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Early International Health Efforts

OIHP letter of cooperation

Letter from the Office international d'hygiène publique

The first international health efforts during the modern era began in 1851 when 14 nations came together for the first International Sanitary Conference in Paris. Their aim was to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague, and yellow fever. International conferences continued throughout the rest of the 19th century, leading to the first International Sanitary Convention, addressing cholera, which was ratified at the 7th International Sanitary Conference held in Venice in 1892.


At the 1903 Conference, it was agreed that a permanent international health bureau should be established. A final decision regarding its creation was taken at a 1907 meeting held in Rome, leading to the formation of the International Office of Public Hygiene or Office international d'hygiène publique (OIHP) in French. Based in Paris, the organization was to administer the international sanitary conventions and gather and disseminate information. In the United States, a more regional organization was founded in 1902 called the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau, with a concern for health issues primarily in the Americas.