The views expressed in this blog post belong solely to its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PLOS or the PLOS journals. Please note, this is the first of three posts on the May 2017 election of the next Director General of the World Health Organization. Read part 2 here. Proposed guest posts for “Your Say” can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org — PLOSBLOGS
By Zaeem Ul Haq, MBBS MPH
Over the past several months, many colleagues in global health have asked who I think should be the next Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). I’ve also been subtly encouraged to campaign on behalf of one candidate or another. So far, I have more or less remained neutral, not only because of some conflicting loyalties (see below), but also because I hadn’t yet had a chance to analyse the candidates’ manifestos and appraise these impartially to make an informed choice. Now that I have finally found time to do this, I would like to share the reasons behind my choice – and I invite other members of the global health community to do the same.
[PLOSBLOGS Editor’s note: guest posts for “Your Say” can be emailed to email@example.com]
First, for those who haven’t followed this issue closely, a little background is in order.
In brief, the names of candidates nominated by WHO member states were announced in September 2016. During October and November, the candidates presented their vision for WHO to member states and responded to their questions. In January 2017, the WHO executive board short listed 5 candidates, who then presented their manifestos and were interviewed by the board. The top three finalists were selected and have been put forward to the world health assembly to be held in May 2017, where member states will cast their votes and elect the next DG, who will take over from Margret Chan on July 1st, 2017. These three final candidates are:
- Dr David Nabarro, nominee of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- Dr Sania Nishtar, nominee of the Government of Pakistan.
- Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, nominee of the Government of Ethiopia.
To begin, there’s no doubt that all of these finalists have top-end credentials, and that I can think of countless reasons (such as those below) to be biased for all three, which makes the choice even more difficult than it probably is for someone else.
- Two of them are nominees from my home (Pakistan) and adopted (UK) countries, so I inherently feel an obligation to support their candidature;
- One of them, Dr. Nishtar, was my teacher in MPH, the other two I can proudly say, are fellow-alumni from the London School;
- Two are medical doctors, another two public health specialists;
- One worked in the same role with the organisation that I’ve worked for over the past decade (Save the Children), another pioneered and championed the community health approach that I have worked so passionately for over the past decade;
- One is an eloquent speaker, another a proficient writer and the third an ardent practitioner;
- All three are profound thinkers and great leaders in their own right, and thus it’s impossible to make distinction based on their profiles alone.
The choice should thus be based on their track record, achievements and their vision for the World Health Organisation over the next decade. And against those benchmarks, there is a clear winner, at least from my perspective.
Dr Tedros stands out as the most promising candidate to lead the World Health Organisation at this crucial time – with ever-increasing population, political, epidemiological and environmental challenges. My top three reasons reflect the facts that:
- He has spearheaded the health sector reform in his country and providing exemplary leadership over the past decade;
- He has galvanised bilateral and multi-sectoral partnerships that culminated in his country achieving the millennium development goal for child survival;
- He has forged regional partnerships and generating global momentum for accelerating sustainable development;
Dr Tedros would be the first African to lead the WHO. As such, his hands-on experience effectively leading the national ministries of health and foreign affairs, wherein he accelerated progress towards increasing equitable access to basic health and nutrition services, will be instrumental for his governance. This experience will help ensure the WHO continues to provide global leadership to improve health outcomes and achieve sustainable development goals for health, for the hundreds of millions in need, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and in all fragile and conflict-affected states.
Zaeem Ul Haq, MBBS MPH is a public health physician who has worked over the past 15 years to improve health and nutrition outcomes for children and communities across low and middle income countries globally. Presently he is a health advisor with Save the Children, and provides strategic direction and technical support to country programmes globally, with a special focus on child survival and health systems strengthening in fragile states. He has previously worked for international organisations such as International Rescue Committee, Medecins Sans Frontineres and the Aga Khan Foundation.
The views expressed in this blog post belong solely to its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PLOS or the PLOS journals.