Wemos was founded in 1979 by a group of medical students who realized that sending Dutch doctors to low-income countries was not a structural solution to public health problems in those countries. Within 40 years, Wemos has positioned itself as a global health advocate.
The most outstanding case from Wemos’ early years was the successful campaign against the pharmaceutical company Organon. Organon sold anabolic steroids to developing countries for the treatment of malnourished children. ‘But malnourished children need bread, not steroids. It is highly unethical to provide these harmful substances when people are starving,’ says Wilbert Bannenberg, one of Wemos’ founders. In the course of the years, Wemos became steadily more professional in its lobby activities and reached a growing number of organizations.
Pharmaceutical company Organon’s advertisement for Orgabolin
International networks started to play an ever more prominent role, initially as a source of information and later as a lobby partner. Wemos directed her advocacy in particular towards the Dutch government, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
In the 1990s, Wemos adopted an increasingly project-based approach. Apart from staff with a medical background, the organization also started engaging people from other disciplines such as social scientists and communication experts. We also expanded our cooperation with organizations from other continents, and started public campaigning.
In 2010, Wemos repositioned itself as a global health advocate. Our core business is to influence policies in such a way that they are beneficial for public health. As a consequence, our supporting of partner organizations and public campaigning came to an end.
We now apply a global perspective on health. The Health unlimited initiative guides our work. We advocate for policies in the Netherlands that contribute to public health – here and elsewhere. We also advocate for an inter-sectoral approach to policy making: all sectors should contribute to public health.