WHO announces biggest organizational reforms in its history (6 March 2019)

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently announced sweeping reforms within the WHO. The reforms are intended to modernize and strengthen the institution to play its role more effectively and efficiently as the world’s leading authority on public health.

Background Information:

The changes are designed to support countries in achieving the ambitious “triple billion” targets that are at the heart of WHO’s strategic plan for the next five years:

  • one billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage (UHC);
  • one billion more people better protected from health emergencies; and
  • one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

Key Messages:

The changes include:

Aligning WHO’s processes and structures with the “triple billion” targets and the Sustainable Development Goals by adopting a new structure and operating model to align the work of headquarters, regional offices and country offices, and eliminate duplication and fragmentation.

New Divisions:

  • Division of the Chief Scientist– to reinforce  WHO’s normative, standard-setting work, and provide improved career opportunities for scientists.
  • Department of Digital Health– to harness the power of digital health and innovation by supporting countries to assess, integrate, regulate and maximize the opportunities of digital technologies and artificial intelligence.
  • Division of Data, Analytics and Delivery– to significantly enhance the collection, storage, analysis and usage of data to drive policy change in countries. This division will also track and strengthen the delivery of WHO’s work by monitoring progress towards the “triple billion targets” and identifying roadblocks and solutions.
  • Division of Emergency Preparedness– to strengthen WHO’s work to support countries in preventing and mitigating the impact of outbreaks and other health crises, and as a complement to WHO’s existing work on emergency response.

The WHO Academya proposed state-of-the-art school to provide new learning opportunities for staff and public health professionals globally.

Other measures:

  • Streamlined recruitment process to cut hiring time in half, 
  • management trainings,
  • new opportunities for national professional officers, and
  • previously-announced improvements in conditions for interns.


  • New fundraising initiatives to reduce reliance on a small number of large donors, and strengthen long-term financial stability.

New Corporate Structure

WHO’s new corporate structure is based on four pillars which will be mirrored throughout the organization.

  1. The Programmes pillar will support WHO’s work on universal health coverage and healthier populations.
  2. The Emergencies pillar will be responsible for WHO’s critical health security responsibilities, both in responding to health crises and helping countries prepare for them.
  3. The External Relations and Governance pillar will centralize and harmonize WHO’s work on resource mobilization, communications.
  4. The Business Operations pillar will likewise ensure more professionalized delivery of key corporate functions such as budgeting, finance, human resources and supply chain.

The four pillars will be supplemented by the Division of the Chief Scientist at WHO Headquarters in Geneva to strengthen WHO’s core scientific work and ensure the quality and consistency of WHO’s norms and standards. 

Underpinning the new structure, 11 business processes have been redesigned, including

  1. planning,
  2. resource mobilization,
  3. external communications
  4. internal communications,
  5. recruitment,
  6. supply chain,
  7. performance management,
  8. norms and standards,
  9. research,
  10. data and
  11. technical cooperation.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated that the changes are a response to a changed world that now needs the WHO “to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.”

Useful Links:

Link to the WHO news release:


Link to the WHO Director-General’s speech introducing the changes:


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