What is the World Health Organization?

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The World Health Organization is an international organization dedicated to improving the health of people all over the world through education, aid work, & research.

Who is the WHO? (For once, I’m not talking about the rock opera writing, legendary band!) The World Health Organization is a massive organization that brings together groups from all over the world including:

  • researchers
  • scientists
  • bankers (including the World Bank)
  • governmental agencies
  • medical professionals
  • and many more people

The WHO aims to address all aspects of human health, both mental and physical. They hold the belief that “Everyone should have access to the health services they need without being forced into poverty when paying for them.” And, you may already know about them because of their work with Ebola and Zika in 2016. 

However, they run programs all over the world combatting just about any disease or health-related problem you could possibly think of. Their work includes:

They also study and standardize medicine usage for many diseases, publish educational resources, and keep a list of current medications here.

The World Health Organization is active in over 150 countries. World Health Day, an effort to raise awareness for health initiatives, is on April 7th.

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Lupus & the World Health Organization

The WHO doesn’t research lupus specifically. But, they do have current focuses on chronic pain and fatigue. In a fact sheet on musculoskeletal conditions, they describe major pain as an issue that: “reduc[es] people’s ability to work and participate in social roles with associated impacts on mental wellbeing, and at a broader level impacts on the prosperity of communities.” 

The fact sheet also highlights osteoarthritis, back and neck pain, fractures, and injuries as well as systemic inflammatory conditions that affect  “multiple body areas or systems, such as regional and widespread pain disorders and inflammatory diseases such as connective tissue diseases and vasculitis that have musculoskeletal manifestations,” such as systemic lupus erythematosus.

When it comes to lupus in particular, the World Health Organization has also published focused reports. They often push for standardization when possible, using their clout and reach as an international organization.

Their work supports the research and development of biosimilar medications that are used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases. Type-1 Interferon (Anifrolumab) is one such medication, and more are in the process of being researched for use with lupus.

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The Start of the World Health Organization

Though it was founded in 1948, the WHO sprung from the International Sanitary Conference (ISC) which began in 1851. The ISC was a massive cooperative effort between medical administrators, doctors, and scientists across nations and cultures. They explored how disease spreads, progresses, and how it can be treated. 

The diseases of focus at the time were primarily cholera and the plague. Poor understanding of medicine and poor communication of findings allowed the diseases to spread. It also caused deaths because of poor or inconsistent medical treatment practices. Many of the care practices of the earlier era have not stood up to the rigor of structured testing. Doctors used to drink on the job to help prevent diseases, a common belief at the time!

The ISC allowed medical professionals and researchers to:

  • come together
  • pool their resources
  • track the spread of diseases
  • share findings
  • standardize medical care

The WHO took the basic functions of the ISC and modernized it into a truly global engine for change. They work to educate the public, support sanitation, and pursue health efforts. The WHO also targets the “social determinants of health” in particular: the effects of poverty, inequality, prejudice, and trauma on physical and mental health.

According to its Wikipedia page, “The use of the word “world”, rather than “international”, emphasized the truly global nature of what the organization was seeking to achieve.”

The organization recently re-assessed its emergency medicine practices in response to the 2016 Ebola epidemic and continues to update itself to match the needs of the world. 

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