Education And Debate

The World Health Organisation: Interview with the director general

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: (Published 03 March 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:583
  1. Fiona Godleea
  1. a British Medical Journal, London WC1H 9JR
  1. Correspondence to: Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Medical School, 126 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

    Dr Hiroshi Nakajima was elected director general of WHO in 1988. Born in Japan, he trained as a psychiatrist before joining WHO in 1973. He was WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific from 1979 to 1988. His term of office has been marked by criticism of his management style and allegations of misuse of WHO's funds. I spoke to him at WHO's headquarters in Geneva in July. I have presented the interview in the form of questions and answers. It would be misleading, however, not to make clear that in doing so I have transcribed conversation which was at times extremely difficult to follow. I feel that it is important to emphasise this in the context of an interview with an international leader, one of whose primary tasks must be to communicate his views on health to people across the world. The interview gave me first hand experience of the difficulties in communication that staff, diplomats, and others, including Japanese leaders, have consistently commented on since Dr Nakajima took office.

    FG: What do you see as the most important challenges for WHO over the next 10 years?

    HN: We must first achieve our goal of Health for All by the year 2000.

    FG: Do you think this is achievable?

    HN: Disease-wise it is achievable. The problem is there are particular groups in particular countries whose health condition is deteriorating, and it is very difficult to provide them with access to health care. Even with a big effort, 40 to 60 countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, may not achieve full health for all, which is why we are now looking at targets with special priorities for those countries. We cannot solve the problem with health action alone. We need economic development and assistance.

    FG: There is much debate about whether …

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