The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations specialized agency for health. WHO’s objective is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health, defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Its activities are broadly defined as including essential health interventions; health systems policies and products; and health determinants. Priority areas include: epidemic alert and response; making pregnancy safer; child and adolescent health; surveillance, prevention, and management of chronic, non-communicable diseases (which will include support to the WHO surveillance framework for improving the quality, availability, comparability, and dissemination of relevant data); and tobacco.
All WHO programmes include monitoring and evaluation and work to support countries in identifying indicators, adapting and using data collection tools and reporting on progress. WHO includes the Health Statistics and Informatics department, whose objectives are to work with countries to improve the availability, quality and use of health information at country levels and to strengthen the evidence base at regional and global levels to monitor and reduce inequalities in health. In addition, programme specific departments and regional offices have statistical staff.
The primary functions of the department focused on countries are to support the strengthening of national health information systems, based on an explicit analysis of information needs, to contribute to the strengthening of monitoring and evaluation functions and their integration into the national managerial process; and to coordinate the efforts of partners and countries in the measurement and use of health data, health data management and the evaluation of health information systems. In addition, the department works on norms and standards. For instance, to aid in the strengthening of national health information systems WHO develops concepts, guidelines, classifications (such as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases) and carries out training programmes, including workshops and seminars for countries to promote their application. It also develops and implements methods and tools for global estimates, which are published in the World Health Statistics on a yearly basis. Statistical activities are largely decentralized to regional offices, covering Africa, the Americas, South East Asia, Europe, the eastern mediterannean and the Western Pacific. For contact details see:
WHO also provides the secretariat for the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on Health Statistics. This is a joint working group of United Nations Agencies and country representatives developing a coordinated and integrated agenda for the production of health statistics and agreement on standard definitions, classifications, and methodologies.
Received July 2010