Hunt for new WHO head heats up

Three names emerge as potential replacements for Lee Jong-Wook

By | July 25, 2006

The process of appointing a new director general to the World Health Organization after the death of Lee Jong-Wook is in full swing, with three high-profile candidates already in the running, and at least one other being discussed. Finland has nominated Pekka Puska, director general of its National Public Health Institute, for the director general's post, The Scientist learned yesterday (July 24). From 2001 to 2003, Puska was director of noncommunicable disease prevention and health promotion at WHO. He joins a growing list of candidates. Last Monday (July 17), it emerged that Mexico had proposed its health minister, Julio Frenk, for the job. Frenk, a 52-year-old former academic with a PhD in health care organization and psychology, had previously been WHO's executive director, evidence and information for policy. In early June, WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, Shigeru Omi, also became a candidate for the top job. "I can confirm that Dr. Omi has taken a leave of absence," WHO spokeswoman Christine McNab told The Scientist. This is in accordance with the organization's rules, and "any WHO staff member who is a candidate would do the same," she said via Email. WHO plans to appoint the new director general on November 9, succeeding Lee, who died suddenly on May 22 after surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain. Member nations of WHO have until September 5 to make their nominations, which the organization's 34-member executive board will gradually reduce to a single nomination during a meeting from November 6-8. A special one-day session of the World Health Assembly is expected to ratify that nomination on November 9, and decide the details of when the new leader takes up the contract. Until then, Anders Nordström will continue as acting director-general. There are plenty of possible contenders out there, said Gill Walt, professor of international health policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "I get the feeling that there are quite a few credible candidates," she told The Scientist. But the process of deciding who gets the job is steeped in politics, particularly jostling among countries from the WHO's six different global regions, seasoned WHO-watchers told The Scientist. "It's always a political process, and bound by who supports whom," Walt said. "There are always machinations." "Partly it's the regions saying that we haven't had a Latino or South Asian director general, for example," said Mohga Kamal Smith from Oxfam. "And behind the scenes there's also US pressure to get somebody they want, too." In fact, there are numerous political factors at play, said Derek Yach, director of the Rockefeller Foundation's program on global health, and a former executive director at WHO. "Few people are naïve enough to believe that [it's only about] the best person with the soundest policies." He agreed that the support of the US is an important factor for any candidate. "The US is looking for people who have a good strong track record...and a few hot-button issues, like reproductive health and intellectual property." But there are other countries who have strong influences on the proceedings, including the European Union, developing nations like India and Brazil, and Nordic countries, Yach told The Scientist. African nations may also feel the time has come for a director general from that continent. One possible candidate mentioned by several of those contacted by The Scientist is Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, an assistant director-general of WHO from Ghana. Considering the accelerated pace of this election process, it's unlike there will be many contenders, Yach said. "I think if they get up to five it'll be very interesting. People know the composition of the board, so they know how they are going to get the 16 or 17 votes" out of 34, needed for a majority. Stephen Pincock Links within this article Pekka Puska Julio Frenk Shigeru Omi Candidacy of Dr. Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific for the Post of Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Consideration of the acceleration of the procedure to elect the next director general of the World Health Organization, May 30, 2006. S. Pincock, "WHO ponders future without Lee," The Scientist, June 2, 2006. I. Ganguli, "WHO head dies," The Scientist, May 23, 2006. Gill Walt WHO regional offices Anarfi Asamoa-Baah


Avatar of: Vera Yare

Vera Yare

Posts: 1

July 30, 2006

\nMy comment for nommination of a new director general to the WHO:\n\n- "Prof. Pekka Puska is only one high-profile candidate as replacement for Lee-Jong-Wook.\nIn fact, to appoint Professor Pekka Puska for a new director general to the World Health Organization is identical to appoint fascinant humanist and an extra-sense health authority toward all nations worldwide. It,s not misticism, but it,s reality and it,s comfirmed ( february 2003). \n\nGreetings to Professoe Pekka Puska as new director general to the WHO. \nVera Yare, MD., PhD\n\n-------------------------------------------------------\nThe process of appointing a new director general to the World Health Organization after the death of Lee Jong-Wook is in full swing, with three high-profile candidates already in the running, and at least one other being discussed
Avatar of: TAA


Posts: 1

August 28, 2006

According to, almost a dozen candidates so far are racing for the post of WHO's head.
Avatar of: T.Kvarner


Posts: 1

September 22, 2006

PLEASE DO NOT VOTE FOR THE SPANISH CANDIDATE FOR THE "WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL JOB".\n\n \n\nI can´t believe that the Spanish minister of health and consume, mrs. Elena\nSalgado is one of the candidates for the important "WHO Director-General job" in\nGeneve. Mrs. Salgado is leading the ministry of health and consume. After the\n9th of may this year she has become a very unpopular woman in Spain. The reason\nfor this is the following:\n\n \n\nThe Spanish socialist government, in collaboration with the tributary department\nand heavy armed police units, prepared a "show" to destroy the two\nInvestment-Companies, Afinsa and Forum Filatelico. The government controlled TVE\n(the national Spanish television) and government controlled newspapers were\nalready waiting outside the offices of Afinsa and Forum when the heavy armed\npolice units appeared. The socialist government and the tributary department\nstarted this "Operacion Atrio", just based on suspects of corruption. Afterwards\nthey have not found any evidents of any corruption and the directors of the two\ncompanies have already been liberated after first having been jailed. \n\nThe two companies have also got the mercantile tributary law on their side, but\nthe socialist government and the tributary department wants to change this law\nagainst the two mentioned companies. Mrs. Salgado has got a very high\nresponsibility in this case as minister of health and consume, but unfortunately\nshe do not want to do anything to help the two companies or their 460.000\ninvestors (normal labour people that have saved all their money in the two\ncompanies)\n\nThis situation has created health-sufferings among thousands of people that have\nbeen sent to hospitals with heart-attacks, hipertention- and cardiac-problems\nand psychological problems, among others. Cases of sudicides have also occurred.\n\nA person like mrs. Elena Salgado that has showed , and still shows, HER\nINCOMPETENCE, HER INCAPACITY AND HER INSENSIBILITY in this case, created by her\nown socialist party, DO NOT DESERVE to be the new Director-General of the World\nHealth Organization. \n\nElena Salgado is not able to resolve the problems of her own people as a\nminister of health and consume. How can she then be able to resolve the problems\nthat the WHO are trying to resolve throughout the whole world ?\n\n \n\nThe President Rodriguez Zapatero is also aware of the very serious economic- and\nhealth- problems he and his government have created for 460.000 persons and\ntheir families in Spain. He is well aware of his government´s unpopularity among\nthose people. And trying to avoid embarrassments for some of his actual\nministers, he is trying to replace them with other socialists that have not got\nany responsibilities with the tragedy of the before mentioned 460.000 people and\ntheir families. Elena Salgado is one example. Rodriguez Zapatero has proposed\nher as a candidate for the new Director-General WHO job in Geneve, hoping to\nhide her away from her actual problems in Spain. The President of Spain is\nplaying a type of "chess" to gain his "unrealistic dreams", dreams that he is\ntrying to gain with dirty methods that are prejudicing the normal and modest\nSpanish people. \n\n \n\nPlease do not vote for mrs. Elena Salgado !\n\n \n\nBest regards from\n\nT. Kvaerner\n\ne-mail: \n

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