Head of UN health agency outlines reforms to improve efficiency

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

1 November 2011 – The head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today stressed that planned reforms are intended to make the agency more efficient as it strives to improve global health amid multiple challenges that have an impact on human well-being.

“On top of enduring fuel, food, and financial crises, the challenges of climate change, conflicts, emerging and epidemic-prone diseases, ageing populations, bulging cities, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), mental disorders, disabilities, and rapidly rising health-care costs will certainly aggravate inequities in both health determinants and outcomes within and between countries,” said Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, addressing the opening session of the agency’s Executive Board special session on reform in Geneva.

“The case for reform is clear. The world needs a strong WHO to lead global efforts to improve health. The world needs a WHO that has a broad and wise vision, is quick to act, and never afraid to act in the interests of public health. [It] requires a WHO that is effective, efficient, transparent, and accountable,” said Dr. Chan.

She emphasized that stronger leadership from WHO will align its actions with the priorities and capacities in countries that receive its services in ways that build self-reliance, and add value to investments in health.

Dr. Chan said she looked forward to a future “where the gaps in health outcomes have narrowed and access to universal health care has expanded.”

The anticipated reforms should help more developing countries build resilient health systems that are based on the provision of primary health care to enable them achieve their poverty reduction and social development goals, prevent NCDs, and cope with disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and the health hazards of a changing climate.

“Money is tight. Countries and development partners want value for money. They want results that they can measure, and show to taxpayers and parliamentarians. And they want a quick return on their investments.

“Our job as public health officials is to demonstrate a thirst for efficiency and an intolerance of waste. Many of the proposed reforms are driven by this keen desire for efficiency and for measurable results, especially at the country level,” she added.


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