The “new WHO” commits to making a difference

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 01 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:302

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, incoming director general of the World Health Organisation WHO),tells Adrea Mach how her new team is applying a crisp,private sector type approach to public sector priorities

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's own “Iron Lady,” is an energetic blend of doctor, manager, politician, and international activist. Her election as the first female director general of the WHO catapulted her from being former prime minister of Norway, a small, rich, homogeneous and well educated country, to the top of a constituency of 191 culturally diverse member countries with vastly differing health needs.

“It's a different challenge,” she admitted. “But my outlook was always broader, beyond Norway. The WHO's 191 nations, some more than others, reflect a wide range of problems. We have to focus on the countries in greatest need and, within countries, the people in greatest need. By doing that, we can reach the WHO's goal of Health for All.”

“Making a difference,” the WHO's leitmotiv under Brundtland's no-nonsense leadership, begins at home, with succinctly stated goals and a tight three month time frame until 1 November, when restructuring will be finalised.

Meanwhile, Dr Brundtland is moving swiftly on several fronts simultaneously to re-establish the WHO's credibility. In her first day in office Dr Brundtland announced that the WHO's …

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