Lancet Editor Offers Reflections On Priorities For New WHO Director General

The Lancet: Offline: Dear Tedros…
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet

“…You made several [promises during your campaign to be WHO director general] — delivering universal health coverage, protecting countries from health emergencies, strengthening the front-line work of WHO, transforming WHO into a world-class institution, and putting accountability at the heart of the agency’s culture. Yet, as you acknowledged: ‘It’s going to be tough.’ … You will receive much wise advice. … What follows … [is] simply a few reflections on what might make the difference between success and failure. First, it’s not all about you. … [Y]our success depends on the quality of the team you appoint … Second, think strategically. … Choose a limited number of objectives to achieve during the next five years. Third, don’t waste the goodwill you begin with on more WHO reform. … [Y]ou take over WHO at a difficult moment in its history. … You must rebuild trust and confidence in the organization. That means recognizing WHO’s special strengths. There are three. Science. … [S]cience and the accumulation of reliable knowledge are a powerful means of resistance to the forces that undermine health. Convening power. Whatever the critics of global institutions might say … WHO’s ability to use its moral leadership to accelerate progress on health remains undiluted. … The voice of the voiceless. … WHO represents those who have no voice. … WHO is more than a health agency. It stands for the possibility of human perfection. Believe in that vision. And hold all of us accountable for delivering it” (5/29).