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Madison Committee
on Foreign Relations

The World Health Organization (WHO): Present Capabilities and Future Possibilities

  • Tuesday, March 16, 2021
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Virtual (Zoom webinar)


  • For MCFR members (Individual, Family, or Student). To register free guests, have guest names and email addresses ready before continuing.

Registration is closed

Missed the webinar?  You can view the recorded presentation here.

Dr. Laing will provide a brief history of WHO—describing the national, regional and global structure of the organization. He will then discuss the capabilities and limitations of the organization.

WHO is both a technical and political organization which struggles to deal with internal and external tensions. Paramount here is the difficulty of promoting global health while individual countries retain authority over their own health systems. Within WHO, disease-focused programs compete with programs to strengthen national health systems. Most WHO funding comes from a few countries and organizations who often designate their funds for specific areas of interest.

Dr. Laing will support the re-joining of the WHO by the U.S., and he will suggest how the US could strengthen the organization. He will also discuss how the organization could help to improve the health of Americans.

Richard Laing is a retired professor in the Department of Global Health at Boston University’s School of Public Health. He is also an Extraordinary Professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Western Cape where he has worked to help establish a pharmaceutical public health program for Africa.

Originally trained as a medical doctor, he worked for the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe for over 18 years, during which time he undertook postgraduate Masters and Doctoral studies on: (1) Community Health for Developing Countries; and (2) Comparative Health Systems & Policy Analysis. Professor Laing holds an MBChB and MD from the University of Zimbabwe, a MSc from the University of London, and an honorary doctorate from Utrecht University.

After receiving his graduate degrees, he spent six years working for Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in Boston where he coordinated the International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs. Later, he joined the World Health Organization as a medical officer. He was actively involved in work related to medicines pricing and availability, national medicines policies, and access to NCD (noncommunicable disease) medicines during his ten years at WHO.

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