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Dr Halfdan T. Mahler, WHO’s third Director-General, dies at 93

WHO statement
15 December 2016

WHO is saddened by the death of Dr Halfdan T. Mahler on 14 December 2016. Dr Mahler served as Director-General of WHO from 1973-1988.

As WHO's third Director-General, Dr Mahler will be remembered as a champion for primary care. He played a key leadership role shaping the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration that defined the Health for All by the Year 2000 strategy. Under his leadership, WHO and UNICEF jointly produced the report, Alternative Approaches to Meeting Basic Health Needs in Developing Countries, which examined successful primary health care in various countries.

Dr Mahler began his career at WHO in 1951 as senior officer for the National Tuberculosis Programme in India. Among his other roles in the Organization were Chief of the Tuberculosis Unit in Geneva, Director Project Systems Analysis and Assistant Director-General.

After retiring from WHO in 1988, Dr Mahler directed the International Planned Parenthood Federation until 1995. A frequent visitor to WHO, even after retirement, Dr Mahler maintained his close connection with staff, and cheered the Organization’s progress as it expanded its work in primary care. He will be deeply missed by the global health community.