What Does the World Health Organization Do?

The World Health Organization’s mission is to improve the quality of human life and health by carrying out programs to control and eradicate disease. It serves as a direct and coordinating authority for international health efforts.

Specific duties of the World Health Organization include promoting technical cooperation, responding to government requests for assistance in strengthening health services, providing technical assistance and emergency aid, and advancing work on the prevention and control of endemic diseases. The organization also works to promote a wide range of health practices such as nutrition, sanitation, research, standards and diagnostic procedures. It assists in development by providing guidance on health policy and resource allocation, promoting poverty reduction as a means of health improvement, and working with both governments and development partners such as international banks.

As of 2014, the organization has 191 member states that meet annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Though the WHO is recognized as an international health authority and trusted partner, its budget is small relative to organizations such as the World Bank and has not grown in real terms since the early 1980s. This puts more of an organizational emphasis on advisory functions and coordination, rather than direct emergency response and supply of material aid.