Public health challenges big but not insurmountable: WHO chief

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Margaret Chan

Public health challenges are big but not insurmountable, says Dr. Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In her report to the agency's Executive Board in Geneva on Monday, she identified some of the challenges as rising public expectations for health, shrinking budgets and soaring costs at a time of financial belt tightening.

At the same time, Dr. Chan said that progress in combating diseases has shown the power of innovation.

She said in early December the 100 millionth person in Africa was protected from epidemic meningitis by a new vaccine developed in a project coordinated by WHO and an international non-profit organization known as PATH.

"This is an extraordinary achievement just two years after the vaccine was launched in Burkina Faso. In the 10 countries that have introduced the vaccine, with support from the GAVI Alliance, cases of meningitis A have dropped dramatically. Recently published studies strongly suggest that epidemics that have ravaged the 26 countries in Africa's meningitis belt for more than a century can be brought to an end." (29")

Dr. Chan also said that private-public partnerships to develop products to combat tuberculosis have led to reductions in tuberculosis cases and deaths.

The Executive Board is meeting to discuss WHO reform and a wide range of health issues.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'32"

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