Belgium’s Hans Kluge Nominated As WHO European Regional Director

Hans Kluge, director of Health Systems and Public Health in WHO’s European Regional Office, has been nominated to become WHO/Europe’s next Regional Director (RD).

Kluge, proposed by Belgium, was selected Tuesday by WHO’s 53 European member states out of a field of six candidates in a secret ballot during the WHO Regional Committee for Europe meeting (RC 69) underway this week in Copenhagen. His “nomination” must still be approved by the WHO Executive Board at its next meeting in February 2020 – although that is regarded as a technicality.

Kluge will replace Zsuzsanna Jakab, who left the post to become Deputy Director General at WHO’s Geneva Headquarters earlier this year. Jakab developed the RD position as a hub of power, leaving the legacy of Health 2020, a European policy framework for strengthening public health, promoting people-centered systems, and reducing health inequalities.

Hans Kluge (Center) Photo: @hans_kluge

Kluge has been a public health doctor for 24 years, including stints with Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia and Somalia and in WHO’s Regional Office for South-East Asia, where he specialized in programmes on TB, AIDS and malaria, said a WHO press release. His work in Europe, which included advancing TB programmes in prison systems of the former Soviet Union, reflects the region’s diverse social landscape.

More recently, Kluge promoted community-based primary health care in Greece during the country’s financial crisis and European commitments made at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan, in 2018.

In a Twitter video promoting his candidacy, Kluge said that WHO’s European Region should move from “diagnosing” challenges to more assertive action.

“WHO doesn’t need to continue diagnosing the challenges forever,” Kluge said. “WHO needs to become agile in supporting countries that allows them to act, based on evidence and good practice….

“I see the WHO Regional Office as acting as a hub for evidence and know-how development. It will be a platform for solutions and tools that can be adapted to the local context based on the many innovations being undertaken in member states. To help countries reach the health-related sustainable development goals, underpinned by Universal Health Coverage.”

WHO’s Regional Committees are semi-autonomous governing bodies of member state representatives, which meet once a year to set policy in each of WHO’s six regions. The European meeting of health ministers and other high level representatives, 16-19 September, is taking place under the banner of health equity, health literacy and accelerating primary health care.