Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Ethiopian biologist and public health official for whom all roads lead to universal health coverage. The first African to serve as director-general of the World Health Organization.
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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was born in 1965 in the Ethiopian city of Asmara (now in Eritrea). He graduated from the University of Asmara with a degree in biology and went on to earn a master’s in immunology of infectious diseases from the University of London, a Ph.D. in community health from the University of Nottingham, and an honorary fellowship from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Following his studies, he returned to Ethiopia. His goal: to support the delivery of health services as a field-level malariologist, at the helm of a regional health service, and later by serving in Ethiopia’s federal government for over a decade. From 2005 to 2012, as minister of health, he led a comprehensive reform of Ethiopia’s health system, built on the foundation of universal coverage and committed to providing services to all people, even in the most remote areas. And from 2012 to 2016, as minister of foreign affairs, he elevated health as a political issue nationally, regionally, and globally. Under his leadership, Ethiopia expanded its health infrastructure and workforce. He drove many reforms, including the creation of a primary health care extension program that deployed 40,000 female health workers throughout the country. As a result, there was approximately a 60 percent reduction in child and maternal mortality, compared with 2000 levels.
In May 2017, Tedros was elected World Health Organization (WHO) director-general for a five-year term by WHO member states—the first WHO director-general elected from among multiple candidates by the World Health Assembly and the first person from the WHO African Region to head the world’s leading public health agency. Immediately after taking office, Tedros outlined five key priorities for the organization: universal health coverage; health emergencies; women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health; health impacts of climate and environmental change; and a transformed WHO. These priorities have the potential to mark the most significant developments since WHO’s founding in 1948.
For Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, universal health coverage is the ultimate goal. He continues to take the steps necessary to expand access to health care for everyone, even in places where resources are limited.
“I envision a world in which everyone can live healthy, productive lives, regardless of who they are or where they live. I believe the global commitment to sustainable development—enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals—offers a unique opportunity to address the social, economic, and political determinants of health and improve the health and well-being of people everywhere.”
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