12/28/2016 03:01 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2017

A vision for WHO for 2017 and beyond


A new year, a new challenge and a new resolution

As I turn the calendar page to January 2017, I am keen to look ahead and examine our health challenges for the coming year and decade - challenges with goals and targets which have been well defined in our United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and especially, in the 'health goal' or SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

For me, the greatest injustice of our time is that millions of adults, adolescents and children around the world die unnecessarily from preventable causes for which there are evidence-based interventions. Millions more fail to reach their full potential for health and well-being, which also constrains their contributions to social and economic development.

As Italy's candidate in the up-coming election for Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), I aspire to bring leadership and solutions to this injustice. My vision for WHO's work can be summarized in five words: Equity, Rights, Responsiveness, Evidence, and Partnership. Five words, but charged with so much meaning and power for global health.

If we are serious about achieving SDG 3 and in particular, the target of universal health coverage, we must unite around equity and rights. We must utilize WHO's unparalleled convening power to bring together the scientific evidence, mobilize global partnerships, and realize the central promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - Leave No One Behind.

Visioning WHO

I believe that at WHO, we must start at home: For the past six years, I have worked as Assistant Director-General responsible for the work on Family, Women's, Children's and Adolescents. We have worked diligently to save and improve lives of all through a life-course approach. But I know only too well that WHO's performance, management and culture can and must be improved.

There are four key areas I have identified. We must:
a. Respond more effectively to countries' knowledge needs and facilitate knowledge sharing across countries;
b. Influence the changing funding landscape of health financing, including the growing role of domestic financing;
c. Strive to be more effective, transparent, and accountable; and
d. Become more responsive, both to health challenges as they emerge and to the opinions and needs of the people served.

I believe there are specific public health areas where WHO can lever its position and capital to play a strong leadership role in the era of SDGs:

1. Maximize health as a driver of sustainable development. SDG 3 focuses on improving peoples' health in every corner of the world, and healthy people are crucial to all other SDGs-- goals which can only be achieved with global cooperation based on reliable information and policy advice. I will work to ensure that WHO achieves its full potential in this role.

2. Expand universal health coverage (UHC). We must increase the proportion of people globally with access to UHC, expanding the definition of universal health coverage to include critical services that currently are not available in many low-income countries, such as screening and treatment for noncommunicable diseases and cancer.

3. Drive the reform of WHO regarding emergencies, outbreaks, and strengthening global health security. We must take stock of evaluations and continue the reforms in progress, adhere to the International Health Regulations Framework and maintain a constant focus on surveillance for the emergence of new threats and pathogens, such as antimicrobial resistance and the Zika virus. WHO must be the world leader in global health security.

4. Address the impact of climate change on health. I will continue to be a strong advocate and health leader for new and additional research on the adverse effects of climate change on health, such as changing patterns, distribution of major diseases and vectors; access to food, safe water, and clean air; and on overall impacts on human health and well-being. We must strive to make WHO and the whole health sector carbon-neutral by drawing on the good practices of all its Member States.

5. Prioritize the health of women, children and young people in all settings, and especially reduce the impact of migration and fragile settings. Women, children and young people are key to improving global health and achieving the SDGs. Under my tutelage, WHO will promote the use of this evidence in health planning and links across sectors, with particular emphasis on improving health, nutrition and well-being throughout the life course.

6. Maximize efforts to achieve equity. As a priority, WHO must work with partners to 'leave no one behind'. We must develop new methods of monitoring and data analysis to identify and target the most marginalized and underserved groups, including people living in poverty, internally displaced people, refugees and migrants, adolescents and unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable people. WHO must be better at understanding the social and economic determinants of health in all settings.

A passion for health

2017 is not just another year for me. After more than 30 years' experience as a medical doctor and public health professional with WHO, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, UNICEF, the World Bank, and in the field from Sudan and Argentina to Norway, my passion for public health, health for all and the work of WHO continues to grow.

I believe that my dynamic energy, knowledge, experience, expertise, and management record at WHO will lead the Organization to the next step -- to adapt to the challenges of the SDG-era, working towards achieving universal health coverage, and lead to realizing the right of every individual, everywhere, to the highest attainable standard of health.

I urge you to visit my website and find more about my work and vision for WHO in 2017 :