[Ip-health] The Lancet (Editorial): WHO launches new leadership, new priorities

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Oct 13 02:19:56 PDT 2017

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32658-2

WHO launches new leadership, new priorities
The Lancet
Published: 14 October 2017

WHO's Director-General, Dr Tedros, last week launched his new cabinet to
widespread acclaim. His mix of deputy and assistant director-generals is
made up of nine women (two-thirds of his leadership team) with a
geographical spread across 14 countries. India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South
Africa, and Barbados are all newly represented. The announcement also
translated Tedros's verbal promises into structural commitments. New
priorities include Universal Health Coverage, climate change, and access to
medicines. His cabinet is diverse, talented, and experienced. Now it's all
about WHO's actions. A special session of the Executive Board will be
convened in November to agree a future global programme of work for the

There are important questions to resolve. How will the new team in Geneva
work with regional directors and regional offices? Will the expanded number
of priorities and larger executive team create more silos within an
organisation that is already partly paralysed by inefficiency? Will the
optimism engendered by Dr Tedros's election be backed by donor investment
to a chronically impoverished WHO? Internally, the director-general has
signalled to staff that he wants urgent and profound organisational change.
Reports suggest that he is likely to appoint a transformation czar and hire
McKinsey consultants to manage the change.

Dr Tedros is said to be obsessed by impact, which is welcome. WHO is at its
best when it amplifies its voice and reach by establishing radical and
innovative initiatives led by internationally recognised technical or
political leaders. This was the lesson of Gro Harlem Brundtland's term as
director-general. The goal of transformational change is good. But it might
be more practical for WHO to deliver on a limited number of tangible and
feasible objectives rather than speaking in terms of broad generalities and
aspirations. Dr Tedros and his team will be judged on specific and
measurable successes—such as pandemic protection and stronger health

The announcement last week has brought additional and valuable momentum to
the renewal of WHO. The agency must now raise its political game.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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