This week, health professionals from 194 nations will gather in Geneva to decide the fate of the World Health Organization (WHO). For the first time since its 1948 creation, every nation will vote for WHO’s new director-general, determining the future orientation and leadership of the controversial, underfunded agency.
The U.S. delegation will be led by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, fresh from last week’s journey to Liberia, where the Ebola virus raged in 2014.
There is a lot riding on this unprecedented election and other points of debate that will be thrashed in more than a week of meetings. For poor countries, the fight is about scarce resources, the paucity of trained health professionals, rising costs of medicines, and transfer of biomedical technologies from the West and developed nations.
Middle-income countries want to build national health systems that meet the standards set by the likes of Singapore and Japan, bringing long life expectancy to nations as infectious threats diminish. And for the wealthier nations, including the United States, the future of WHO is strongly tied to health security: rapid control of epidemics, ensuring no lethal pandemic sweeps the planet as HIV did in the 1980s and influenza did in 1918, claiming the lives of tens of millions of people.
Source: News Now/Foreign Policy online