This week, Belgian medical doctor Hans Kluge has assumed office as the World Health Organization’s European regional director for the next five years, succeeding Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, now the agency’s deputy director-general.
Dr Kluge will oversee the international work on health across the 53 countries of the WHO European region, taking over from interim director Dr Piroska Östlin.
“I am committed to delivering united action for better health,” he said in a statement. “This means applying the best data and evidence, demanding increasing investment in health, strengthening our health systems around people’s needs, and extending inclusive and non-discriminatory access to health care to all. By so doing, we build fair, happy, sustainable societies for ourselves and generations to come.”
Yesterday (3 February), the WHO’s executive board also appointed Dr Matshidiso Moeti for a second term as regional director for Africa.
WHY IT MATTERS
Dr Kluge, who has over 25 years of experience in public health, was most recently leading the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at the WHO’s European office.
In the new role, he will focus on supporting the transformation of health systems on “all levels”, ensuring health security in the face of threats, and more, the agency said.
THE LARGER PICTURE
In October 2019, the WHO organised the first meeting of a technical advisory group that will aim to help countries around the world and their citizens benefit from the use of digital health tools.
“WHO’s goal is to ensure digital technologies for health are safe and that proven tools reach everyone, everywhere,” said at the time Bernardo Mariano, director of WHO’s department of digital health and innovation.
“Digital health can help expand primary health care, allow health workers to fight resurgent or new diseases and ensure people can benefit from the transformation in digital health. What we call ‘digital health’ today will be, in future, known simply as the way we deliver health services in the digital age,” Mariano added.
Dr Indra Joshi, head of digital health and AI for NHSX, and Hal Wolf, president and CEO of Healthcare IT News parent organisation HIMSS, are two of the group’s members, which brings together 20 experts in the field.
ON THE RECORD
“In recent months, I have been fortunate to visit each and every country in the European Region, listening to the concerns and problems facing patients, caregivers, health workers, ministers and presidents alike,” Dr Kluge said. “No single person, no one country, can tackle all the health challenges they face alone. But if we combine our efforts to find practical, context-specific approaches, we can and will.”
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