Dr Flavia Bustreo
Italy's candidate for Director-General of the World Health Organization

Vision for WHO

Dr Bustreo's Vision for WHO

Dr Bustreo’s vision for the work of WHO can be summarized in five words: Equity, Rights, Responsiveness, Evidence and Partnership. These five words are charged with so much meaning and power for global health. The greatest injustice of our time is that millions of adults, adolescents and children around the world die unnecessarily from causes we have long known how to prevent. Millions more fail to reach their full potential for health and well-being, and are therefore unable to participate fully in society and the economy. If we are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 3 concerning global health, we must unite around equity and rights and use the unparalleled global influence of WHO to bring together the people, partners and scientific evidence needed to challenge inequities in health and realize the central promise of the SDGs: that we leave no one behind.


A Proven Record

Dr Bustreo has a proven record of driving change in public health and securing the needed financial support for result-based action she will lead the development of the performance, management, and culture at WHO in four key areas.


  1. Influencing the changing health financing landscape (including the growing role of domestic financing) by working more effectively alongside ministries of health and finance and partners such as the World Bank, the Global Fund, Gavi and the Global Financing Facility.

  2. Improving effectiveness, transparency and accountability, with more streamlined and effective decision-making processes that achieve results on the ground. 


  3. Making WHO more responsive, both to health challenges as they emerge and to the opinions and needs of the people WHO serves. 


  4. Responding more effectively to countries’ knowledge needs and facilitating knowledge sharing across countries as well as by improving capacity-building and access to technology.

Dr Bustreo not only ensured the adequate funding of her cluster at WHO, but drove several global financing initiatives, including the initiative of the Global Financing Facility that produced the only new and additional finance for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals at the Third Financing for Development Conference held in July 2015.  Dr Bustreo has a proven record of competent and innovative human and financial resource management that she earned during a period of change and contraction in the global health environment.

Health in the SDG Era

Dr Bustreo has identified several areas of public health where WHO can make vital contributions and play a strong leadership role in the SDGs era. 


Health at the heart of sustainable development. While SDG 3 focuses on improving peoples’ health in every corner of the world, all the SDGs rely on healthy people and on global cooperation for their success. Under Dr Bustreo’s leadership, WHO will lead the cooperative effort on health by coordinating partner action based on sound evidence and policy. 


Expand universal health coverage. WHO urgently needs to translate its commitment to universal health coverage (UHC) into reality by greatly expanding the number of people with access to UHC, which is a target under SDG 3. As well as building on the progress made against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and maternal and child deaths, WHO under Dr Bustreo will expand the definition of UHC by adding critical services that are currently unavailable in many low-income countries, especially for non-communicable diseases. 


•Drive the reform of WHO in humanitarian and health emergencies, outbreaks, and strengthen global health security. WHO has already begun major reforms to the way it responds to humanitarian and health emergencies and outbreaks, and to strengthen global health security. However, even greater efforts are needed. Dr Bustreo will drive reform, taking full account of the International Health Regulations Framework and emerging evidence and evaluations. Surveillance for the emergence of new threats and pathogens, such as antimicrobial resistance and the Zika virus, will be strengthened. 


Address the impact of climate change on health. There is a pressing need to better understand why climate change causes some major diseases to spread to new areas, how it impacts diseases vectors, and how it harms health and well-being by making it more difficult for many people to access life-essentials such as food, safe water and clean air. New research into these impacts will be a priority under Dr Bustreo’s leadership of WHO. She will also strive to make WHO, and the health sector as a whole, carbon-neutral by drawing on the good practices of all its Member States. WHO must support its Member States to build their capacity to respond to the adverse effects of climate change so as to ensure the right to health for everyone, everywhere.


Prioritize the health of women, children and young people in all settings, and especially reduce the impact of migration and fragile settings. All women, children and young people are key to improving global health and achieving the SDGs. Under Dr Bustreo’s leadership, WHO will strive to improve their health, with particular emphasis on good nutrition and well-being at all stages of life – and especially in fragile settings. It will promote the use of evidence in health planning and encourage links with sectors known to benefit public health, such as water, sanitation and education. 


Leave no one behind. Equity is a core idea within the SDGs and a guiding principle for WHO in all its work. As a priority, WHO has to work with partners to eliminate inequity by developing new methods of identifying and targeting the people who most need help. These include people living in poverty, refugees and migrants, adolescents and unaccompanied children, people forced out of their homes by war or crisis, and other vulnerable people. WHO must get much better at understanding the social and economic determinants of health in all settings.