Leveraging the World Health Organization’s Core Strengths

The World Health Organization (WHO) was formed in 1948 to act globally as the “directing and coordinating authority on public health” to promote the “attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” Under this broad mandate, WHO has contributed to historic public health advancements, such as the eradication of smallpox, achieved in 1979, and galvanizing its members around the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which entered into force in February 2005. At present, there is a U.S. government interagency review under way on policy approaches to WHO, along with calls from independent critics to reform the body’s governing charter. On the question of whether WHO has value to U.S. global health policy and U.S. national interests, the answer, in the opinion of the authors of this paper, is decidedly yes—provided that WHO narrows its focus strategically to those activities for which it is best suited and for which it has the greatest prospects of delivering substantial value.

Margaret Reeves

Suzanne Brundage