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The WHO Must Reform for Its Own Health

Authors: Tikki Pang, National University of Singapore, and Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
May 4, 2012
Nature Medicine

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The World Health Organization was born in the bifurcated Cold War world in 1948, and every aspect of its charter, mission and organizational structure was molded by diplomatic tensions between NATO and the USSR. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the new emerging market superpowers, the WHO finds itself trying to straddle a global dynamic for which it was not designed.

Indeed, the WHO now finds itself marginalized in a crowded global health landscape characterized by poor coordination among multiple players. It is no longer the only major actor. At the same time, it faces an internal crisis, with major budget shortfalls and staff layoffs that have resulted in the organization embarking on the most radical reforms in its 64-year history1. But the changes do not go far enough. A recent dialogue on WHO reform that we participated in, held by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in February, identified several key challenges that should be addressed by the agency.

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