The World Health Organization (WHO) - Purposes

WHO's main functions can be summed up as follows: to act as a directing and coordinating authority on international health work, to ensure valid and productive technical cooperation, and to promote research.

The objective of WHO is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health, as defined in the WHO Constitution, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In support of its main objective, the organization has a wide range of functions, including the following:

  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work;
  • To promote technical cooperation;
  • To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services;
  • To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid, upon the request or acceptance of Governments;
  • To stimulate and advance work on the prevention and control of epidemic, endemic, and other diseases;
  • To promote, in cooperation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions, and other aspects of environmental hygiene;
  • To promote and coordinate biomedical and health services research;
  • To promote improved standards of teaching and training in the health, medical and related professions;
  • To establish and stimulate the establishment of international standards for biological, pharmaceutical, and similar products, and to standardize diagnostic procedures;
  • To foster activities in the field of mental health, especially those activities affecting the harmony of human relations.

WHO also proposes conventions, agreements, and regulations and makes recommendations about international nomenclature of diseases, causes of death, and public health practices. It develops, establishes, and promotes international standards concerning foods and biological, pharmaceutical, and similar substances.

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