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Coming to Terms with World Health

The League of Nations Health Organisation 1921-1946

Iris Borowy

The League of Nations Health Organisation was the first international health organisation with a broad mandate and global responsibilities. It acted as a technical agency of the League of Nations, an institution designed to safeguard a new world order during the tense interwar period. The work of the Health Organisation had distinct political implications, although ostensibly it was concerned «merely» with health. Until 1946, it addressed a broad spectrum of issues, including public health data, various diseases, biological standardization and the reform of national health systems. The economic depression spurred its focus on social medicine, where it sought to identify minimum standards for living conditions, notably nutrition and housing, defined as essential for healthy lives. Attracting a group of innovative thinkers, the organization laid the groundwork for all following international health work, effective until today.


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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations Technical Remarks Introduction I. The Rise 1 Beginning — The Formation of the LNHO 2 The Early Years: The Provisional Health Committee 1921-1922 3 Towards Permanence: The Provisional Health Committee 1922-1923 Interchanges, 100; Causes of Death Classification, 105; Africa, 109; Diseases: Malaria - Cancer, 111; Standardization, 114; Opium, 116; Towards a Permanent Health Committee, 120 II. The Basis 1 The 1920s — the first Decade 2 The Backbone of LNHO Work: the Permanent Programs Epidemiological Intelligence, 143 ; Standardization , 143; Opium, 160 ; Conclusions, 165 3 The Basis for Deciding on Health Work: Assessing World Health Cause of Death and Disease Classification, 167; International Health Yearbooks, 177; Infant Welfare, 184; Conclusions, 190 4 The Basis for Conducting Health Work: Contact and Communication Interchanges, 191; Public Health Education, 205; Latin America, 212; Africa, 225; Conclusions, 235 5 The Traditional View on Health: Diseases Malaria, 239; Sleeping Sickness, 255; Cancer, 261; Tuberculosis, 268; Conclusions, 275 6 Shifting Development: Decline and Growth between the 1920s and 1930s 7 9 10 11 41 77 95 129 143 167 191 237 277 61 The Innovative Approach to Health Work: Establishing Health Systems 301 Greece, 301; Bolivia, 304; China, 305; Conclusions, 323 2 Rural Hygiene 325 Rural Hygiene in Europe, 325; Rural Housing, 344; Rural Hygiene in Asia, 347; Rural Hygiene in America, 357; European Conference on Rural Life, 258; Conclusions, 360 3 The Effect of World Depression — Nutrition 361 Economic Depression, 361; l im ited Results; :The Psychological Effects o f the Depression / “Coloni...

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