Political Agendas Affect Health of WHO Projects

Cape Times (South Africa), November 22, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Political Agendas Affect Health of WHO Projects

BYLINE: David Dickson

As votes were cast for a new director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the agency was engaged in a sharp exchange with the Chinese government over whether a new strain of bird flu had emerged in China.

This controversy epitomises the challenges facing the United Nations health agency - the need to steer a robust course embracing both science and politics.

The timing was ironic. Not only is the new director-general, Margaret Chan, China's candidate for the post, but she owes her success partly to her commitment both to open communication and to her achievements, first as the health department's director in Hong Kong - where she led campaigns against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and bird flu - and more recently as head of the WHO's own efforts in this field.

What remains to be seen is the extent to which Chan can balance her enthusiasm for getting messages out with an equal eagerness for ensuring that these ideas are scientifically sound.

Chan has identified a need for evidence-based approaches to decision-making on health issues. She has promised to establish a "global health observatory" that will collect and collate data on key health problems to help inform health policy.

She has also pledged to "promote national and global mechanisms to apply knowledge and technology, and increase local capacity to conduct research".

Both commitments fit well with the emerging role that many expect from the WHO.

As national governments and private foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, increasingly support the practical aspects of improving healthcare in developing countries, the WHO should turn towards strategic interventions, playing an advocacy role in promoting new policy initiatives.

These initiatives will only succeed if they are thoroughly grounded in sound scientific conclusions. If the WHO wants to influence government policy, it must take care that its arguments have a rigorous scientific basis, particularly when these are likely to be widely reported.

The agency must also increase its efforts to ensure that research results are applied in the field and not restricted to laboratory research. This is particularly true for "neglected diseases" that affect people in the developing world, who hold little attraction as potential customers of pharmaceutical companies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Political Agendas Affect Health of WHO Projects


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?