World Health Organization in the era of Margaret Chan

An Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet discusses the challenges facing Margaret Chan, the newly elected Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Margaret Chan, China's candidate, was approved by the first special session of the World Health Assembly on November 9 in Geneva. She takes up her role formally on Jan 4, 2007 and will soon have to choose which programmes to prioritise over others.

In the Editorial, The Lancet wishes Chan every success but notes that she now needs to create an operational team that commands the confidence of member states. She will need to massively scale-up WHO's scientific and advocacy response to malaria, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, child, newborn, and maternal mortality, together with sexual and reproductive health - all of which have seen terrible failures at global and country levels. The Editorial also calls for her to review and, if necessary, reverse some of the policies of the previous head of WHO that have harmed important programmes in Geneva. The Lancet welcomes the fact that Chan's election will help bring China's population of 1.3 billion more directly into the global health system.

The Lancet comments: "WHO staff speak warmly of Chan and emphasise the respect she has for the systems and processes of the agency. These qualities will certainly make Chan a strong and competent manager. Whether they will make her a good leader is another matter…The skill she will now need above all is imagination."

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EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday November 17, 2006.

EMBARGO: In North America, 18:30H EST Thursday November 16, 2006.

Contact: The Lancet press office T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com


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