Collaborating centres


Definition and subjects addressed

WHO collaborating centres are institutions designated by the Director-General that form an international collaborative network carrying out activities to support WHO’s programmes at all levels.

Typically, such centres are divisions of national research institutes; departments of universities, laboratories, hospitals or health ministries; or national institutions such as academies.

To be eligible, the proposed centre should have a history of carrying out jointly planned activities with WHO. A WHO department recommends each new centre, which then undergoes an extensive review that considers the institution’s scientific and technical standing, stability, relations with other national and international institutions and relevance to WHO’s programme priorities. A concrete list is then drawn up of activities and products that the institution will implement.

WHO designates an institution as a collaborating centre for an initial period of four years, which can be renewed as needed.

Today, the technical areas with the most centres are occupational health, health promotion, health-system research and development, mental health and neurosciences, nursing, health technologies, health information, statistics and measurement, and reproductive health.

Mutual benefit

Through the global network of collaborating centres, WHO gains access to top institutions worldwide that can support its work and ensure the scientific validity of global health work. The collaborating centres receive greater visibility and recognition by national authorities, and attract more public attention to the health issues that they address. They also have increased opportunities to exchange information, develop technical cooperation with other institutions, particularly at the international level, and mobilize additional resources from funding partners.

Some figures

  • There are around 800 WHO collaborating centres in over 80 Member States around the world.
  • The 290 collaborating centres in 34 countries in the WHO European Region comprise 36% of the global total.
  • The countries in the Region hosting the largest numbers of collaborating centres are the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France and the Russian Federation.
  • The first WHO collaborating centre was the Department of Biological Standardization at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, originally designated in 1948.