South Korean Tuberculosis Expert Dr. Jong Wook Lee Narrowly Defeats UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot for WHO Head Position
Dr. Jong Wook Lee, 57, of South Korea, on Tuesday was chosen by a World Health Organization executive committee vote of 17-15 to take over the position of WHO director general, BBC News reports. Lee, who will succeed Norway's Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, narrowly defeated Peter Piot, a Belgian epidemiologist who heads UNAIDS (BBC News, 1/28). Since December 2000, Lee has headed the United Nations' Stop Tuberculosis program, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 1/28). In a statement, Lee said, "Global pandemics of poverty and AIDS ... pose serious threats to health in the first decade of the 21st century. ... Communities, particularly poor ones, lack access to the most basic services and drugs. Clearly, political commitment must translate into effective action" (BBC News, 1/28). Other candidates included Pascoal Mocumbi, Mozambique's prime minister; Julio Frenk, Mexican health minister; and Egypt's former Health Minister Ismail Sallam. Brundtland will step down in June when her five-year term expires (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/22). The executive committee's decision is subject to approval from all 192 WHO members, who will vote on Lee's appointment in May (Agence France-Presse, 1/28). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the public forum for WHO director general candidates is available for viewing online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.