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Dr. Margaret Chan's answers to PHM's questions

PHM Global Secretariat
11 October 2006

Dr. Margaret Chan's answers to the inquiries from the People’s Health Movement to the Candidates for the position of WHO’s Director General.

Dr. Margaret Chan's answers to PHM's questions

In a highly globalised world, many factors – political, economic, social – impact on the health of our world. PHM’s questions touch on many crucial health issues influenced by these factors.

My vision as a candidate for the WHO Direct-General position is guided by the high and time-honoured objective set out in the WHO Constitution: “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” I firmly believe that good health fosters social development and economic productivity, and contributes to political stability and security, and that people-centred and results-driven leadership and strategies are critical success factors for “Attaining Results for Health”.

As outlined in my manifesto, my priorities for the WHO fall under the six themes of: Development, Security, Capacity, Information and Knowledge, Partnership, and Performance for Health.

With the WHO Millennium Development Goals providing the framework for action to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, WHO needs to scale up action and resources at the country level to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and improve access to affordable essential drugs as well as to safe water and sanitation. These challenges are faced by all parts of the world, but the burden is particularly severe in large parts of Africa. I will accelerate initiatives on these areas to enable development for health.

In fact, health inequality within and among countries was acknowledged in the 2005 Bangkok Charter as one of the critical factors now influencing health in a globalised world. The Charter called for priority actions, commitments and pledges from all sectors and settings to address the determinants of health. In this regard, I have high expectations on the work of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health in promoting equitable and sustainable health policies/systems, and in narrowing health inequalities through action on social determinants.

An integrated primary health care approach is the cornerstone of effective health systems. Although the world is changing rapidly, the challenges currently facing governments as they strive to provide equitable access to effective health services are similar to those faced three decades ago - the Alma Ata principles of primary health care are just as relevant now as they were at that time. Sustainable health systems require measures to address equitable access to services, retention of motivated health workers, and affordable health financing options. I will strive to revitalise the WHO health systems agenda to support countries in building their sustainable national capacities.

Strategic partnerships for health are crucial as the global health landscape has seen a profound increase in the number of stakeholders working in health. I would therefore emphasise the importance of strengthening relationships with civil society and the private sector, create greater alignment between health partnerships, as well as listening closely to grassroots voices.

WHO’s priorities are set and based on the needs and demands of ALL Member States. To render fair treatment to all Member States, transparency is of the utmost importance. Making the arbitration and decision processes transparent to the global community will go a long way to remove the influence of special interests. The other important thing of course is to uphold the WHO tradition of evidence-based practice. Scientific evidence should form the basic, common platform on which representatives from all Member States deliberate issues, regardless of social background or profession.

Last but not the least, WHO needs to continue the process of reform while retaining stability in order to consolidate and further improve performance. In particular, I would like to accelerate human resource reform to build a work ethic within the WHO that is based on competencies, collaboration and pride in achieving results for health. The WHO also needs a corporate communications and information strategy that promotes accountability to the public and to Member States.

(PHM thanks WHO for the picture.)

PHM Global Secretariat
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