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The World Health Organization
A History


Part of Global Health Histories

  • Date Published: April 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108728843

£ 26.99

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About the Authors
  • According to its Constitution, the mission of the World Health Organization (WHO) was nothing less than the 'attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health' without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic status, or social condition. But how consistently and how well has the WHO pursued this mission since 1946? This comprehensive and engaging new history explores these questions by looking at its origins and its institutional antecedents, while also considering its contemporary and future roles. It examines how the WHO was shaped by the particular environments of the postwar period and the Cold War, the relative influence of the US and other approaches to healthcare, and its place alongside sometimes competing international bodies such as UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Gates Foundation. The authors re-evaluate the relative success and failure of critical WHO campaigns, from early malaria and smallpox eradication programs to struggles with Ebola today.

    • Presents a comprehensive narrative history of the major international health agency of the second half of the twentieth century
    • Pinpoints two very different perspectives that have long shaped major decisions in international health
    • Identifies the past and present problems of global health
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Finally, an up-to-date history of the World Health Organization. This deft account spans the institution's aspirational post-World War II beginnings, the tensions and turnarounds of the Cold War period, and the embattled contemporary era of private encroachment on WHO turf. The authors bring together the contentious politics, personae, and programs through a grand narrative and little-known inside stories.' Anne-Emanuelle Birn, University of Toronto

    'This long-awaited volume by three distinguished historians of public health, does not disappoint. Though the general lines of this history are familiar, this extensively researched, clearly written volume greatly enriches this history, providing new details on nearly every page, and situating the WHO within the wider history of global political change.' Randall Packard, The Johns Hopkins University

    '… the authors are to be congratulated, not only for presenting us with this splendid, up-to-date and excellently contextualized history of the WHO, which constitutes a reference work about this international agency; but also for inviting us to engage in a historical reflection, and for drawing lessons from this history to be applied to the present and future of the mission of the WHO.' María‑Isabel Porras‑Gallo, Metascience

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108728843
    • length: 388 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 54 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The making of an international health establishment
    2. The birth of the World Health Organization, 1945–8
    3. The start-up years, 1948–55
    4. The Cold War and eradication
    5. Overcoming the warming of the Cold War: smallpox eradication
    6. The transition from 'family planning' to 'sexual and reproductive rights'
    7. The vicissitudes of primary health care
    8. The response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic
    9. An embattled director-general and the persistence of the WHO
    10. The competitive world of global health
    11. The World Health Organization in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

  • Authors

    Marcos Cueto, Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro
    Marcos Cueto is Professor of the Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro the main Brazilian biomedical institute, and is co-editor of the journal História, Ciências Saúde – Manguinhos. His book, co-authored with Steven Palmer, Medicine and Public Health in Latin America: A History (Cambridge, 2015) won the 2017 George Rosen award of the American Association for the History of Medicine.

    Theodore M. Brown, University of Rochester, New York
    Theodore M. Brown is Professor of History in the School of Arts and Sciences and of Public Health Sciences and Medical Humanities in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Rochester, New York. He is an Associate Editor (History) of the American Journal of Public Health.

    Elizabeth Fee, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda
    Elizabeth Fee passed away on October 17, 2018. She was at that time the senior historian at the National Library of Medicine. She was a prolific scholar who authored, co-authored, and edited many books including the co-authored book with Theodore M. Brown, Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry E. Sigerist (1997).

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