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What we do

We create collaborative networks focused on implementation, innovative and research-based initiatives with the highest potential to create tangible results

Asian women

Together with our partners, we fund the greatest opportunities to strengthen world health capacity, so that humanity is ready to deal with the health challenges of today and tomorrow. From averting pandemics, to promoting health, preventing diseases and improving health systems, we reduce health risks by building awareness and supporting our partners, including WHO, in establishing global preparedness for any health emergency that may arise.

Doctor and patient

For better health for all

Doctor and patient

Today’s health systems have come a long way. Over the last century, life expectancy has grown substantially. Infectious diseases are better managed, childhood deaths have been greatly reduced and access to clean water is more widespread. However, there is still an immense amount that needs to be achieved before everyone benefits equally from this progression.


Our initiatives focus on eleven thematic areas, which are divided under the three WHO pillars of: Serve the vulnerable; Keep the world safe; and Promote health, and under Foundations: the essential basis of building a healthier future for everyone.



Serve the vulnerable

Health systems and universal health coverage
At least half of the world’s population does not have access to the health services needed to stay healthy. On top of this, about 100 million people are being pushed below the poverty line paying for healthcare. We have to ensure everyone has access to affordable health services, with skilled healthcare professionals providing treatments and medications that improve health, well-being and quality of life.
High-risk groups
Around the world certain groups are more exposed than other people to preventable diseases, death and disabilities, as well as to illnesses associated with climate change. For example, one in seven of the world’s population - an estimated 1 billion people – are currently at-risk migrants with limited access to healthcare. People living in conflict zones, or areas affected by natural disasters or disease outbreaks, also struggle to access basic healthcare. Small island communities are a further high-risk group facing social, economic and developmental challenges that affect healthcare access. Many are low-lying and dealing with the risks associated with rising sea levels. By building local knowledge and support while providing funding to develop healthcare facilities and teams, many unnecessary deaths in high risks groups can be avoided.
Biological and gender-related differences mean that men and women have a very different experience of health. In most societies, being a woman carries the greater risk. The obviously challenging time in a woman’s life is when she is preparing to start a family and then through pregnancy and motherhood, additionally, throughout adult life women need distinct and personalized sexual and reproductive healthcare services such as family planning and education. But beyond this, women are often discriminated against and disadvantaged, especially when it comes to access to high quality health services. Women often have less opportunities for education and employment and are exposed to a higher risk of abuse, malnutrition and unsafe home environments, without the support systems and treatments available when needed. This balance can be redressed by improving gender equity and providing targeted and gender specific health services in countries around the world, while protecting the rights of women and other marginalized groups.
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Mother and daughter

Spotlight: Women’s labor and childbirth rights remain the same in a pandemic

Evidence shows that women’s childbirth experiences are greatly improved when they have a companion of their choice present. This could be the father, a family member or a doula who protects the woman’s interests and welfare, while providing emotional support. Benefits can include shorter labor times, decreased caesareans and more positive baby health indicators, as measured in the first five minutes after birth.

Despite the positive outcomes, many countries do not have policies in place, or worse still, companions are not permitted. Even where they are permitted, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant health facilities stop companions from being present. Advocating for, sharing information about the need and forcing healthcare providers to consider women’s basic human rights are all essential to ensuring women have the choice.



Keep the world safe

Preparing for emergencies
Every emergency has potentially wide-ranging consequences. From epidemics and pandemics to infection risks from Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and new diseases, it’s critical that we have comprehensive initiatives in place to get the world ready for health emergencies before they happen. Currently, this level of preparation does not exist universally. Trained staff, laboratories, forward-thinking, expert analysis and detailed assessments would enable every country to be prepared with coordinated smart action plans, to understand financial implications and to have resources ready, ultimately saving lives.
Disaster and outbreak response
Whatever disaster or disease hits, acting quickly can make all the difference. When the time comes, it’s essential that everyone pulls in the same direction and moves fast, but as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, this is incredibly challenging. Living in conflict zones makes natural disasters or disease outbreaks even harder to cope with. Basic healthcare access is often impossible, creating humanitarian emergencies. To overcome these challenges, WHO, with the help of partners and supporters, works to ensure that when an emergency occurs no one goes without life-saving health services and that every country has the capabilities to deal with any emergency challenge they might face.
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Girl with a thank you sign

Spotlight: The pandemic that is bringing us all together

Covid-19 is an unprecedented challenge for us all. The pandemic is impacting communities everywhere and the urgency to work as one world is now critical. WHO has been leading the global response since the onset of the outbreak, supported by its partners, including the WHO Foundation. Together, we are working to end the pandemic and ensure health systems are better prepared for future emergencies.

