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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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The British Public Record Office has been renamed National Archives since research at its premises for this book. For simplicity’s sake, the original citation format of the sources used, including the abbreviation PRO (for Public Record Office) has been retained. US American spelling has been used throughout the text. However, quotes and institutional names have been left in their original form. Above all, this means that the official spelling of the League of Nations Organisation has been respected, but otherwise the today more common form of “organization” is used.

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