Why the World — and the U.S. — Needs the WHO

With a mandate to advance global population health, the WHO’s reach is far, wide, and effective. And with U.S. influence within the WHO, other countries — especially in the developing world — have more capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats. In a globalized world, this enhances the health security of Americans and our country’s economic and trade interests.

That’s why there is such widespread support for the WHO from groups as varied as clinicians to the Chamber of Commerce.

Here are a few more reasons to back the world’s largest global health body.

The World Health Organization Keeps Us Safe

Click an item on the right to see how the WHO leads global health surveillance and operations.

  • Technical Assistance

    With a presence in over 150 countries and the trust of governments around the world, the WHO is uniquely positioned to both collect new evidence emerging from anywhere in the world and use it to develop, refine, and disseminate technical and normative guidance essential to battling COVID-19 and a suite of other diseases.

    In fact, from the outset of COVID-19, the WHO emphasized the primacy of testing, isolation, and contact tracing, making clear it should be the backbone of the global response. The WHO distributed million of tests, which research shows was essential to reducing mortality.

  • Clinical Trials

    The WHO is the only agency in the world capable of coordinating unprecedented global trials on therapeutics and vaccines, including the groundbreaking scope of the Solidarity Trial, with more than 100 countries participating. As important, the Solidarity Trial will reduce the amount of time it normally takes for a drug trial to determine effectiveness by 80%.

  • Health Communications

    The WHO is the only organization with the technical expertise and capacity, global membership, credibility, access, and trust to launch pandemic and disease awareness campaigns throughout the world. Billions of people have access to WHO’s evidence-based information in dozens of languages.

  • Health Supplies

    At least 133 countries rely on the WHO to globally procure millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and other vital health commodities like tests and testing supplies, including more than 4.5 million items of vital PPE.

  • Health Equity and Access

    Only the WHO is working to preposition manufacturing capacity and distribution channels to ensure less resourced countries and vulnerable populations have access to vaccines and treatments as quickly as possible and at a fair price.

  • Health Engagement

    The WHO has a particularly important role to play in helping poorer countries fight disease and epidemics. Out-of-control outbreaks in the developing world threaten the U.S. and could spark multiple waves of disease.

  • Partnerships

    Global partnerships and U.S. leadership within the WHO ensure that nations cannot simply go it alone to advance policies that are inconsistent with U.S. interests or global health. U.S. leadership has also facilitated vital dialogue and collaboration between the WHO and U.S. civil society and the private sector, making sure a range of American perspectives are taken into account in setting global health policies.

  • Trends

    The WHO has consistently stated its readiness to support independent investigations — including into the origins of COVID-19 and the agency’s global health response — in an effort to learn more and improve the organization’s role in future health emergencies. As a member-state organization, the World Health Assembly is the appropriate forum to raise resolutions that guide the actions of the health body based on the consensus of the group.

  • Prevention

    The world — and the U.S. — needs the WHO to keep disease at bay. Without the WHO, the world would experience a surge in polio cases. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is embedded in WHO and has decreased the number of wild poliovirus cases by 99.9% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to just 176 in 2019. WHO leads surveillance, immunization, and technical support, and is able to reach remote areas in countries where polio still exists.

    Moreover, the world would compromise the global infectious disease early warning system. Early detection allows countries to stop disease outbreaks at their source before they spread farther and become deadlier and more expensive to contain.

    The U.S. would also lose access to influenza data that protects Americans. Since 2004, the U.S. has helped build a global network of WHO flu centers, buying lab equipment, and training scientists. The centers in more than 100 countries collect samples from sick people, isolate the viruses, and search for any new viruses that could cause an epidemic or pandemic. The CDC houses one of five WHO Collaborating Centers that collect these virus samples, while the FDA runs one of the four WHO regulatory labs that help vaccine makers determine the correct amount of antigen, which triggers the immune response, to include in vaccines.

    And the WHO bolsters PEPFAR. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was started by President Bush with bipartisan support in 2003. PEPFAR relies on and helps countries implement WHO’s treatment guidelines for HIV/AIDS, including using the WHO infrastructure for lab capacity, prevention of mother to child transmission, TB/HIV, and health systems strengthening.