Health promotion

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Issues and challenges

Most countries are experiencing unprecedented societal transformation as a result of population growth and urbanization together with environmental and other changes. This process is often accelerated by globalization in trade and communication, and complex emergencies. New approaches are required in the light of these changes in order to address the broader determinants of health.

Within the context of primary health care, health promotion is critical to improving outcomes in the prevention and control of both chronic and communicable diseases, and in meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals, particularly among poor and marginalized groups. In order to accomplish these aims, WHO applies health promotion techniques to health and related social systems, and to a variety of risk factors, diseases and health issues, including oral health. Carrying out health promotion in settings where people live, work, learn and play is a creative and effective way of improving health and quality of life. Health promotion has a crucial role to play in fostering healthy public policies and health-supportive environments, enhancing positive social conditions and personal skills, and promoting healthy lifestyles.

The capacity and infrastructure for the planning and implementation of multisectoral health promotion policies and programmes need to be strengthened in most regions. Most countries lack the policies and the human or financial resources necessary for sustainable, effective health promotion to counter risks and their underlying determinants. For this reason, there is an urgent need to orient health systems more towards health promotion and to build their capacity to promote health (e.g., by developing new and innovative ways for securing sustainable funding and accurate and updated health promotion profiles, strengthening education and training, and expanding the evidence base for health promotion).

Advocacy and social mobilization for policy in support of health promotion are also vital. Effective policies need to be multisectoral; they must draw upon a broad range of partners, including the wider community, for their development and implementation. Governments must play a stronger role in developing healthy public policies; health ministries need to take the lead by advocating for the development and adoption of these policies.

In accordance with resolution WHA51.12 requesting that health promotion should be given top priority within WHO, and in line with the global conferences held in Ottawa (1986), Adelaide, Australia (1988), Sundsvall, Sweden (1991), Jakarta (1997) and Mexico City (2000), health promotion needs to be strengthened in all areas of work in order to support Member States more effectively.

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