Health and Healthcare Systems

What is the World Health Assembly and why is it important?

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addresses the 75th World Health Assembly at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Last year the World Health Organization held their 75th annual World Health Assembly. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Global Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Global Health

This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare

Listen to the article

  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Delegates meet annually to decide the policy agenda and strategies that best meet WHO’s public health goals.
  • Now in its 76th session, the theme for this year’s event is “Health For All: 75 years of improving public health”.

How’s your health?

It’s a common enough question but one that gets more complicated when applied to the world as a whole.

Over the past few years, society has experienced a wave of adverse events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical conflicts and the impacts of the climate and energy crises, which have engulfed global health and healthcare.

Every year, the World Health Assembly is tasked with tackling global healthcare challenges like these and deciding how best to overcome them. But what is the Assembly, and why is it important?

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about healthcare value and spending?

What is the Assembly?

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) agency dedicated to promoting the global population’s health and access to the highest levels of healthcare provision.

Delegates from WHO member states come together at an annual assembly held at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, to focus on a specific healthcare agenda created by the organization’s Executive Board.

The Executive Board comprises 34 technically qualified members, each elected for a three-year term. They meet every year in January to agree on the agenda and any resolutions that will be put before the World Health Assembly for consideration.

World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Health Assembly takes place annually in Geneva, Switzerland. Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

What does the Assembly do?

Delegates at the annual World Health Assembly discuss the Executive Board’s policy agenda for the coming year and decide which health goals and strategies will guide the WHO’s public health work.

Other functions include voting to appoint the organization’s Director-General to serve a five-year term. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus holds the post currently, having been re-elected in 2022 to serve a second term as head of the world’s leading public health agency.

The Assembly also oversees financial policies, approves the proposed budget programme to fund future WHO operations, monitors progress in implementing work programmes, and devises strategies to address gaps.

Why is it important?

Now in its 76th session, this year’s event takes place between 21-30 May 2023 under the theme “Health For All: 75 years of improving public health”.

Loading...

Since its inauguration, the Assembly has presided over WHO policies that have helped eradicate deadly diseases like smallpox and the poliovirus, and helped foster international collaborations to develop and distribute vaccines for diseases like malaria and COVID-19.

Have you read?

Shaping the future of global health and healthcare

To better understand global healthcare threats and impacts, the World Economic Forum’s Global Health and Healthcare Strategic Outlook: Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare report identifies key risks to global health and potential ways to resolve them.

Figure showing the recent trends in global health and healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought healthcare breakthroughs but also created new global challenges. Image: WEF


The pandemic brought a surge in healthcare spending, rapid development of vaccines and other scientific advances, alternative care models and increased reliance on digitalization and smart connectivity.

However, it also created disparities in access to healthcare provision, health-sector worker shortages, a growing mental health and well-being burden, and economic challenges.

The World Health Assembly provides a platform for health experts to debate and develop global policy around these and other pressing healthcare issues.

"Every year at the World Health Assembly, healthcare leaders from around the globe come together to discuss global health challenges and agree on how best to overcome them to ensure everyone, everywhere, can attain the highest level of health, said Dr Shyam Bishen, Head, Centre for Health & Healthcare at the World Economic Forum.

"To this end, the Centre is looking forward to participating in key World Health Assembly meetings and hosting events on pandemic preparedness and health system transformation," he added.

"We are working with WHO and other key stakeholders to ensure health systems around the world are better prepared to respond to future crises."

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why health ministers must be at the forefront of global healthcare processes

Shyam Bishen

May 28, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum