As Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesuson is re-elected as Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), HelpAge International Chef Executive, Justin Derbyshire, called on him to ensure the vision of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing delivers real benefit for older people.
“I congratulate Tedros on his re-election at the WHO and look forward to seeing what impact he can have to deliver greater benefit for older people in his second term at the helm of the WHO.
“Tedros championed the UN’s adoption of the Decade of Healthy Ageing, and I would encourage him to use his second term to ensure that this commitment delivers real change for older people. The Decade is a great initiative, but it needs to be more than a catchy slogan if it is to make a difference to people’s lives in low- and middle-income countries.
“We need to see him drive a shift in the WHO from commendable rhetoric to meaningful action if the Decade is to deliver meaningful benefit. He will need the full backing of the WHO leadership team along with proper financial support if it is to achieve its true potential to improve the situation for older people now and in the future.”
There have been some important shifts in the WHO approach to older people under Tedros’ leadership at the organisation. He has consistently raised the need for them to be prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging ageist responses and promoting their human rights.
He showed global leadership in achieving the political declaration on Universal Health Care at the UN General Assembly in 2019. This historic declaration specifically addressed the needs of older people and if the vision can become a reality, it would make a huge difference in the lives of some of the most marginalised older people.
HelpAge recognises the willingness shown by Tedros to engage with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) – personally attending key events focusing on older people during the pandemic – and hopes that this door will remain open to foster active dialogue.
“We wish Tedros well on his re-election but remind him that there is much work to be done on behalf of older people. We urge him to open more spaces for CSOs to engage in health and care discourses and to be treated as valued partners working alongside donors and member states.
“We thank him for the statements he has made about prioritising older people and others at risk in the roll out of the vaccine, and now call on him to mark the start of his second term at the WHO by doing everything in his power to make this happen.”