The World Health Organization (WHO), founded in 1948, strives to bring health and well-being within everyone’s reach. Since the 1950s, the WHO has commissioned accomplished photojournalists to capture the transformative impact health can have on communities worldwide. In recognition of this visual medium’s unique power to inform and inspire, the photos are featured in WHO publications. These images tell the public about new initiatives and developments in health care. They provide an intimate look at health issues around the globe.
The National Library of Medicine houses and preserves a collection of WHO photographs from the 1950s to the 1980s that are available to the public in physical and electronic form. As tools for education and outreach, as well as works of art, these photos bring to life the WHO’s efforts to achieve health for all.
A Healthier World
Building a Healthier World
The World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, was founded on April 7, 1948. As the authority on global public health, the WHO coordinates efforts to fight disease, sets international standards for drugs and medical care, works to improve access to health care and basic needs, and helps member states develop their own national health programs.
World Health DayWorld Health Day is celebrated on April 7th, the anniversary of the WHO’s founding. Each year, the WHO highlights an important global health topic through special events and information campaigns. World Health Day is one of many outreach activities the WHO undertakes to raise awareness of health issues and inspire people to pursue well-being.
Developing Health Services through CollaborationMember states work with the WHO to develop and strengthen their national health programs. The WHO acts in an advisory role to health ministries, provides epidemiological and clinical research support, and coordinates partnerships between nations and with nongovernmental organizations. Through collaborative programs, countries have addressed significant health issues and delivered care to communities with limited access to doctors and medical facilities.
Leading the Global Fight against EpidemicsAs the authority on international public health, the WHO coordinates worldwide efforts to eradicate epidemic diseases. Eradication programs mobilize thousands of health workers and volunteers to distribute vaccines and medicines, conduct biomedical and epidemiological research, organize information campaigns, and manage environmental factors. The WHO has helped to eradicate smallpox and eliminate many infectious diseases from parts of the world.
Caring for MothersWHO programs and partnerships work to ensure that mothers have access to adequate health care during pregnancy and after birth. The WHO sets international standards for maternal care and helps countries establish programs to train midwives and nurses to work in underserved communities.
Taking on Waterborne DiseaseIn areas with limited access to safe water, often due to poor sanitation, waterborne diseases threaten health. The WHO works to limit the devastating impact of waterborne diseases through health education, vaccination and medicine distribution, and sanitation improvement programs.
World Health Organization: Picturing Health for All features a selection of images from the NLM Prints & Photographs collection and highlighted some of the World Health Organization’s work in the 20th century.
This online exhibition is an online adaptation of the onsite display in the History of Medicine Division Reading Room October 1, 2019–March 13, 2020.
Lead Exhibition Specialist
Traveling Exhibition Coordinator
History of Medicine Division
Manager, Web Development and Social Media
Curator and Archivist, Prints and Photographs
Office of Computer and Communications Systems
Chief, Applications Branch