Richard Horton on primary care and the WHO

“This pandemic, and now the attack on WHO, is going to set countries back decades”. Richard Horton talks through the worrying impact on health systems throughout the world as WHO faces the prospect of losing 20% of its funding. He offers advice on how we can, as doctors, advocate for the WHO and primary care.


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Richard Horton is right about the crucial role that WHO has in the world. I’ve been privileged to be involved with working with WHO over many years, in relation to contraception and reproductive health matters. My experience has been that it is transparent, inclusive, and very considered in its deliberations. WHO plays a vital role in all countries- not just low income countries. For instance the WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use is evidence-based guidance to enables countries to ensure the widest possible, safe use of a health care intervention that saves hundreds of thousands of lives each year and which greatly empowers women’s lives. Importantly America has a history of withholding/withdrawing funding to WHO. Usually, as I suspect now, it to distract from political problems at home form the White House. It is vital that this latest episode is reversed as quickly as possible- for all parts of the healthcare system, including, of course, primary care.

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