Former Hong Kong Health Director Chan Takes Office as WHO Director General
Margaret Chan, a former health director from Hong Kong, on Thursday took office as the World Health Organization's director general, saying she would focus primarily on improving the health of Africans and women worldwide, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 1/5). Chan replaces Lee Jong-wook, who died in May 2006, two years before his term was scheduled to end (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/10/06). "I want my leadership to be judged by the impact of our work on the health of two populations: women and the people of Africa," Chan said on Thursday (BBC News, 1/5). She also said that a new flu pandemic could have devastating consequences, especially in countries already affected by HIV/AIDS or with weak health care infrastructures (French, AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/4). In addition, Chan highlighted the importance of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, saying progress on them will "contribute to improving the health of people in Africa, (by reducing) HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria" (Hagen, UN Chronicle, 1/4). According to Chan, it is an "unprecedented time for resources and political commitment" aimed at improving health worldwide. "When you look at the number of foundations, commitment of [the Group of Eight industrialized nations] and wealthy countries in supporting such initiatives as HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, the money is there," Chan said, adding, "But translating them into the local level, we need to ask (if) we know the solution for dealing with malaria, why aren't we able to care for the people in need? Have we been creative enough?" (Benitez, South China Morning Post, 1/5). Although awareness about global health issues has increased because of programs funded by the U.S. and other wealthy nations, as well as groups like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, there is a need for increased political commitment and resources, Chan said. She added that efforts aimed at strengthening Africa's weak health infrastructures, which she called the continent's largest public health problem, are needed (New York Times, 1/5).
Chan said that her six priorities as WHO director general include development for health, health security, strengthening health systems, developing improved information and knowledge, bolstering partnerships, and improving WHO's performance (South China Morning Post, 1/5). Chan also vowed to improve the accountability of WHO in reporting on the progress of its programs (New York Times, 1/5). "We need to have an organization which is ... transparent, accountable and nimble," she said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/4). However, she said that WHO would not be undergoing any "upheaval[s]" (South China Morning Post, 1/5). Chan's term will run until June 30, 2012 (WHO release, 1/4).