Improving Health, for 75 Years

7 April 2023, World Health Day – the World Health Organization celebrates its 75th anniversary

WHO 75 years

Founded shortly after the world had been on the brink of destruction, the World Health Organization has set on a transformative path to value all human lives, through health as a fundamental right for every human being – image: World Health Organization

The editorial team – In 1948, the countries of the world came together and founded WHO with the goal of promoting the health of populations, safeguarding global security and caring for people in vulnerable situations so that everyone, everywhere can enjoy the highest possible level of health and well-being.

WHO’s 75th anniversary is also an opportunity to look back at the progress that has been made to improve people’s lives over seven decades. See the video below and visit the WHO dedicated website.

Major public health issues

WHO plays a crucial role in all issues related to global public health and ensuring that all people are born, grow, work, live and age in good health. This is reflected in the organization’s commitment to prevent, mitigate and stop the spread of deadly infections, such as polio and dracunculiasis, a grave parasitic infection. WHO’s work also includes protecting populations from pandemics: over the past decades, the organization has been at the forefront of emergencies: cholera, SARS, avian influenza and COVID-19.

WHO’s mandate does not end there: it regularly publishes policies and guidelines to improve public health; it engages in immunization programmes that now prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases; it is at the forefront of addressing the growing health risks associated with climate change, including the development of more resilient and sustainable health systems and structures. Finally, the organization plays a central role in promoting gender mainstreaming and the inclusion of people with disabilities at the global level.

Addictions: still a long way to go before it is considered a global public health issue

The “war on drugs” policies pursued by most countries only harm the health and well-being of the people concerned while wasting resources and failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs or the drug markets. These policies, most of which are gender-blind, also have a profoundly negative impact on people in highly vulnerable situations.

Everyone concerned has the right to benefit from proven interventions. However, coverage of such services remains very low or they are not easily accessible, because of the stereotypes associated with drug use, and because it is still seen as a legal, or even criminal, problem above all.

As emphasized in the UN System Common Position on Drug Policy, drug use and dependence should not be treated as a criminal issue, but as a health issue to be addressed through rights-based measures, including public health education, provision of mental health treatment, care and support services, and rehabilitation and transition/reintegration programmes.

In a call on the occasion of World Day against Drugs and Illicit Trafficking, 26 June 2022, a group of UN human rights experts collectively called on Member States and UN agencies “to base their drug policy responses on international human rights law and standards”.

Therefore, in Dianova, on the occasion of World Health Day, we affirm that international organizations involved in drug control must make a strong commitment to promote policies that protect and support the rights of communities affected by the global drug phenomenon, from a public health perspective based on respect for human rights.

The World Health Organization plays a crucial role in safeguarding and promoting the health and well-being of people worldwide, and is the only organization entirely dedicated to this goal. Therefore, on behalf of Dianova, we urge civil society and all national and international stakeholders to support its work.