New leader, new hope for WHO

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7399.1100 (Published 22 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1100
  1. Gavin Yamey, deputy physician editor (gyamey@bmj.com),
  2. Kamran Abbasi, deputy editor
  1. Best Treatments
  2. BMJ BMJ Unified, London WC1H 9JR

    Setting an agenda for Jong-Wook Lee

    In the mid-1990s the World Health Organization seemed doomed to either “flounder in a morass of petty corruption and ineffective bureacracy”1 or to die.2 Neither of these happened. Instead, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who took office as director general in July 1998, restored the organisation's reputation as a credible force in global health.3 Last week the World Health Assembly approved Jong-Wook Lee as Brundtland's successor. Unlike Brundtland, Lee is not being charged with saving the organisation but with harnessing its potential to transform the lives of the poorest. There are four things he must do to help achieve this.

    Think global, act local

    Embedded Image

    credit: WHO

    Firstly, he must start to close the huge gap between what WHO is doing on the global stage and what is happening at country level. Where Brundtland focused her energies and much of WHO's resources on headquarters—a strategy that was useful for launching new, high profile public-private partnerships—Lee must think globally and act locally.

    High profile public-private initiatives are being rolled out in countries with weak public health systems. The poorest countries struggle with epidemics, natural …

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