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South Afr Polit Econ Mon. 1994 Mar;7(6):27-9.

Should we re-invent WHO, or bury it?



By restructuring the World Health Organization (WHO) and instituting some basic changes in policy priorities, the effectiveness of the organization would be increased. Instead of assigning resources to combating the health-related issues of individual choice which exist in rich nations, such as wearing seat belts, smoking, or consuming alcohol, WHO should concentrate its funding on developing countries which continue to suffer from preventable diseases like cholera, typhoid, and malaria. Providing public health assistance to third-world countries was the original mission of WHO, but the organization was given great flexibility when it was set-up. Therefore, while WHO dollars address such issues as the medical effects of nuclear war or developing essential drug lists for circumpolar regions, people in developing nations die from preventable communicable diseases. Like other large bureaucracies, WHO is mired in a cycle of "talk, talk, talk," instead of simply tackling the problems which are pressing and evident. The resources devoted to endless meetings, conventions, and coordinating sessions prove that talk is no longer cheap, and WHO must respond positively to the demands of its poorer member states that it reorient its efforts to help those who really need help. WHO's scarce resources can no longer be stretched to fund "fashionable" issues in countries which have already achieved a longer life span and better health than is possible for citizens of African nations. By abolishing its European office and programs, WHO could increase the country budget for Africa by two-thirds. Proper use of its 1994-95 budget of approximately US $1.8 billion would go a long way towards fulfilling the goal of vaccinating every child in the world against the major childhood diseases. Instead of continuing to help those who can help themselves, WHO should direct its efforts to saving lives in the Third World.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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