New Director-General of the World Health Organization can shape a future that promotes healthcare access for all

On 1 July 2017, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus formally takes up his position as the new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). He is the first African to hold the post and the first non-physician. Elected at the World Health Assembly in May 2017, Dr Tedros said then that “All roads should lead to universal health coverage. I will not rest until we have met this.”

Responding to news of Dr Tedros’ appointment, José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union, said: “Dr Tedros is a proven leader who spearheaded massive improvements in Ethiopia’s healthcare system. He has the credentials, the diplomatic skills, and the management experience to effectively lead the WHO during one of the most critical moments in its history.”

Health is a human right. It should be within every person’s grasp to attain the highest standard of physical and mental health and access to quality medical care and treatment. However, The Union, through its work with the world’s most vulnerable populations, sees daily evidence that the human right to health is enjoyed by too few.

While the aim to increase access to healthcare does not lie exclusively with the WHO, there is much the organisation can do to advance the agenda for more effective, more inclusive healthcare systems. Dr Tedros is assuming leadership of the WHO at a time when there is widespread recognition that reforms are a priority. These include building more efficient, effective and accountable internal systems and programmes; strengthening the WHO’s capacity to monitor global health trends and threats in real time; and working with countries – and communities – to deliver customised guidance and services based on best practice, for all countries, resource-rich or poor.

How we – the global health community – respond to challenges means the difference between lives saved or lost. We look forward to working closely with Dr Tedros on making this difference.

Read José Luis Castro’s Op-Ed, ‘New Leader of World Health Organization Must Bring Real Reform’ in Real Clear Health.

Union directors share their hopes and priorities for the new WHO leadership: 

“As we gear up for eliminating TB, we ask Dr. Tedros and the WHO leadership to prioritise preventive measures on an equal footing with the diagnosis and treatment of active TB cases. We urge the speeding up of the development of an effective vaccine, better drugs, and point of care diagnosis. Most of all, we look to the WHO to drive political commitment in our countries to end TB for good.”

Dr Jamhoih (Jamie) Tonsing, Regional Director, The Union South-East Asia Office 


"It is crucial the new WHO leadership advocates on our behalf to governments of those countries with a high TB burden to ensure TB is integral to their health and political agendas. Political engagement and momentum is key.”

Dr Jean Pierre Kabuayi, Director, The Union DR Congo Office


“Zimbabwe would like to join the rest of the world in congratulating Dr. Tedros on the position of Director-General for the WHO. We are looking forward to his leadership in ending the TB epidemic and making TB a priority disease for action.”

Dr Christopher Zishiri, Director, The Union Zimbabwe Office