The Second World War caused unprecedented damage to societies all over the world, leading to widespread decline in physical and mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) was founded on 7 April 1948 to act as a global response to these unprecedented challenges.

The WHO has been committed to improving the health and wellbeing of people from all countries and backgrounds for 76 years, and in that time has achieved numerous milestones in advancing public access to healthcare. As we mark World Health Day 2024, senior associate Nadia Krueger-Young and paralegal Cara Smythe from our Clinical Negligence team explore and restate the importance of global access to healthcare.


Successes to date

Since its inception the WHO has been integral to numerous health campaigns, as recently acknowledged by medical journal The Lancet. These include:

  • contributing to the eradication of smallpox;
  • promoting mass campaigns against leprosy and syphilis;
  • controlling major outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever;
  • contributing to research on human reproduction, leading to the regulation and development of birth control methods.

More recently, the WHO played a widely acknowledge role in responding to Covid-19, which was declared a ‘global pandemic’ in March 2020. In its initial response to Covid, the WHO convened a Global Research and Innovation Forum on the virus in 2020, attended by more than 450 experts and funders from 48 countries. Participants came together to assess their existing knowledge, identify gaps and work together to accelerate and fund priority research, leading to the subsequent rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine programme.

The British Medical Journal states that the Covid-19 vaccines were one of the ‘major turning points’ in the pandemic, with 13.3 billion doses given worldwide. The WHO oversaw the COVAX initiative to push for equitable access to the vaccines, campaigning so that countries with the lowest incomes would have access to the same or equivalent healthcare as first world countries.

The conflict in Gaza has also required a response by the WHO, working in tandem with partners in 2023 and early 2024 to provide fuel and supplies to those in need.


World Health Day: 7 April

The anniversary of the WHO’s establishment on 7 April each year has been designated World Health Day, providing an “opportunity to focus world attention on a health problem or issue that deserves special attention” as pledged by the WHO itself.

In 2024 the day’s theme is ‘My health, my right’. Several human rights treaties include the right to heath including the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, though interestingly there is no fundamental right to good health or wellbeing included in the European Convention on Human Rights. One of the core principles in the WHO Constitution is that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health “is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

At present, the WHO Constitution is not enshrined into UK domestic or international law. This makes the promotion and recognition of World Health Day every year all the more important for those with the power to spread awareness. Billions around the world face daily challenges as a result of lack of access to the standard of healthcare that many may take for granted.


World Patient Safety Day: 17 September

In 2019 the WHO launched their first ever ‘World Patient Safety Day’ on 17 September. Now established as an annual event, World Patient Safety Day aims “to raise global awareness about patient safety and call for solidarity and united action by all countries and international partners to reduce patient harm”.

NHS reports up to 2022 have suggested a rise in the number of patient safety incidents. From April to June 2022, 652,246 incidents in England were reported to the National Reporting and Learning System, an 8% increase when compared to the same period of the previous year (though this was attributed to lower reporting during the pandemic). The top four incident categories are:

  • Implementation of care and ongoing monitoring/review
  • Patient accident
  • Access, admission, transfer and discharge
  • Treatment, procedure

Most recorded patient safety events occurred in acute or general hospitals (72%), followed by much smaller proportions in mental health services, community and ambulance services.

Our Clinical Negligence team witnesses the debilitating effects of some of these patient safety incidents and works closely with clients to achieve compensation. We aim to build relationships with the best rehabilitation centres and case managers available, to ensure clients receive the best treatment and service even after their case has concluded.


Doing our part for global health

Stewarts’ commitment to creating opportunities for the disadvantaged and treating people less fortunate than ourselves with compassion and respect is in line with the WHO’s principle that the enjoyment of the right to health is a fundamental right of every human being.

In response to the Turkey-Syria earthquake in 2023, the Stewarts Foundation donated to a number of charities including Action-Aid who provided assistance for those without adequate aid and health services as a result of the earthquake. Stewarts’ Charity of the Year in 2024 is Bliss, who are committed to giving premature or sick babies the best possible chance in life.



You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence pages.

If you require assistance from our team, please contact us.



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