I traveled to Delhi early this year to meet with government officials, scholars and leaders of nongovernmental organizations to explore India's engagement in global health. To my surprise, many in India still viewed the World Health Organization as primarily an operating agency, and did not regard it as highly as they did the World Bank or the Gates Foundation.
The W.H.O.'s image in India epitomizes the awkward status of the agency in an altered global health landscape. As global power shifts toward emerging economies including the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — they are also grappling with new health challenges. Because of changes in diet, lifestyle, urbanization and lack of exercise, they face a growing threat of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. China, Russia, India and Brazil lose more than 20 million productive life years annually to noncommunicable conditions, according to the World Economic Forum.