Who’s WHO When It Comes to COVID-19?

Credit: iStock

As the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 spreads, so too does information—and misinformation—about it. Accurate and reliable facts are key to helping us all make the best choices to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe. But who are these frequently mentioned organizations helping federal, state and local governments make the recommendations to slow the spread of this outbreak? Here’s a primer on some major players tracking and sharing reliable information about COVID-19:

World Health Organization (WHO): WHO was founded by the United Nations in 1948 to work for “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” Today, it pursues its mission by employing over 7,000 people with expertise in areas such as medicine, disease tracking and health statistics. In emergencies such as a pandemic, these experts are already positioned around the globe to offer aid and monitor the spread of the illness. WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, which is composed of health ministers from 194 member states.  

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC is the U.S.’s “health protection agency.” It tracks and works to address both contagious and non-contagious diseases that threaten the U.S. population. CDC specialists serve a central role whenever an epidemic spreads in this country. They monitor the progress of the disease, advise local authorities and implement best practices.

National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID): You have probably heard Anthony Fauci, MD, quoted or interviewed in news reports about COVID-19. He is the director of NIAID, one of the 27 institutes and centers that comprise NIH. As the name suggests, NIAID’s work focuses on infectious diseases and other health conditions in which the immune system plays a central role. HIV/AIDS, antimicrobial resistance and a universal vaccine for influenza are three important topics NIAID works on.

Appointed to the post in 1984, Fauci has advised six presidents on crises that have included the HIV/AIDS epidemic, West Nile virus and Zika. In 2015, he made a point of personally treating a U.S. health care worker infected with Ebola so as to better understand the virus.

While CDC primarily implements public health and safety strategies, NIH’s mission is scientific discovery. It funds research for a wide array of biomedical questions both at its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and across the U.S. at universities and other research centers. The discoveries made by that research inform doctors and other experts how to better address the health concerns of the country and the world.

The professional researchers and leaders at these trusted organizations are on the frontlines of helping to keep us safe. Be sure that these websites are high on your list for information related to coronavirus and COVID-19. 

Claire Edwards is a Social Media and Web Content Specialist at the American Physiological Society. She has over ten years’ experience in science policy.

Leave a Reply