The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948. The WHO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health Organization, which had been an agency of the League of Nations.
The WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. The WHO is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
The WHO coordinates international efforts to monitor outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as SARS, malaria, swine flu, and AIDS. The WHO also sponsors programs to prevent and treat such diseases. The WHO supports the development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, pharmaceutical diagnostics, and drugs. In 1980, after over 2 decades of fighting smallpox, the WHO declared that the disease had been eradicated as the first disease in history to be eliminated by human effort.
The WHO and its regional offices are working to develop regional policies on research for health. Moreover, the WHO aims to eradicate polio within the next few years. It also carries out various health-related campaigns such as, to boost the consumption of fruits and vegetables worldwide and to discourage tobacco use. The WHO also promotes the development of capacities in Member States to use and produce research that addresses national needs, by promoting knowledge translation platforms such as the Evidence Informed Policy Network.