The World Health Organization (WHO) is the UN's governing and coordinating body for the health sector. Its goal is to improve people's health worldwide. Switzerland is a founding member of the WHO and hosts the organisation's headquarters in Geneva.
World Health Organization – WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides leadership on global health matters, is responsible for shaping the health research agenda and sets standards on what is good for people's health and what poses a threat to health. The UN's member states translate these standards into binding laws. The WHO develops empirically based policy strategies and provides technical support to countries to help them meet their national health goals. It also coordinates emergency responses in the event of health emergencies. In addition, it contributes to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
For the SDC, supporting the WHO is a major priority because of the organisation's work to ensure that everyone is entitled to the highest standards of healthcare and well-being, including the poorest and most vulnerable people in low-income countries and/or in health emergencies.
Good health is a prerequisite for sustainable development as well as an indicator and a result of it. People who enjoy good health are able to pursue an education, work and provide for themselves and their families. People suffering from ill health struggle with all sorts of difficulties, and their families and communities fall behind in social and economic development.
International cooperation in the field of health is vitally important because health threats are transnational and require global solutions, for example to fight communicable diseases like SARS or Ebola. Epidemics often originate in regions and countries with weak health systems. Therefore, the WHO's core task is to steer and coordinate international cooperation in the health sector. The WHO takes a comprehensive systemic approach, encompassing areas such as health throughout the life cycle, non-communicable and communicable diseases, health preparedness planning, monitoring and response.
The WHO's goals
In its five-year strategic plan for 2019–23, the WHO has set a 'triple-billion target' to be achieved by 2023:
- One billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage
- One billion more people better protected from health emergencies
- One billion more people enjoying better health and well-being by 2023
The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR): TDR is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate, support and influence efforts to combat diseases of poverty. It is hosted at the WHO, and is sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the WHO.
The WHO's Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP): the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction is the main instrument within the United Nations system for research on human reproduction, bringing together policymakers, scientists, healthcare providers, clinicians, consumers and community representatives to identify and address priorities for research to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Through its partnership with the WHO, Switzerland helps to strengthen health systems worldwide and minimises Switzerland's vulnerability to global health risks. The WHO's priorities are consistent with the strategic aims of the Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017–20, in which health is a central issue.
Through its cooperation with the WHO, Switzerland aims to:
- Increase coherence in the global health sector, with the WHO coordinating the work of different actors in order to make an effective contribution to improving the health of all people worldwide and achieve health-related goals for sustainable development.
- Promote social innovation and develop national and regional research capabilities in countries affected by tropical diseases and diseases of poverty.
- Support public health programmes focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights which can feed into national and international policies.
- Promote national emergency mechanisms supported by the WHO's well-funded and effective Health Emergencies Programme.
Through its active involvement in the WHO's governing bodies, Switzerland influences the strategic direction of the WHO. Switzerland also participates in the governing bodies of the WHO's two special programmes in line with their thematic priorities of sexual and reproductive health and communicable diseases.
As an active member of the governing bodies, Switzerland:
- has been a strong advocate of reforming the WHO's emergency relief operations. For example, Swiss Humanitarian Aid is currently supporting the WHO's efforts to document all attacks on health personnel, patients and health facilities.
- has played an active role in the HRP Policy Coordination Committee in order to enhance the dissemination of research results and verified findings at country level, put the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people on the agenda, promote Zika-related research and improve the committee's working methods.
- has participated in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, in particular through its involvement in various committees and by providing empirical findings from bilateral programmes for the formulation of NCD-related policies.
- played a key role in the creation of the Global Health Observatory and the establishment of a WHO Expert Committee on Health Research and Development to support efforts to combat diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries.
In addition to its assessed contribution, Switzerland made the following core voluntary contributions for the period 2017–19:
- CHF 7.5 million for the WHO
- CHF 4.95 million for the TDR Programme
- CHF 3.75 million for the HRP Programme
Thanks to its extensive expertise in the health sector, Switzerland is well placed to help advance the WHO's global health dialogue: Switzerland boasts numerous innovative pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology companies and renowned public research institutions, many of which are accredited as WHO collaborating centres. The quality of Switzerland's health system is among the highest in the world and many of its innovative approaches to healthcare are relevant to other countries. Furthermore, a large majority of international health organisations are based in Geneva
International cooperation: a vocation
The WHO is headquartered in Geneva. 40 short films about people working in UN agencies in Geneva.
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