About Us

Better health for everyone, everywhere

We are building a better, healthier future for people all over the world.

Working with 194 Member States, across six regions, and from more than 150 offices, WHO staff are united in a shared commitment to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.

Together we strive to combat diseases – communicable diseases like influenza and HIV, and noncommunicable diseases like cancer and heart disease.

We help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy old age. We ensure the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need.

Good health is a precious thing. When we are healthy we can learn, work, and support ourselves and our families. When we are sick, we struggle, and our families and communities fall behind.

That’s why the World Health Organization is needed. Working with 194 Member States, across six regions, and from more than 150 offices, WHO staff are united in a shared commitment to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.

Our guiding principle

The principle that all people should enjoy the highest standard of health, regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition, has guided WHO’s work for the past 70 years, since it was first set up as the lead agency for international health in the new United Nations system.

Over the years, people have come together to reiterate and reinforce this principle — for example in the Declaration of Alma-Ata in 1978, which set the aspirational goal of health for all. It remains front and centre today, in the drive for universal health coverage.

Producing standards

From the very beginning, WHO has brought together the world’s top health experts to produce international reference materials and to make recommendations to bring better health to people throughout the world. 

These range from the International Classification of Diseases, which enables all countries to use a common standard for reporting diseases and identifying health trends, to the WHO Essential Medicines List — a guide for countries on the key medicines that a national health system needs.

WHO’s work has led to global standards for air and water quality, so important in a world where pollution is an increasing threat to our health; safe and effective vaccines and medicines, thanks to its prequalification programme; and height and weight charts for children, to guide health professionals and parents in helping young people grow up healthy and strong. It has also led to guidelines and advice on preventing and treating health conditions ranging from asthma and hepatitis to malnutrition and Zika.

Making a difference on the ground

But WHO doesn’t just make recommendations – it helps countries use them to keep more people healthy. For decades, WHO staff have worked alongside governments and health professionals on the ground. In the early years, there was a strong focus on fighting infectious killers like smallpox, polio and diphtheria. The Expanded Programme on Immunization, for example, set up by WHO in the early 1970s, has, with the help of UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and others, brought lifesaving vaccines to millions of children.

In the last century, access to antibiotics, clean water and improved sanitation became powerful weapons in preventing infectious disease. A real challenge now is to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics, through a global programme to fight antimicrobial resistance, and to ensure that the entire world benefits from safe water and sanitation to prevent infections occurring in the first place. Today, access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation facilities is one of the most obvious examples of the stark divisions between rich and poor.