WHO reforms to better promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a wide-ranging reorganisation to modernise how it delivers on its role as 'the world's leading authority on public health'.

With a new mission statement to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable, the changes to the WHO's processes and structures are designed to support countries in achieving the objectives of its strategic plan for the next five years: one billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage (UHC); one billion more people better protected from health emergencies; and one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stresses that the changes are "about changing the DNA of the organisation to deliver a measurable impact in the lives of the people we serve. Our vision remains the same as it was when we were founded in 1948: the highest attainable standard of health for all people. But the world has changed."

A key element in the reforms is the new Department of Digital Health, which will support countries to assess, integrate, regulate and maximise the opportunities of digital technologies and artificial intelligence. The WHO has already harnessed digital health technologies, for example in two recently released mobile apps that enable people to check their hearing, and another to prevent medication errors.

The WHO recognises that these initiatives are not sufficiently coordinated: different people in different parts of the organisation working on different digital health projects. However, it recognises that it has a unrivalled global reach and a unique mandate to scale health innovations. The Innovation Hub which was established at the end of 2018 will provide training to foster a culture of innovation, and will help innovative products and services that have the potential to improve the health of millions to be considered and, if appropriate, recommended by WHO. Using its position as a trusted advisor to governments, it will support countries in scaling and sustaining evidence-based innovations.