[WORLDKINGS] On this day -April 7, 2023 – The 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization’s establishment (1948)


(Worldkings.org) One of the original institutions founded by the United Nations, WHO has as its mission the “attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) was established by the United Nations to act as an international coordinating authority on April 7, 1948. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO succeeded the role of the Health Organization, its predecessor under the League of Nations.


During the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization, Szeming Sze, a delegate from China, conferred with Norwegian and Brazilian delegates on creating an international health organization under the auspices of the new United Nations. After failing to get a resolution passed on the subject, Alger Hiss, the secretary general of the conference, recommended using a declaration to establish such an organization.

Sze and other delegates lobbied and a declaration passed calling for an international conference on health.  The use of the word "world", rather than "international", emphasized the truly global nature of what the organization was seeking to achieve.  The constitution of the World Health Organization was signed by all 51 countries of the United Nations, and by 10 other countries, on 22 July 1946.  It thus became the first specialized agency of the United Nations to which every member subscribed.  

Its constitution formally came into force on the first World Health Day on April 7, 1948, when it was ratified by the 26th member state.


The first meeting of the World Health Assembly finished on 24 July 1948, having secured a budget of US$5 million (then £1,250,000) for the 1949 year. G. Brock Chisholm was appointed director-general of the WHO, having served as executive secretary and a founding member during the planning stages, while Andrija Štampar was the assembly's first president.

Its first priorities were to control the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, and to improve maternal and child health, nutrition and environmental hygiene.  Its first legislative act was concerning the compilation of accurate statistics on the spread and morbidity of disease.  The logo of the World Health Organization features the Rod of Asclepius as a symbol for healing.


The WHO has played a leading role in several public health achievements, most notably the eradication of smallpox, the near-eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, Ebola, COVID-19, malaria and tuberculosis; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer; healthy diet, nutrition, and food security; occupational health; and substance abuse.


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