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LEE Jong-wook Takes Office as WHO Director-General

Impact in Countries to be the Measure of all WHO work

HIV/AIDS Given New Focus and Priority

Dr LEE Jong-wook takes office today as Director-General of the World Health Organization, with a pledge to focus the organization on HIV/AIDS, on achieving results in countries, and on helping to tackle the widespread human resources crisis in the health sector.

As Director-General, Dr Lee joins an illustrious group of health leaders who have led WHO's work since the organization was established more than 55 years ago. "Our work together in the coming years will be guided by three principles. We must do the right things. We must do them in the right places. And we must do them the right way," he said in his inaugural address to WHO staff.

Since he was elected to the post of Director-General at the World Health Assembly in May, Dr Lee has been working to build a leadership team of highly talented and committed public health professionals. They have come from around the world to devote their expertise to building better global health.

New Focus on AIDS; Global Plan by 1 December
HIV/AIDS will be given a renewed emphasis as one of WHO's priority programmes, particularly focusing on the target of providing three million people in developing countries with antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2005 (the "Three by Five" goal).

Dr Lee said he has given the newly strengthened HIV/AIDS department the task of producing a global plan to meet this "Three by Five" goal by World AIDS Day, 1 December. This target will guide much of WHO's work on AIDS, although along with the renewed emphasis on treatment, work on prevention, counselling and care will continue. The WHO departments working on HIV/AIDS will be brought into a new cluster together with tuberculosis and malaria.

Much work has already been done around the world on understanding AIDS, developing treatment protocols, and advocating for increased political commitment and funding. What is required now is a new drive to get highly effective treatments to the people who need them. This means working with countries to build health systems that will provide antiretroviral drugs and other care.

Priority: Results in Countries
On his first day in office, Dr Lee pledged to ensure that all of WHO's work has the clear and explicit aim of achieving results in countries. The proportion of resources devoted to WHO headquarters has crept steadily upwards. While much good work has been done in Geneva, Dr Lee emphasised that the focus of all WHO's work must be on the men, women and children who suffer and die because they lack access to even the most basic health care.

Skilled, talented and committed health care workers are the engine that keeps all health systems running. But many countries face a real human resources crisis in the health sector. Dr Lee pledged to work closely with countries and with communities to build the health work force and to develop innovative methods of training, deployment and supervision of health care workers to address this crisis.

"The shortage of skilled health personnel slows progress towards health goals such as ‘Three by Five’ and the Millennium target on maternal mortality," Dr Lee said. "Our cooperation with countries on this issue must intensify."

Building the future of health care also means investing in a new generation of public health leaders. Dr Lee announced plans for a new Health Leadership Service programme to be established at WHO. Talented young public health professionals from developing countries will be selected for a two-year programme of training and immersion in the work of WHO at all levels.

Commitment to Staff Development
In a speech broadcast to WHO staff around the world, Dr Lee said his leadership team is committed to developing the skills of people at all levels and in all parts of the organization.

"Some of you are sought by the media during events like the SARS crisis," he said. "Most continue your work outside the spotlight, with professionalism and passion for the cause of health. Without all of your individual contributions, WHO's work could not progress."

Under his leadership, Dr Lee said WHO will become more driven by team-building and information-sharing. "As we work more collaboratively, we will also work more efficiently."

New Senior Staff
Dr Lee also introduced the senior team of health experts he has brought together in Geneva to help him implement his ambitious plans. They are:

  • Denis Aitken from the United Kingdom, Assistant Director-General and Director of the Director-General's Office
  • Anarfi Asamoa-Baah from Ghana, Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases programmes
  • Kazem Behbehani from Kuwait, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Governing Bodies
  • Jack Chow from the United States, Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
  • Tim Evans from Canada, Assistant Director-General for Evidence and Information for Policy
  • Catherine Le Gales-Camus from France, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
  • Kerstin Leitner from Germany, Assistant Director-General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments
  • Vladimir Lepakhin from Russia, Assistant Director-General for Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals
  • Liu Peilong from China, Assistant Director-General and Advisor to the Director-General
  • Anders Nordstrom from Sweden, Assistant Director-General for General Management
  • Joy Phumaphi from Botswana, Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health

For more information contact:

Mr Iain Simpson
Telephone: +41 22 791 3215
Mobile phone: +41 79 475 5534

Ms Christine McNab
Telephone: +41 22 791 4688
Mobile phone: +41 79 254 6815