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  Weekly Feature: (June 12, 2003)

The World Health Organization
Pat's Weekly Feature



Recently, we have heard a lot about the World Health Organization in the news in connection with SARS. In an effort to control the spread of SARS, the WHO has provided daily updates on its Web site, travel advisories regarding international travel, coordination of scientific and medical experts, and sharing of information between countries. On June 17 and 18, 2003, the WHO will hold a Global Conference on SARS in Malaysia, where experts and public health practitioners will meet to discuss how the world can work on controlling SARS.

The WHO was around a long time before the SARS outbreak. This organization actually began in April, 1948 as a United Nations agency. Governed by 192 member states, the WHO was created to “ensure the highest level of health for all people.” Meetings are held once a year in Geneva to make important decisions regarding worldwide diseases.

In an effort to reduce diseases around the world, the WHO has an important role. With the help of other agencies such as UNICEF , poor countries receive help to control serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, polio, cholera, yellow fever, and malaria. Vaccination programs are also important in helping to reduce many communicable diseases in these countries.

When emergency help is needed because of war or natural disasters, the WHO becomes involved. For example, the WHO is now providing emergency medical help for the people of Iraq and victims of floods in Sri Lanka.

In May, 2003, the WHO also became involved in trying to control disease and death related to smoking. Approximately 5 million people throughout the world die every year from smoking related diseases. As a result, an international treaty has been organized to control tobacco advertising, protect people from second hand smoke, and increase taxes on tobacco.

For more information on the World Health Organization, including SARS and a map showing different health risks in countries around the world, click on this link to their Web site: World Health Organization

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