Education And Debate WHO in 2002

Interview with Gro Brundtland

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 07 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1355
  1. Gavin Yamey (, deputy physician editor, Best Treatments
  1. BMJ Unified, London WC1H 9JR
  1. Correspondence to:

    On the day after Gro Brundtland announced that she would not stand for a second term as WHO's leader, Gavin Yamey interviewed her in Geneva

    Gro Brundtland, an “energetic blend of doctor, manager, politician, and international activist,”1 became WHO's director general in July 1998. After a decade of decline for WHO, many people hoped that she would be the organisation's saviour. She certainly had the credentials for the job—a former public health physician, prime minister of Norway, and chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development.

    On 23 August this year, Brundtland shocked the global health community by announcing that she would stand down after only one term. I interviewed her in Geneva immediately after the announcement, on the day that she was leaving for the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg; what follows is an edited transcript of the interview.


    Gavin Yamey: You came into office with a clear mandate to reform an ailing organisation. How successful do you feel that you have been?

    Gro Brundtland: I think we have managed to do a lot. I did spell out my vision before I was nominated. One of the main things that I said was that we need to anchor health firmly on the political and development agenda. Health was sidetracked, and I knew that if it continued like that it would not become an integrated part of development thinking. People cannot move out of poverty when they are unhealthy. I needed to move the global health agenda much more closely to the development debate, on to the tables of prime ministers and development and finance ministers, not just health ministers.

    Doing this involves not just reaching the minds of people who have decision-making power in the broader fields of economics and politics, but also increasing the …

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