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Friday, 26 May 2017

Wanted: Top doctor to care for 7 billion people

There's another big election coming up which will have an impact on hundreds of millions of people all around world - but you probably haven't heard anything about it.
Health ministers and officials from 194 countries are due to vote for a new director general of the World Health Organization in Geneva on Tuesday.
The UN agency, founded in 1948, describes itself as the "global guardian of public health", but it lost a great deal of credibility and trust over its handling of the Ebola crisis in 2014.
The new boss could make or break the WHO, which is still trying to prove it is fit for purpose after admitting it was slow to respond to what became the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
However, dealing with epidemics is just part of what WHO does.
Its stated goal is to ensure "the highest attainable level of health for all people".
In practice, that means everything from trying to wipe out deadly diseases for good, to trying to deal with the growing number of obesity and diabetes epidemics, to reducing deaths on the roads and saving the lives of mothers and babies during childbirth.

WHO: Six big moments

  • Led a mass vaccination campaign which eradicated smallpox in 1979
  • In 1995 it launched a tuberculosis (TB) control strategy which saved more than 35 million lives
  • By 2006, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday dropped below 10 million for the first time
  • In 2008, it strengthened its focus on diseases such as heart disease and cancer
  • It declared Ebola an international public health emergency in 2014
  • It confirmed that Zika causes brain damage in babies born to infected mothers in 2016
Heading an organisation responsible for the health of all 7.3 billion people on earth is no small task.
"The word 'health' itself is a burden that it carries," said Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.
"Improving health worldwide can mean so many things, from mental health to malaria to unintentional injuries… to cancer.
"It's very hard for one agency, with a very limited and very constrained budget - of around $2bn every year - to achieve all those things. "

Consensus and vision

Prof Sridhar, who has recently written a book looking at WHO funding, said the US's health protection agency, the CDC, has a budget more than three times that of the WHO.
She also said most of it comes from donors who earmark their funding for specific projects.
Only around 20% of the WHO budget comes from compulsory contributions from member states, she said.
Whoever gets the top job will have to be the consummate politician. They will have to get country leaders on board with big - often expensive - global health objectives, while also being above politics and not beholden to the special interests of any particular country.
"There have been two types of leader at the WHO in the past," said Prof David Heymann, a former assistant director at the WHO.
"Some have tried to build consensus between 194 member countries, then try to implement what those countries have said. Others have been leaders who have been out in front with a vision, and tried to pull 194 countries along with that vision."
There are three candidates left in the running for the $241,000-a-year job.
The vote will take place at the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva. Whoever is elected will serve a minimum five-year term.
Source By BBC.COM

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