World Health Organization

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Health Organization

A 45 minute drive brought us to Geneva, where the world health organization (WHO) is located. WHO is part of the United Nations (UN), but is mainly funded by the member states. The objective if the WHO is to attain for all people the highest level of health, where health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not mainly the absence of disease or infirmity.

After this 30 minute introduction by Mr. Peter Mertens, Dr. Danilo Lo Fo Wong, the head of the WHO health security and environmental department, talked to us about the role of his department. He gave more detailed insight in the food related issues addressed by WHO. Due to continuous movement of the world population, diseases are spreading faster introduces new challenges for scientists. The laboratory provides scientific advice for decision making concerning food safety issues.

Marcel Zwietering presented our university, laboratory and projects to interested people from WHO, after which Ms. Tanja Kuchenmüller presented about the work performed on estimating disease burden and how to bridge the gap between science and management concerning decision making. Dr. Kazuko Fukushima presented the procedures within the codex alimentarius to establish new food regulations. Afterwards she presented the role of WHO in providing scientific advice by means of organisations such as JECFA or JMPR.

Dr. Awa aidara/Kane provided us with information about the approach against food borne antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Bernadette Abele/Ridder talked about the international food safety network (Infosan) and the WHO zoonosis strategy. Different organizations work together in these projects on the contamination risks at the human/animal interface and the “one world, one health” philosophy. Their main objectives are to define policies and sustainable programmes for prevention and control of priority zoonotic diseases, early detection and risks characterization, together with the appropriate response, and development of methods for countries for assessment.

Finally we visited the SHOC room in the WHO building, where people meet to coordinate help to countries facing immediate and serious problems such as flooding, earth quakes, or high levels of immediate, high impact diseases. In this center the latest technologies are present to communicate worldwide to coordinate the help and to obtain information for correct decision making.

After this flood of information, but with more knowledge about WHO and its role in the world and in science, we returned to Lausanne.   
(Els Biesta-Peters)