Accurate characterization of anaemia is critical to understanding the burden and epidemiology of this problem, for planning public health interventions, and for the clinical care of patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) has initiated a project to review its global guidelines for haemoglobin thresholds used to define anaemia at the individual and population level. Technical experts, researchers, blood banks, policy makers and programme implementers identified priority questions to understand the key information and knowledge needed to inform this work. Background papers on key topics were prepared and presented at a WHO technical meeting. This background work is now setting the stage for initiating the WHO process of guideline development. The objective of this symposium is to share the process of updating this WHO recommendation on haemoglobin thresholds and the progress made to date.