The World Health Organization: Chadwick and Shattuck’s Contributions

Topic: International Organizations
Words: 847 Pages: 3

Edwin Chadwick and Lemuel Shattuck were two key figures in developing the World Health Organization (WHO). Chadwick was a British civil servant who played a significant role in establishing the WHO. At the same time, Shattuck was an American doctor who served as the organization’s first director-general (Wu, 2020). Both men made significant contributions to the WHO’s work in its early years, helping to set the organization on a course that would make it a leading global health institution. The WHO was founded in 1948 to promote global health and provide a coordinating role for the world’s health systems (Salmon & Poorisat, 2020).

It has since grown to become one of the world’s largest and most influential health organizations, with a mandate covering a wide range of health issues. The WHO is best known for combating diseases, promoting maternal and child health, improving access to essential medicines, and tackling various other health challenges. To further our knowledge on the topic, an outline of Edwin Chadwick and Lemuel Shattuck’s contributions and critical functions of WHO have been discussed.

Edwin Chadwick was an English social reformer who helped improve public sanitation and working conditions in the 19th century. He is credited with helping to create the modern field of sanitation engineering, improving the health of millions of people in Britain and worldwide. Chadwick’s most essential contribution was recognized from his work on the 1842 General Report concerning the “Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population of Great Britain.” Based on a massive survey of working-class living conditions, this groundbreaking report exposed the appalling sanitation and housing standards that were common in British cities at the time (Salmon & Poorisat, 2020).

The report’s findings helped to spur the passage of the 1848 Public Health Act, which established the framework for modern public health in Britain. Indeed, Chadwick’s profound achievement triggered similar reforms in other countries, including the United States.

Similarly, the influence of Lemuel Shattuck in the healthcare sector cannot be understated. Shattuck remains best known for his work as a statistician and sanitary reformer. Shattuck was born in 1793 in Massachusetts and served as a clerk in the Boston town government from 1816 to 1820 (Chhabra, 2019). In 1820, he began working as a statistician for the city of Boston. In addition, Shattuck was the city’s first health officer from 1822 to 1831 (Chhabra, 2019). In 1831, he published “The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population,” which was the first study of its kind in the United States. Commendably, the Shattuck report played a significant role in the country’s flourishing of public health development. Before Shattuck’s death in 1850, he was the secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Health from 1842 to 1849. Shattuck remains one of the most influential American icons of all time.

The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with international public health. The WHO was established in 1948 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization’s constitution states that its objective “is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” Its mission is “to lead the world health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help ensure that no one is left behind.” The WHO has a three-part structure: the Secretariat, the Regional Offices, and the Member States. The Secretariat is headed by the Director-General and is responsible for the organization’s overall direction and coordination (Wu, 2020).

The Regional Offices coordinate the WHO’s activities within their respective regions. There are six WHO Regional Offices: Africa, the Americas; South-East Asia; Europe; the Eastern Mediterranean; and the Western Pacific. The Member States are represented on the WHO’s governing body, the World Health Assembly, by their respective Ministers of Health. Contributions from its Member States fund the WHO’s tasks.

The WHO’s primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations system and to lead partners in global health responses. The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, which provides an annual snapshot of the global health landscape; the World Health Survey, which tracks health trends; and the Global Health Observatory, which provides data and analysis on a range of health indicators (Wu, 2020). The WHO also guides on health issues sets international health standards, promotes research, and provides training and support to countries to help them strengthen their health systems. As discussed, the functions of WHO collectively aim to impact all human beings’ health positively.

Conclusively, the contributions of Edwin Chadwick and Lemuel Shattuck were instrumental in the establishment of the WHO. In essence, their roles in public health and sanitation helped improve people’s health worldwide, and their contributions are still felt today. The WHO is the leading international agency for the promotion of good health and the prevention of disease. It is a United Nations agency with a mandate to “promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.” The WHO anticipates achieving its mandate through various activities, including disease surveillance, research, and health promotion. Above all, the engagement of Chadwick and Shattuck has helped to make the WHO the world’s foremost authority on public health.


Chhabra, L. (2019). David H. Spodick, MD (1927 to 2019). American Journal of Cardiology, 124(7), 1159–1160. Web.

Salmon, C. T., & Poorisat, T. (2020). The rise and development of public health communication. Health communication, 35(13), 1666–1677. Web.

Wu, H. Y. J. (2020). The World Health Organization: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019 pp. 388, £ 26.99, paperback). Medical History, 64(2), 291–293. Web.

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