Dr Margaret Chan up for election to head WHO for second term
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization’s 192 members are meeting for five days in Geneva starting Monday 21 May. The assembly will elect a director general and current head Dr Margaret Chan, with solid backing from the board, looks set for re-election.
Chan, in her opening remarks Monday, emphasized the progress made by countries whose governments have shown “the importance of national ownership and leadership.” She cited India’s polio eradication programme, Ghana’s commitment to guinea worm eradication, noting that “during the first quarter of 2012, cases of this disease dropped 67% compared with last year, and now number just over 100.” And Namibia, which “is leading a group of 8 neighbouring African countries in a joint effort to eliminate malaria.”
Funds are tighter, and it’s time to get back to the basics, “shift to thrift” and be innovative, says Chan
Chan characterized the last decade as a golden one for world health, on many levels, but arguing against the doomsayers who believe the opposite is now true.
“At the start of the decade, the Millennium Development Goals showed how much the perception of health had changed, from a drain on resources to a driver of socioeconomic progress. In that golden decade, governments, in both donor and recipient countries, made the health agenda a top priority. Money for health development more than tripled. Substantial results followed, with a particularly strong impact on deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and childhood illness.”
More than 60 countries now pushing for universal health coverage
The director general saved her strongest words, in an upbeat message about where health is headed, for a shift towards universal health coverage.
“Following publication of the 2010 World Health Report on health system financing, more than 60 countries have approached WHO seeking technical support for their plans to move towards universal coverage.
“What we are seeing goes against the historical pattern, where social services shrink when money gets tight. I think this drive to expand coverage is a powerful signal. Despite deepening financial austerity, the will to do the right thing, the fair thing, for people’s health prevails.”