On December 2nd, the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) and Dentons hosted a high level conversation about the upcoming elections for Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO). Ashish Jha, Faculty Director of HGHI gave opening remarks that underlined the importance of leadership at the WHO, particularly in light of the Ebola epidemic in 2014 and the more recent Zika outbreaks. Following his remarks, Jha joined a distinguished panel representing a variety of stakeholders, including the US government, NGOs, and the private sector. The panel was moderated by Jenifer Healy, Senior Managing Director of Dentons and formerly a senior domestic and global health policy advisor for US Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
- Amb. Jimmy Kolker, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, US Department of Health and Human Services
- Catharine Taylor, Vice President of Health Programs Group, Management Sciences for Health
- David Barash, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director, Global Health, GE Foundation
- Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute
Each of the panelists noted that the WHO is critical to effective pandemic preparation and response, and they discussed the key leadership characteristics the new Director General must exhibit. Several panelists emphasized the need for the WHO to focus on those things it was designed to and is uniquely able to address: health threats that affect all countries, such as pandemics.
There was also discussion of cross-sector collaboration in order to best respond to challenges like pandemic and disaster preparedness, the Global Health Security agenda, and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. The panelists agreed that the new DG will define the WHO going forward, making the election process important for the world to engage with.