New WHO Leader Could Improve Global Health Security By Turning WHO Upside Down

A month ago I downloaded all the CVs and applications of the three shortlisted candidates for the new WHO director general. I immediately noted that Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was the only one who directly called out the need to bolster the frail health frontlines of many poor countries. As an infectious disease epidemiologist who works with Ministries of Health in low-income countries and WHO regional offices, I am keenly aware that the leader of WHO will have a huge impact on my partners and my work.

In light of an impending pandemic of all pandemics, the world needs this bold and precise assessment of the global health system. We need to strengthen local (i.e., in-country) capabilities to detect and respond to potential health events that have mass consequences—diseases ranging from SARS to cholera. As the former Ethiopian Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros has first-hand knowledge of how communities are integral to detecting outbreaks earlier and executing health initiatives. Ethiopia has one of the best and most progressive community health programs; the now famous all-female “army” of health workers was developed under the strong direction from then Minister Tedros.

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