the Ohio News Group, USA (originally in English)
World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948 as a special
agency of the United Nations. With nearly two hundred member
countries, the agency implements worldwide programs to prevent
and eliminate disease. But the WHO’s mission goes beyond
the mere treatment of physical illness, its stated objective
being “the attainment of the highest possible level of
health for all people in the world” with health defined
as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.”
Over the years, the WHO has continually found
ways to achieve this goal, with its first major accomplishment the
eradication of smallpox, long considered the most deadly and persistent
human infectious disease. Smallpox had caused millions of deaths and
much suffering for centuries, but once the agency set out to eradicate
it, WHO personnel traveled the world to conduct a massive vaccination
program. And as a result, smallpox was eliminated in 1977. Since then,
the WHO has turned its attention to other diseases such as polio and
leprosy, which are now on the verge of eradication as well.
In addition to fighting illness, the World Health
Organization has been a key player in promoting worldwide disease
prevention and health programs. Working with partners in health research,
the WHO gathers data on global health conditions and needs, particularly
in developing countries. One of its most recent initiatives is the
Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. This project,
mandated by the World Health Assembly in May 2002, arose through the
discovery that more and more people in the developing world were suffering
from chronic disease.
Increasing urbanization was found to play a large
part in changing health conditions among residents of developing countries.
In addition, it was long known that city dwellers are more likely
to consume energy-dense diets high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.
For the newly urban poor, this sudden change in diet, along with the
transition to a sedentary lifestyle, resulted in an increasing incidence
of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke,
cancer and respiratory ailments. However, most risk factors for these
conditions — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased
body weight and decreased physical exercise — are largely preventable.
Research conducted after the World Health Assembly
found that diet and exercise are key elements in combating many of
these risk factors. For example, diets rich in fruit and vegetables,
which contain immune-system boosting micronutrients, enhance the body’s
natural defenses against infectious disease. Specifically, the following
recommendations for preventive health were made by the WHO:
* Eat more fruit and vegetables,
nuts and whole grains
* Engage in daily physical activity
* Replace saturated animal fats with unsaturated vegetable oil-based
* Cut the overall amount of fatty, salty and sugary foods in the diet
* Maintain a normal body weight
* Stop smoking
While these guidelines do not specify a completely
vegetarian diet, they clearly emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts,
grains and vegetable fats. In addition, the recommendations are based
on data gathered from all over the world, and so reflect both a concern
about nutrition and a respect for cultural diversity, including groups
that value vegetarianism from the standpoint of compassion for animals.
For example, the WHO received input from the International Vegetarian
Union, an organization with a worldwide membership founded in 1908.
In May 2004, the World Health Organization will
present these suggestions as a global prevention-based proposal to
the World Health Assembly to provide the Assembly’s member states
with solid evidence for implementing national health strategies. The
WHO will also seek interaction with the international food industry
to stress the business sector’s responsibility in helping to
achieve these goals.
Other recent WHO projects include campaigns to
reduce tobacco use worldwide, and research on the health effects of
the electromagnetic field surrounding cell phones.
During its fifty-six year history, the World
Health Organization has performed earthly miracles. In the above-mentioned
case of smallpox eradication alone, the agency accomplished in twenty
years what the medical profession had not been able to achieve in
the previous two hundred. For, although the smallpox vaccine was discovered
in 1796, it was only after the WHO began carrying the torch to eliminate
it that the disease was finally wiped out in 1977.
The World Health Organization embodies many of
the Godly qualities that we find so inspiring in our beloved Supreme
Master Ching Hai — tirelessness, constant work for the benefit
of humanity, and a desire for anonymity. Thus, the organization has
been blessed by God and will no doubt continue to grace the world
with its humble but great endeavors.