Background: This paper presents the first comprehensive effort to provide an overview of the research associated with the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in 2006/07. Methods: Information was obtained by questionnaire and interviews with senior staff operating at WHO headquarters in Geneva. Research type, purpose and resources (both financial and staff) were defined and compared for each of the 37 departments identified and a comparative analysis was made with the global burden of disease as expressed by Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY). Results: Research expenditure in 2006/07 was estimated at US$215 million. WHO is involved in more than 60 research networks/partnerships and often WHO itself is the network host. Using the DALY model, 84 % of the funding WHO allocates to research goes to DALY Type I diseases (communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional diseases) which represents 40 % of DALY. 4 % is allocated to Daly Type II (non-communicable diseases) which contributes to 48 % of DALY. 45 % of WHO permanent staff are involved with health research and the WHO’s approach to research is predominantly focused on policy, advocacy, health systems and population based research. The Organization principally undertakes secondary research using published data and commissions others to conduct this work through contract
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