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Dr Margaret Chan takes office as Director-General of the World Health Organization

Impact on health of women and people in Africa to be measure of success

Dr Margaret Chan of China today took office as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) following her election in November. She pledged that her term of office and the effectiveness of the Organization would be judged by the impact they have on two specific populations.

"I want my leadership to be judged by the impact of our work on the health of two populations: women and the people of Africa," Dr Chan said. "WHO has a long history of commitment to those in greatest need, including the most vulnerable groups."

Dr Chan has set out six priority areas on which she intends to focus the work of WHO: development for health, health security, building the capacity of health systems, developing better information and knowledge, enhancing partnerships and improving the performance of the Organization.

Speaking to staff, Dr Chan said that the priorities she has emphasized during and since her election will not mean a major restructuring of WHO. She said she would be looking for ways in which different parts of the Organization can work better together. She told staff, "I will stick with my promise. Reform, yes. Upheaval, no."

She took the opportunity to praise the work of Dr Anders Nordström, who has been acting Director-General since the sudden death of the former Director-General, Dr LEE Jong wook, in May, 2006.

Dr Chan told staff, "I believe these are optimistic times for health. Never before has our work enjoyed such a high profile on the political agenda."

Dr Chan said one of the key challenges now facing WHO is to "manage all this vigorous interest in health in ways that ensure lasting improvements and do not overburden recipient countries. … As the acknowledged leader in public health, we need to ensure that the growing number of health initiatives meets comprehensive health needs, in a coordinated way, in line with the priorities of countries and their populations."

She also said that the period of transition would continue until the end of 2007, with a key statement on her vision for the Organization coming at the World Health Assembly in May.

Dr Chan was appointed by the World Health Assembly in November 2006. Her term of office will run until 30 June 2012.

For more information contact:

Iain Simpson
WHO Communications Department
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3215
Mobile +41 79 475 5534
E-mail: simpsoni@who.int

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