The Director’s Corner

The Director’s Corner

Shaping the future in order to widen healthcare access 

A message from José Luis Castro at the 70th World Health Assembly

This week, 22-31 May, marks the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva (WHA70) – the annual gathering of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Member States, where policy, budgets and operational priorities are presented and decided, determining the global public health agenda. 

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, food, housing, healthy working conditions and a clean environment are integral to this. However, The Union, through its work with the world’s most vulnerable populations who face additional obstacles of poverty, stigma and displacement, sees daily evidence that, for many, this is a pipedream. The human right to health is enjoyed by too few.

The special focus of WHA70 will be on the selection of the WHO’s newest Director-General – a pivotal decision that will shape wider access to healthcare for all. The WHO D-G we need – and must have – is both a principled diplomat and a skillful manager who can lead a deep reform agenda within the organisation. This person must be able to shape an organisation that can deliver a balance of sound policy and effective operations against a backdrop of perpetually shifting circumstances within different political, economic and social contexts. The WHO must be fit for purpose in the 21st century and work on behalf of the world’s most disenfranchised populations, many of whom have no voice or means to prepare or defend their own communities from disease.

To this end, we urge the new Director-General to take immediate and effective action on the following areas:

  • The design and management of more efficient, effective and accountable internal systems and programmes
  • More effective real-time monitoring of global health needs, using these data to show where WHO should intervene in a way that adds value to country-level capacity
  • Work 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 the new Director-General on making this difference.

You can read further about what a deep WHO reform agenda should look like here

José Luis Castro

Executive Director

International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease


The three candidates for Director-General, WHO

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Dr David Nabarro

Dr Sania Nishtar


Three official side events with emphasis on TB, lung health and non-communicable diseases

Monday 22 May, 18.00-19.30, - Success Factors for NCDs: Pathways to Accelerate Progress. This event from the NCD Alliance will explore success factors and catalytic strategies for implementing NCD prevention policies and building sustainable health systems for NCDs. Moderated by Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, Dr. Richard Horton. 

Thursday 25 May, 12.30-14.00 – A Call to Action for Lung Health.  This event draws together world leaders in respiratory health, uniting in a call to improve lung health globally.  A highlight will be the launch of ‘The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease’ report, describing the toll of illness, disability and death from lung disease worldwide and will call for official recognition of a World Lung Day. 

Friday 26 May, 12.30-13.15 – Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Agenda.  In order to end TB by 2030, dramatic acceleration is needed in prevention, universal coverage of care, and research and development of new tools to prevent, diagnose and treat TB.  This event will also look ahead to the critical high-level meetings on TB taking place in 2017 and 2018, which are giving new momentum to the End TB Strategy. 

More information on the 70th World Health Assembly is available on the WHO website