WHO: Dr Tedros Takes Office
On July 1, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took office as Director-General of the World Health Organization, succeeding Dr Margaret Chan, who has held office since January 1, 2007.
In his address to the WHO staff, as he began his tenure, Dr Tedros said:
Let me start with the moral centre of our work, with this simple but crucial statement: WHO’s work is about serving people, about serving humanity. It’s about serving people regardless of where they live, be it in developing or developed countries, small islands or big nations, urban or rural settings. It’s about serving people regardless of who they are. Poor or rich, displaced or disabled, elderly or the youth. Most importantly, it’s about fighting to ensure the health of people as a basic human right. Health is a basic human right, that you fully understand.
It’s about a child who gets to see adulthood or about a parent who watches their child survive and thrive. It’s about a community living disease-free or an entire country or region that’s better prepared for health emergencies or for climate change.”
The Director-General is WHO’s chief technical and administrative officer and oversees the policy for the Organization’s international health work.
Dr Tedros was elected May 23, 2017, by vote of Member States at the Seventieth World Health Assembly. Through the election, he received an overwhelming mandate by Member States.
It was the first time that WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly selected a Director-General from among multiple candidates. In previous elections a single nominee was forwarded by the WHO Executive Board to the World Health Assembly for consideration.
Prior to his election as WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros served from 2012–2016 as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia. In this role he led the effort to negotiate the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, in which 193 countries committed to the financing necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Tedros served as Minister of Health in Ethiopia from 2005–2012 where he led a comprehensive reform effort of the country’s health system, including the expansion of the country’s health infrastructure. He has also served as chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; as chair of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board; and as co-chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
Focus areas and priorities
Dr Tedros has been clear about three focus areas of his work:
- Implementing leadership priorities and measuring results.
- Delivering results, value for money, efficiency and earning trust.
- Reinforcing a talented, motivated and engaged staff.
I have said many times during the campaign that all roads lead to universal health coverage. For me, the key question of universal health coverage is an ethical one.”
The top priorities for Dr Tedros are:
- Universal health coverage,
- Health emergencies,
- Women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, and
- Health impacts of climate and environmental change.
Finally, for WHO to be effective in supporting countries, we need to have technical expertise in health challenges countries face: communicable diseases including polio, HIV, TB, malaria, hepatitis and neglected tropical diseases and noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases, cancer, diabetes, mental health, addictions, accidents and injuries, you name it.”