Next On Stage: WHO Academy & Foundation

A WHO Academy where millions around the world can be trained in the health policy guidelines, methods and practical tools that WHO develops and promotes, is one of the big new dreams of WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gheyebresus – wrapped into WHO’s strategic planning for coming years.

Aerial view of doctor stethoscope and computer laptop

A WHO Academy, along with proposals to create a WHO Foundation; and a position for a WHO chief scientist, may have raised eyebrows amongst some member states, but Dr. Tedros says that these are all logical outcomes of the WHO Transformation plan, which aims to make the country more nimble, more efficient and more relevant and responsive to countries most in need.

“A WHO academy is a state-of-the-art school that can use technology more efficiently, to reach out to millions virtually,” he said speaking yesterday evening to WHO members of the Executive Board, key member state representatives gathered in Geneva, to review the status of WHO’s strategic reforms, planned and underway.

WHO develops guidelines and guidance over a wide range of health policy areas — ranging from standards for diagnostics and medicines, to guidelines for disease prevention and treatment, and extending to drinking water and food safety.

And yet the current processes for training health policymakers and practitioners around the world in the skills and tools to use this massive body of knowledge can be patchy and inconsistent, the WHO director general observed.

“A normative organization should focus on training and capacity building,” said Dr. Tedros. “How can you have standards and guidelines and you don’t teach? How can you have norms, and you don’t influence? Partnering with leading academic institutions around the world, and using the latest digital technologies, WHO could transform that,” he said, adding:

“We will move into aggressive training of trainers to member states. The WHO Academy is a state of the art school that can use technology more efficiently and reach out to millions virtually, he said, citing the example of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other internationally known universities, which are offering digital courses to students around the world. “The headquarters can be in one place, but it can partner with excellent regional institutions. And this should reinforce the norms and standards of WHO.”

Dr. Tedros said that a WHO Foundation, meanwhile, could support more aggressive fundraising for the WHO, addressing “conflicts of interests and problems we have raising funds from some parties.”

Finally, a WHO scientist professional track extending to the highest levels of the Organization, would enable Organizational experts to make career advancements without having to go into management positions – where they might in fact be less effective.

“It will be an incentive for existing staff, to grow in their area. If someone is a scientist, they don’t need to become a director to get a promotion,” he said, noting that under the current system, people may assume administrative tasks for which they are ill-equipped. It doesn’t help the organization if they are not [meant to be] managers, they shouldn’t be managers.”


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