NLM logo

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

Constitution of the World Health Organization

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.

Outside, a physician weighs a child seated on a scale.

A woman holds a child getting a shot on the upper left arm.
A smiling young boy wearing leg braces and using crutches.

Inspiring Well-Being

A woman observes a man seated to her right as he holds a card pointing to an image.

A woman stands and leans toward a seated smiling girl who is touching the woman’s right cheek.
A woman leans toward a tall glass instrument on a laboratory desk.

World Health Day

World 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.

Health Services

Developing Health Services through Collaboration

Member 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.
Outside, several women stand laughing.

Outside, a woman in nurse’s uniform smiles while holding a child standing on her left palm.
A boy puts eye drops on another boy first in line while two men look over them.

Fighting Epidemics

In front of a classroom, two women stand facing seated students as one points to a chart and the other stands on the side.

Leading the Global Fight against Epidemics

As 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.
Seated man looks into a microscope
A man holds a spraying tool against an exterior wall, while two youths stand near.

Maternal Care

Caring for Mothers

WHO 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.
Three women seated around another laying on her side.

Three women in traditional Yemeni costume study images placed on a wall.
In a room, a seated woman holds a baby in a bundle hanging from a handheld scale while several other women surround and observe her.

Waterborne Disease

A woman shows water level in a bottle to fill as another woman looks on holding a crying baby.

In a laboratory classroom, a man lectures to several who are seated.
Outside, a man stands with his right palm open as another man holds a small bottle tilted over the palm.

Taking on Waterborne Disease

In 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.

Exhibition Program

Jiwon Kim
Lead Exhibition Specialist

Erika Mills
Exhibition Specialist

Jane Markowitz
Traveling Exhibition Coordinator

Web Design

Astriata, LLC

Special Acknowledgements

History of Medicine Division

Jiwon Kim
Exhibition Educator

Kenneth Koyle
Deputy Chief

Elizabeth Mullen
Manager, Web Development and Social Media

Ginny Roth
Curator and Archivist, Prints and Photographs

Nicole Demme
Web Program

Office of Computer and Communications Systems

Wei Ma
Chief, Applications Branch

Winston Churchill
Applications Branch

Joe Potvin
Applications Branch

Ying Sun
Applications Branch

Alla Vysokolova
Applications Branch