Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate The World Bank and world health

Interview with Richard Feachem

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 01 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1206
  1. Kamran Abbasi, assistant editor (
  1. BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    This is the last in a series of six articles examining the World Bank's role in international health

    Dr Richard Feachem was director of health, nutrition, and population at the World Bank from 1995 until earlier this year. On 1 April 1999, he moved to become director of the new institute for global health at the University of California in San Francisco and in Berkeley. He retains the position of special adviser in health, nutrition, and population to the World Bank.

    Richard Feacham

    When I visited the bank's headquarters in Washington it was readily apparent that employees in the health sector strongly identified Dr Feachem with the bank's current policy direction. I spoke with him in May 1998; what follows is an edited transcript of that interview. I've excluded the times we were interrupted by ministers of health from Africa and by Bill Gates—senior.

    Kamran Abbasi: When did your involvement with the World Bank begin?

    Richard Feachem: My association with the World Bank goes back to 1975. I had a close interaction with the bank on a variety of health issues, starting with the health impact of water and sanitation. In 1988-9 I spent a year in Washington as a principal public health specialist, then returned to London to be dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine from 1989-95. In 1995 I moved back to the bank to become director of health, nutrition, and population. In 1992-3 I chaired the advisory committee for the 1993 World Development Report, which was a significant milestone in the bank's work on health policy.

    “The bank has tremendous influence, which is a danger, but also rewarding.”

    KA: For much of that time, the bank has been heavily criticised. Why did you get involved with it?

    RF: The bank is a very …

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