World Health Organization Director-General elections dogged by misconceived allegations

November 02, 2006

In an Editorial in this week's issue, The Lancet calls on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization to dismiss the misconceived allegations that have been made against a number of candidates running for the position of next Director-General.

On November 9, the next head of WHO - the world's most important health agency - will be elected. Candidates for the position, including Julio Frenk, Margaret Chan, and Elena Salgado, have had various allegations made against them in the run up to the election. The Editorial states that the most outrageous and misinformed series of attacks has been against Julio Frenk, the candidate The Lancet has identified as the most talented to lead WHO, technically, administratively, and in terms of his vision for health. On October 25, the Wall Street Journal alleged that Frenk signed up to a "pact" with the tobacco industry in 2004 while Minister of Health in Mexico, a deal that allegedly "undermined Mexico's efforts to reduce smoking."

The Lancet comments: "In fact, Frenk made tobacco control a top priority in Mexico, which was the first country in the Americas to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. He deployed several powerful mechanisms as a minister to reverse trends in tobacco use - advertising controls, taxation, media campaigns, and strengthen epidemiological monitoring of tobacco use to anti-tobacco control programmes...As the Executive Board of WHO gathers in Geneva next week to select the next Director-General of WHO, we are sure they will dismiss the kind of misconceived allegations that have been made against Frenk, Chan, and Salgado, among others. Instead, they will examine the abilities of the candidates and match those with the urgent needs of WHO's future leadership."
EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday November 3, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday November 2, 2006.

See also The Lancet's new blog, which has launched with blogs on the WHO elections by Hannah Brown, Senior Editor at The Lancet. Join the debate at

Contact: The Lancet press office T) +44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249

Notes to Editors Between Nov 6-8, 2006 WHO's Executive Board--made up of 34 country representatives--will interview the shortlist of candidates and whittle these down to a single nomination through a series of secret ballots. The Board's final selection will be put forward for a vote by the World Health Assembly, which will endorse the next Director-General in a 1-day Extraordinary Session to be held on Nov 9.


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