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What's the ideal World Health Organization (WHO)?

Wenham, Clare ORCID: 0000-0001-5378-3203 and Davies, Sara E. (2023) What's the ideal World Health Organization (WHO)? Health Economics, Policy and Law. ISSN 1744-1331

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S174413312300004X


The World Health Organization (WHO) is tasked with the ‘attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health’, yet, it is widely struggling to meet this mandate, and COVID-19 has revealed significant limitations of the organisation. Despite clear guidance provided by the institution as to how best to respond to the pathogen, many governments departed from WHO's guidance in their response efforts. Is this a new crisis for WHO? Does WHO need to restore its legitimacy in the eyes of the global community? As renewed calls for changes to WHO emerge, in this perspective we lay out the obstacles WHO face to become the WHO ‘we’ need. The assumption is that UN member states need an empowered and well-funded organisation. Yet, many years of discussion of reform of WHO have failed to lead to meaningful change, and glaring challenges remain in its financing, governance and politics, which are considered in turn. The reality may be that we have the WHO that UN member states need – one that can provide guidance and advice, but also take criticism for health governance failures when states want to avoid blame or responsibility. We discuss this, by analysing three key areas of WHO'S challenges: mandate and scope; structure, governance and money and domestic vs international.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2023 10:12
Last Modified: 09 May 2023 23:18

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