Currently, WHO-led efforts are focused on speeding up research and development into vaccines and treatments, supporting nations and their health systems to better anticipate and respond to the evolution of the virus, ensuring essential supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and test kits are sourced and shared, and communicating at all levels about what every person in the world needs to do to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.

To support these efforts, WHO set up the Solidarity Response Fund (SRF) to give people around the world an opportunity to come together and support WHO’s work, together with partners, to address COVID-19. Today, this is more important than ever. Despite the impressive scale of the response to date, there is still so much to be done. In addition to the SRF, the Foundation is raising awareness and funding through art, music, sport and other avenues, working with respected and well-known organizations to build support on a scale that can turn the crisis around. By coming together, with your help as well, we can invest in every life and shape the future.



Promote health

Healthy lifestyles
Science tells us that a large proportion of deaths from illnesses such as coronary heart disease and lung cancer could be avoided with a healthier lifestyle. It is well-known that when people are suffering from diseases, their whole life and those of their families are affected. Loss of employment and high medical costs often create financial and psychological stress. Yet, millions of people still consume too little fruit and vegetables, too much salt, alcohol, sugar and fat, and are still smoking or not exercising regularly. Changing such behaviors helps prevent illnesses and preserve good health. More is needed to convince the current generation to change, and to create role models for the next.
Healthy environments and climate
Environmental risks to our health cause about one quarter of all diseases, illnesses and deaths around the world. Air pollution alone causes 7 million preventable deaths, and unsafely managed water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene a further 800,000, while over a million people die each year in unsafe working conditions. Increasing climate change effects on health and well-being are only making the situation worse. Between 2030 and 2050, 250 000 additional deaths per year are predicated from climate-related malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. Through better health awareness and protection, good public health standards and the right individual health choices, environmental risks to health can be reduced. Countries around the world desperately need help understanding the challenges their populations face today and in preparing for those they will face tomorrow.
Mental health
People suffering from mental health issues rarely get the treatment and care needed to be productive members of society. One in four people are expected to experience a mental disorder at some point in their lives and the situation only gets worse in conflict or emergency situations. We have to educate people about mental well-being, make the care needed available and promote human rights to reduce the associated deaths and disabilities.
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Sad girl

Spotlight: Moving beyond the stigma of mental health

Every family, every community, in all parts of the world is affected by mental health, and in many places, the situation is getting worse, compounded by health emergencies and conflicts. Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health issues, but two-thirds of those known to be ill never speak with health professionals. Opening up still creates huge fears of discrimination and stigmatization, so many illnesses go untreated.

Awareness campaigns, which have been increasingly visible, are just the beginning. For anyone seeking help, if the right support services are not available due to lack of funding, all the awareness efforts have been wasted. Mental health experts around the world are urgently calling for increased investment to expand access to care alongside making sure those affected are aware of the risks of coping alone.



Building a healthier future

Digital health and innovation
Having the right digital systems in place revolutionizes access to health services for people around the world. Online tools open up support to those living in remote locations, provide specific groups such as women, children and adolescents with the information they need to manage their own health at their particular life stage, and assist the general population with guidance, without the need for face-to-face contact. Through the higher level of knowledge and education gained, everyone can protect and improve their own health and well-being. By investing in innovations such as virtual care, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchain and smart wearables and well as by developing data capture, exchange and storage, we have the potential to scale-up health services and ensure everyone has the health support they need.
Science and health
Scientific evidence guides countries in implementing and adapting health policies by forming the basis for WHO health advice and technical standards recommendations. Enhancing, coordinating and investing in scientific research capabilities, both globally and locally, enables us to develop healthier populations and build disease prevention expertise so that we can better detect, prevent and respond to new and emerging risks. Research also gives us insights into the challenges associated with expanding health coverage. Through targeted science-focused partnerships, particularly in areas such as genomics, epigenetics, gene editing, artificial intelligence, and big data, we can identify new opportunities to improve health and help decision-makers to set the right path.
Communications and advocacy
Whatever the health issue, getting the right messages out to the general public, health professionals and governments is essential to protecting and improving health and well-being. In today’s world, information can be shared instantaneously across multiple channels. Ensuring that every detail is clear, accurate, timely and trustworthy makes all the difference to how communications are received and the actions taken. To achieve this, messages have to be created collaboratively. Investing in smart advocacy initiatives based on scientific evidence has the potential to influence the health of current and future generations.
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By working as one for the good of humankind, we can improve health systems, increase sanitation and make doctors accessible to everyone, in all parts of the world.