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WHO Executive Board appoints two Regional Directors

Note for media

WHO Executive Board, currently holding its 134th session in Geneva, has appointed Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh as the new WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia and reappointed Dr Shin Young-soo as the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

South-East Asia Region

Dr Khetrapal Singh, an Indian national, was until recently Deputy Regional Director for WHO’s South-East Asia Region. She will take up her new post on 1 February 2014, succeeding Dr Samlee Plianbangchang who has served as the Regional Director for South-East Asia for the past 10 years.

Dr Khetrapal Singh served for over 2 decades as a civil servant in India as a member of the Indian Administrative Services, where among several important assignments she was the Health Secretary of Punjab. She then moved to the Health, Population and Nutrition Department of the World Bank and in 1998 she began her WHO career as an Executive Director in WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland’s cabinet in Geneva. After retiring from WHO in February 2013, she worked as an Advisor on International Health to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

"I look forward to working with partners to eliminate gross health inequalities and enhancing human welfare in WHO's South-East Asia Region," said Dr Khetrapal Singh. "WHO will continue supporting Member States to tackle the emerging epidemiological and demographic challenges in the Region. We will focus on promoting universal health coverage, robust health systems and strengthening emergency risk management in South-East Asia. I am committed to an excellence pursuing, responsive and accountable WHO in the Region."

Western Pacific Region

Before coming to WHO as Regional Director for the Western Pacific in 2009, Dr Shin served in the Republic of Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare, as Director of the National Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service and as professor of health policy and management at the College of Medicine, Seoul National University. He also served several times as the Republic of Korea’s representative on WHO’s Executive Board. His second term will begin on 1 February 2014.

"I look forward to continuing our efforts to tackle the Organization's unfinished business," Dr Shin said. "This includes eliminating measles and some of the neglected tropical diseases from the Region, such as yaws and leprosy; addressing the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer; working with governments to ensure that all people in the Region have access to quality health care; and enhancing the capacity of our Member States to respond adequately during health emergencies."

Under Dr Shin's leadership, WHO's Western Pacific Region has:

  • maintained its polio-free status, come close to eliminating measles and reduced chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus to less than 2% of children under five;
  • moved closer towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of improving maternal health, reducing child death, and combatting HIV, malaria and tuberculosis;
  • improved preparedness for public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) that began in March 2013 in the Region;
  • and increased access to equitable health care for more of their people.

The WHO Executive Board is comprised of representatives from 34 Member States. The main functions of the Executive Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly, to advise it and generally facilitate its work.

For more information please contact:

Mr Gregory Hartl
WHO Media Coordinator and Spokesperson
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Mr Glenn Thomas
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