WHO is working to increase the impact of its country work by making it more strategic and more focused. 26 Country offices are being strengthened (through capacity-building and staff development) and “country cooperation strategies” (to provide a framework for the entire range of WHO support to a country) are being drawn up jointly by Regional Offices and Headquarters. Concurrently, WHO is working with other development partners on specific issues, such as poverty, and to develop specific approaches to development problems, such as sector-wide approaches (known as SWAPs).
Regarding pharmaceuticals, WHO works with countries through the coordinated efforts of: its WHO Representative offices in countries (WRs); its pharmaceutical advisers designated in each regional office; and its regional focal points located within the Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy (EDM) at Headquarters.
Each pharmaceutical adviser and the corresponding EDM regional focal point are responsible for developing and implementing an integrated Regional Office-EDM Plan of Action for their region, based on the expressed needs of national authorities and pharmaceutical plans prepared by WHO country offices. Given the process of globalization, and the continuing development of regional and subregional pharmaceutical markets, WHO's structure gives it a tremendous comparative advantage when carrying out regional and intercountry activities.
Within countries, the ministry of health (MOH) is WHO's primary focal point. The MOH has primary responsibility for driving and coordinating national drug policy implementation, within the overall context of its country's national health policy. In supporting this process, WHO encourages the MOH to integrate essential drugs programmes with health services and to coordinate all programmes with a drug component. It also encourages the MOH to work closely with other parties whose activities may influence or relate to the pharmaceutical sector, including other ministries such as industry, trade, finance, health professionals at grass-roots level, and WHO's partners as highlighted in Figure 6.
WHO coordination at country level is also crucial for the success of any essential drugs programme. The daily activities of the WHO Representative's office and other partners' country offices, joint missions with other UN agencies, development banks and donors, and joint planned and funded projects, all contribute to such coordination. (Global coordination mechanisms are described in Chapter 3.)
Figure 6: WHO’s interactions with countries are central to its activities