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Programmes and priority setting: Setting priorities

To start the WHO reform we need clear priorities. The process of priority setting enables us to focus on playing an effective leadership role in global health, while allowing us to focus on where we can make the most impact.

"As you have made extremely clear, priority setting should be the force that drives all reforms. Reforms follow priority functions. Money follows agreed priorities."

Dr Margaret Chan, Executive Board Special Session on WHO reform

Clear priorities also ensure that we provide the most value for money and we are held accountable to deliver on them. Member States are responsible for defining our priorities; they have agreed on criteria to develop priorities and a set of categories that facilitates the organization of our work. The set of criteria includes factors such as country needs, burden of disease, and availability of evidence-based interventions.

The categories of work are communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, health throughout the life cycle, health systems, preparedness, surveillance, and response; and, corporate services and enabling functions. The priorities will take shape in the 12th General Programme of Work which will provide a clear vision for the next 6-years and, in the Programme Budget 2014-15 which will outline what WHO is expected to deliver in the biennium.


“WHO’s reform is bringing credibility in Kazakhstan."

  • Communicable diseases
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Health throughout the life cycle
  • Health systems
  • Preparedness, surveillance, and response
  • Corporate services and enabling functions


  • The current health situation
  • Needs of individual countries
  • Internationally agreed instruments
  • The existence of evidence-based, cost-effective interventions
  • The comparative advantage of WHO

What is...

...a general programme of work? It provides a vision and is used to guide the work of the organization during a pre-determined time period. The 12th General Programme of Work 2014-19 is currently under development.

...a programme budget? It is established on a biennial basis, within the policy framework and direction of the General Programme of Work, and outlines the outputs and targets to be achieved by WHO during the biennium. The Programme Budget 2014-15 is currently being developed.

A general programme of work and programme budget are constitutional requirements. Director-General is mandated to prepare and submit for approval by the Health Assembly, through the Executive Board, a general programme of work and budget estimates of the Organization.