Service delivery and safety

About us

The WHO Service Delivery and Safety (SDS) Department supports countries in moving their health systems towards universal health coverage through increased access to safe, high quality, effective, people-centred and integrated services.

With the launch of the WHO Programme Budget 2014-15, the Health Systems and Innovation Cluster has also launched SDS as a new department as a “centre of excellence” within WHO, working externally and across the Organization to build evidence and promote models and solutions for improved health service delivery. SDS works across the care continuum, from preventive and primary care to hospital services and long term care, to palliative care.

The true objective of the Department is to help countries “rethink health care” in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their health systems. With such a broad mandate, SDS work is based on the following principles:

  • A focus on equitable and timely access to much-needed high quality, safe health services;
  • A culture of quality assurance and improvement;
  • A foundation of knowledge, evidence, expertise and experience in service delivery science;
  • A focus on ethics, cost-effectiveness and sustainability in service delivery models;
  • A need to strengthen leadership and accountability.

Our vision

All people receive safe, high quality, people-centred, integrated health services, at every interaction across the health services continuum.

Our mission

To identify, develop and disseminate knowledge, models for effective interventions, and innovative tools for countries to increase the quality, safety, integration and people-centredness of health services’ delivery. The Department will accomplish this mission working across the organization, and engaging collaboratively with Member States and with major external constituencies.

Service delivery and safety areas of work

  • Services organization and clinical interventions – This area covers a range of health services design matters such as integrated, people-centred health services; primary health care; hospital care; emergency and essential surgical care; medical products of human origin; and blood and transfusion safety.
  • Patient safety and quality improvement – This area considers matters related to improving the safety of health care, such as safety policies and strategies; guidelines and tools, including safety checklists; global networks for patient safety; patient and family engagement; incident reporting and learning systems; and education and training for safer care.
  • Traditional and complementary medicine – This area covers a number of aspects, including the development of global policies on traditional and complementary medicine (TCM); the regulation of TCM products, practices and practitioners; the integration of TCM into health systems and best practices; as well as TCM research, education and training. At a time when traditional and complementary medicine use is on the rise in many parts of the world, the safety, quality and effectiveness of TCM need to be closely monitored, and guidelines and knowledge management in this area encouraged.
  • Quality in universal health coverage – This area focuses on the links between the quality of care and universal health coverage. Quality of care is recognized as a fundamental precondition for effective health service delivery in countries working towards achieving universal health coverage. Other areas of focus are health service resilience (the delivery of essential health services in critical situations like disease outbreaks and catastrophes) and institutional health partnerships.
  • Infection prevention and control – This area is working to reduce infections and antimicrobial resistance in health care by providing innovative, effective technical guidelines; campaigning and advocacy; and raising awareness as widely as possible. The need for robust, integrated infection prevention and control programmes at national and facility level, leading to the implementation of best practices at the point of care, was clearly reinforced in the context of the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
  • Innovation in service delivery - This area is grounded in delivery science applied to a broad scope of initiatives related to improving the use of new technologies and to developing better models of care. This entails providing guidance, good governance mechanisms and technical tools in areas of innovation, with the aim of promoting more efficient and respectful care. This area is currently focusing on integrated palliative care, genomics in global health, e-health and digital health services.

Contact Information

Service delivery and safety
Health Systems and Innovation
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
Switzerland