘the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health’ (WHO, 2006, p. 2). Over the past seven decades, the organisation has made significant achievements towards fulfilling this lofty goal. Yet from the outset, the resources and capabilities at the organisation’s disposal have been incommensurate with the scope and scale of the challenges it has sought to address. The discrepancy between the WHO’s mandate and capacities has become even more glaring with the rise of additional global health challenges over the past three decades, including HIV and AIDS, pandemic influenza, and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). WHO is striving to tackle these challenges, but its leading role in global health continues to be undermined by problems of prioritisation, underfunding, leadership, and internal and global governance issues, all of which set the context for reforming the organisation.

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