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International News

South Korean Elected to Head World Health Body; J.W. Lee Said to Have Administrative Talent, Expertise in TB Fight

January 31, 2003

Jong Wook Lee, a South Korean public health expert, was chosen January 28 as the next leader of the World Health Organization. He is the first South Korean to head a UN agency.

In an interview after the vote in Geneva, Lee said he will pay special attention to the WHO's role in battling HIV/AIDS, and to strengthening its relationship with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"I really want to reassess our position on the major issues, especially on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and work more closely with the Global Fund and countries," he said.

Lee worked inside the WHO for 19 years, heading the organization's Stop TB program and the Global Program on Vaccines. He is not well known outside the WHO, in part due to his low-key management style. In interviews, Lee has talked about not micromanaging talented staff members and giving them latitude to push good ideas. "I think it would be unwise to change my style now, don't you think?" he said after his election.

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist and advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on poverty-reduction goals, said Lee's handling of TB correctly laid out a country-by-country strategy, and "We really need that kind of approach for malaria and AIDS right now."

For the next few months, Lee plans to seek out opinions on priorities for his five-year term.

"He is going to spend the next three months listening to help him formulate a clear and more precise vision," said Nils Daulaire, head of the Global Health Council. "The important thing now is to get the ideas straight, and to move ahead on the unfinished agenda of the poorest 2 billion people on earth, the enormous challenges they face in staying well, and the risks their poor health poses to the rest of the world."

Back to other CDC news for January 31, 2003

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Adapted from:
Boston Globe
01.29.03; John Donnelly

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.