Health is one of the most precious things to us all as individuals and families. It is something we very often take for granted, until we no longer have it.
As the UK’s candidate for the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), I am committed to improving the health of people across the globe. I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Eastern Caribbean and learn more about this beautiful and unique region.
During my visit to Barbados, I saw the wide range of health related challenges the Caribbean faces. These challenges range from fundamental issues, such as access to health care, to larger scale problems, such as the increasing strain treating non-communicable or so called lifestyle diseases place on health services. It is vital that Governments and experts from across the world work together to help solve these problems, pooling their knowledge and resources to find solutions that benefit everyone. No one should be left behind. And the WHO has an important role to play to make this happen.
The WHO was established to support countries provide better health services and keep people healthy. It helps countries respond to infectious disease outbreaks and provides expertise on dealing with and preventing longer term conditions. The work of the WHO impacts on the health and wellbeing of billions of people across the globe.
Later this month, the WHO’s Governing Assembly will elect a new Director-General. I am one of the final three candidates. And I am standing because I believe I have the knowledge and experience to improve the way the WHO operates across the globe. I have worked in more than 50 countries, in challenging environments such as India, Sierra Leone and Indonesia. I have a burning desire to help people and ensure that they live longer, healthier lives.
In Barbados, I have seen the good progress that is being made to improve local healthcare. Leaders, such as the Minister for Health, the Hon John Boyce, and Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John, are working tirelessly to tackle the island’s challenges. I was delighted to meet them both during my visit. The work they are doing to deliver a new National Strategic Plan for Health is very encouraging.
Regional organisations, such as CARICOM, also have important roles to play. The recent meeting of Chief Medical Officers that took place in Guyana was a positive step. The meeting made clear the relationship between health, foreign policy and trade is crucial. It is no longer sufficient for doctors just to be good doctors in a globally connected health community. Greater understanding of language and diplomacy will help ensure that organisations such as CARICOM and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) better collaborate and build local capacity across the region.
If I am elected the new Director General of the WHO, I will support efforts to improve healthcare throughout the Caribbean. I hope to be given the opportunity to lead an organisation that will help reduce suffering around the world, ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society are not forgotten.
The WHO is a vital organisation for a healthy world. I am passionate about ensuring that it delivers results for everyone.