WHO’s 60 years and the Global Health Histories initiative



Twenty African scholars, historians of medicine and public health leaders joined a debate in Nairobi on the impact decolonization and the end of the Cold War have had on health in Africa. The debate from 6 to 8 February was part of the Global Health Histories initiative and one of a series of events leading up to WHO’s 60th anniversary on 7 April 2008.

WHO launched the Global Health Histories initiative in 2005 in recognition of the importance of the history of public health.

As part of this initiative, WHO plans to publish a history of global health over the last 60 years, in 2008. The book will cover the major health events since WHO was founded in 1948 and WHO’s role in them. It will also look at the development of public health during decolonization, the Cold War and globalization.

To date, WHO has published official histories of its first two decades and next year plans to publish a history of the third covering the pivotal years of the 1970s.

The Global Health Histories initiative includes an oral history project. Retired WHO staff have been recording and transcribing interviews with leading WHO figures recalling some of the world’s most important health events. The interviews are available to the public in the WHO archive.

The National Library of Medicine in the United States is preparing an exhibition that will chart the history of public health over the last 60 years. The show will open at the US library, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2008 and may tour WHO’s Regional Offices and headquarters.

To mark WHO’s 60th anniversary, the Bulletin of the World Health Organization plans a volume of papers from the Public Health Classics series. One of the most popular sections of the journal, Public Health Classics publishes commentaries by experts who analyse groundbreaking papers in the context of public health today.

The Nairobi debate in February this year was organized by WHO’s Department of Knowledge Management and Sharing with funding from the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.

The Global Health Histories’ web site gives an overview of these and other upcoming events: http://www.who.int/ global_health_histories/en/

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