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Appendix A: History and Functions of World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers in Occupational Health

The system of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centers represents one of the earliest mechanisms for carrying out technical cooperation between WHO and Member States. As early as 1949, the Second World Health Assembly laid down the policy, which has been followed consistently since then, that the WHO should not “establish under its own auspices, international research institutions” and that “research in the field of health is best advanced by assisting, coordinating and making use of the activities of existing institutions” (Resolutions WHA2.19 and WHA2.32, 1949).

A WHO Collaborating Center is a national institution designated by the Director-General of WHO to form part of an international collaborative network carrying out activities in support of WHO’s mandate for international health work and its program priorities. An entire institution with recognized scientific standing, or a department or laboratory within an institution, may become a Collaborating Center; becoming a Collaborating Center involves a formal application process, following a two-year period of joint activities, in which the institution commits to certain activities, formal acceptance by WHO, and review and re-designation every four years.

WHO Collaborating Centers play a strategic role in helping WHO meet two major needs:

  • Implementing WHO’s program priorities in close coordination with the WHO unit at headquarters and in the six regional offices.
  • Strengthen institutional capacity in countries and regions.

Key functions of WHO Collaborating Centers include:

  • Collection and dissemination of information.
  • Participation in collaborative research and technical assistance.
  • Education and training, including research training.
  • Provision of information and advice on scientific, technical, and policy issues.

Collaborating Centers in Occupational Health have existed since the 1970’s. However, it was not until June 1990 that the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centers in Occupational Health (Network) was formed at a meeting in Helsinki at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH). The intent was to strengthen coordination of the centers. The first meeting of the Network was held in Moscow in September 1992, with meetings held approximately every two to three years thereafter; Beijing in 1994, Bogota in 1997, Helsinki in 1999, Chiangmai, Thailand in 2001, and Iguassu Falls, Brazil in February 2003, Stresa, Italy in June 2006, and Cape Town, South Africa in March 2009. The next meeting is is Cancun, Mexico in March 2012.

The Global Network of Collaborating Centers (CC) in Occupational Health now consists of Institutes and organizations spread across the five continents. These centers represent a substantial component of the world’s ministerial, academic, and professional communities in occupational health.

A Network of substantial size is needed due to the wide range and complexity of occupational risks and settings throughout the global community. WHO staff in Geneva and the Coordinator of the Network work with the Regional Advisors and the Collaborating Center Directors to facilitate the efforts of the Collaborating Centers. This is done by nurturing the efforts, engaging in the science of efforts involving several Collaborating Centers, reviewing accomplishments, and assisting the creation of partnerships to conduct the work

View more information about the WHO Global Network of Collaborating Centers .


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