World Health Organization

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

World Health Organization (WHO) directs and coordinates authority for health within the United Nations (UN) system. According to its website, WHO is responsible for leadership on global health matters, health related research, agendas, standards and policies. It is also responsible for providing technical support to countries as well as assessing and monitoring health trends. [1]


The United Nations was formed in 1945, and its Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948, now celebrated as "World Health Day. "[2]


The decision-making body for the WHO is the World Health Assembly, which is made up of 34 members who are technically qualified in the field of health who are elected for three-year terms. The Assembly usually meets once a year, in May in Geneva, Switzerland, and meetings are attended by delegations from all 193 Member States.[3]

Tobacco issues

WHO tobacco control programs

The WHO established its Tobacco Free Initiative in July of 1998 to focus attention on the global burden of disease and death caused by tobacco. The WHO states that tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world, and is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). WHO predicts that itf current smoking patterns continue, about 10 million people will die each year worldwide by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco.

On August 16, 2006, the WHO partnered with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $125 million to the WHO's new Worldwide Stop Smoking Initiative, a component supporting WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global health treaty ever implemented and one of the most widely-endorsed treaties in UN history. The FCTC has now been ratified by over 130 countries. The United States, under George W. Bush, has ratified but has refused to sign onto the treaty. The FCTC requires countries to impose restrictions on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion; establish new packaging and labelling of tobacco products; establish clean indoor air controls to limit public exposure to secondhand smoke, and strengthen legislation to restrict tobacco smuggling.[4]

The WHO also sponsors World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) which falls on May 31 of each year. The objective of WNTD is to draw attention to the need to reduce tobacco consumption worldwide. Each year, WNTD focuses on one aspect of the global tobacco epidemic, for example smoking among youth, promotion of smoking in the movies or the tobacco industry's production of various forms of tobacco, such as flavored tobaccos, tobaccos marketed as "natural," the growing array of smokeless tobacco products. The WHO has published numerous free information guides to educate people about how to advance tobacco control policies. [5]

Tobacco industry opposition to WHO

Not surprisingly, the WHO's focus on reducing tobacco use, promoting stricter regulation of tobacco products and reducing secondhand smoke globally has made it a target of tobacco industry surveillance and attacks. A memo titled "Philip Morris Corporate Affairs Conference Action Plan" derived a 1988 gathering of PM executives in Boca Raton, Florida shows the company's denial of the public health role of the World Health Organization and the gravity of the global health threat caused by their tobacco products. The memo, authored by PM CEO Geoffrey C. Bible, speaks of the "extraordinary influence" the World Health Organization has on governments and consumers. Bible says, "we must find a way to diffuse this and re-orient [the WHO's] activities to their prescribed mandate." Bible further discusses how PM can use its vast resources (like technology and access to food) to influence governments to turn against the WHO:

"In addition, we need to think through how we could use our food companies, size, technology and capability with governments by helping them with their food problems and give us a more balanced profile with the government than we now have against WHO's powerful influence."

Bible also mentions that a WHO initiative, a levy on tobacco sales in Victoria and South Australia to buy out tobacco sports and cultural sponsorships, "is a very effective strategy that we must stop."[6]

A subsequent report by the PR firm Burson-Marsteller reported on its implementation of Philip Morris Boca Raton document. In it, L.C. Holcomb wrote about "countermeasures designed to contain/neutralize/re-orient the WHO" and states that the necessary resources should be allocated "to stop them [WHO programs] in their tracks." The document mentions "blunting WHO's programme initiatives," how PM could use its subsidiary food companies to influence the WHO and restrict its influence around the world. [7]

WHO and Malaria

On August 16, 2007, the World Health Organization "issued new global guidance for the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect people from malaria. For the first time, WHO recommends that insecticidal nets be long-lasting, and distributed either free or highly subsidized and used by all community members." [8]

WHO recommendations and mad cow disease

In a December of 2000 the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) described government and industry efforts to safeguard the American public from mad cow disease as "swift", "decisive" and "aggressive. [9] In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) added "diligent, vigilant and strong." [10] However, the world's authority on these diseases disagrees. Dr. Stanley Prusiner is the scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of prions, the infectious agents thought to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The word Dr. Prusiner uses to describe the efforts of the U.S. government and the cattle industry is terrible. [11] In 1996, in response to the revelation that young people in Britain were dying from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD); the human equivalent of Mad cow disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued seven recommendations. [12] Numbers 5-7 were recommendations for further research and 1-4 were concrete recommendations. The United States continues to violate all four guide lines; number one being to stop feeding animals to other animals. [13] See also meat & dairy industry, section 4.


Former personnel


World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
CH - 1211 Geneva 27
Tel.: +41 22 791 2111
Fax.: +41 22 791 3111


Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. "About WHO", World Health Organization, accessed January 2009.
  2. "History of WHO", WHO, accessed January 2009.
  3. "Governance", WHO, accessed January 2009.
  4. "An international treaty for tobacco control", WHO, August 12, 2003.
  5. "Tobacco Free Initiative", WHO, accessed January 2009.
  6. Geoffrey Bible, "Corporate Affairs Conference /Action Plan", Philip Morris, December 13, 1998. Bates No 2021596422/6432.
  7. L.C. Holcomb, "Boca Raton Action Plan: Status Report Period Ending: 891131", Philip Morris, January 31, 1989, Bates No. 2500103969/4056, page 3996.
  8. "WHO releases new guidance on insecticide-treated mosquito nets: Recent data from Kenya "ends the debate" about how to deliver the nets", WHO, Media Release, August 16, 2007.
  9. "Mad Cow Disease Not a Problem in the U.S.", National Cattlemen's Beef Association, News release, December 6, 2000.
  10. Release No. 0012.03, U.S. Department of Agriculture, January 2003, Release No. 0166.03 20, USDA, May 2003
  11. Angie Coiro Mad Cow Disease in Canada, KQED, May 23, 2003
  12. Consultation on Public Health Issues Related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and the Emergence of a New Variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, WHO, MMWR 45 (14); 295-6, 303, April 1996
  13. Michael Greger, M.D. Organic Consumers Association U.S. Violates World Health Organization Guidelines for Mad Cow Disease: A Comparison of North American and European Safeguards, Organic Consumers Association, June 2003.

External articles