World health report

Executive summary

Health services and health policy

WHO provided support to Member States on health systems issues such as development of medical cooperatives, integration of health activities in agricultural projects, and basic health services.

A major goal for WHO is ensuring access to and availability of essential drugs and vaccines at low cost, their rational use, and their quality and safety. In 1996 the Model list of essential drugs was updated having regard to the increasing problem of resistance to antimicrobials. WHO provided support to over 50 countries, covering all elements of national drug policies. More than 110 countries now have an essential drugs list, and some 60 have formulated, and are implementing, a national drug policy.

In the area of blood safety, the Organization perfected its simple reusable haemoglobin colour scale, developed a device that salvages patients' blood lost in trauma, devised a blood cold chain to ensure the safety of blood and blood products from donor to recipient, and organized three regional workshops using WHO's distance learning materials on safe blood and blood products.

In the area of health personnel, WHO developed a nursing management system in the context of national human resources information systems. A comprehensive system for the management of the Organization's fellowships programme was completed in 1996. Several global, regional and national initiatives were taken during the year to promote coordinated changes in health care and health professionals' practice and education, such as setting up educational development centres, establishing an international working party involving training schools, and issuing guidelines to develop an interface between health care, medical practice and medical education.

During 1996, WHO continued to promote and strengthen partnerships for health, that is, strategic alliances with the international scientific community, intergovernmental organizations within and outside the United Nations system, and nongovernmental organizations and other bodies. The Organization's Advisory Committee on Health Research, which provides a privileged link with partners in the scientific community, established a task force on organ transplantation in 1996, to identify and clarify medical, social, economic, ethical and related issues. Cooperation with the United Nations during the year concerned in particular a major interagency programme, "Nations for mental health", aimed at reducing discrimination against people affected by mental disorders, and the United Nations systemwide Special Initiative on Africa, which includes a strategy for health sector reform. Other partnerships for health that were of major importance during the year included those with UNCTAD, FAO, the World Bank, the major development banks, ASEAN, OAU and the European Union. In January 1996 the number of nongovernmental organizations in official relations with WHO was increased to 184 by the admission of four organizations.

To make partnerships effective and mutually supportive through information exchange, WHO continued to collect, analyse and publish scientific information and the practical health experiences of countries at all levels of development. Taking full advantage of the economies of time and money offered by advances in information technology, the Organization used the services available via the Internet, thus reaching a vast audience with statistical, technical and practical information. WHO maintains global electronic networks which monitor the spread of antibiotic resistance, levels of air and water pollution, toxic reactions to chemicals, and adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals.

In the field of emergency relief and humanitarian assistance, during 1996 WHO supported 58 Member States in activities such as control of communicable diseases and epidemiological surveillance and investigations. Most of the Organization's response programmes focused on coordination and provision of technical support to national and international implementing partners, as well as provision of emergency vaccines, laboratory supplies and equipment for control of epidemics, and training of health workers.