Picturing Health for All on World Health Day

By Erika Mills~

Outside, a man stands with his right palm open as another man holds a small bottle tilted over the palm
Field workers in the Philippines washing their hands after collecting snails for WHO research into schistosomiasis, photograph by Dr. Pesigan, 1954
National Library of Medicine #101437226

World Health Day happens on April 7th every year, marking the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). For the annual observance, the WHO partners with other organizations to raise awareness of a global health issue—part of its work to inform and educate people and promote wellbeing worldwide. In celebration of World Health Day 2023, the NLM is launching World Health Organization: Picturing Health for All. The new online exhibition features a selection of photographs that highlight some of the WHO’s 20th-century work.

Since the 1950s, the WHO has commissioned accomplished photojournalists to capture the transformative impact health can have on communities worldwide. The images are featured in WHO publications, providing an intimate look at health issues around the globe and shining a light on WHO-based initiatives. The NLM houses and preserves a collection of WHO photographs from the 1950s to the 1980s, much of which is available in the NLM Digital Collections. World Health Organization: Picturing Health for All showcases items from this collection. Here are a few highlights from the new online exhibition.

Three women in traditional Yemeni clothes study images placed on a wall
Photograph by J. Simon
National Library of Medicine #101437096

The WHO sets international standards for maternal care and helps countries establish programs to train midwives and nurses to work in underserved communities. This image shows nurse trainees learning midwifery in Yemen through a WHO-assisted program.


A woman shows water level in a bottle to fill as another woman looks on holding a crying baby
Photograph by Jose Abcede, 1980
National Library of Medicine #101437369

Cholera and other diarrheal diseases kill millions of people in areas with poor sanitation and sicken many more. The WHO responds to outbreaks by mobilizing and training health workers and educating the public about ways to keep themselves safe. Pictured above, a mother in the Philippines learns how to prepare a solution made with WHO-distributed salt packets, which prevent severe dehydration from diarrhea.


A woman leans toward a tall glass instrument on a laboratory desk
Photograph by Didier Henrioud, 1970
National Library of Medicine #101437222

In this image, a scientist at Cairo University in Egypt is studying the link between schistosomiasis, a widespread parasitic infection, and bladder cancer. The photograph was featured as part of World Health Day 1970, which focused on early cancer detection.

For more of World Health Organization: Picturing Health for All, visit the exhibition online. Learn more about NLM exhibitions.

Erika Mills is an exhibit specialist in the Exhibition Program, History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine.

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