On 17 September 2019, the 53 Member States of the European Region of the World Health Organisation (WHO) elected our fellow countryman Dr Hans Kluge as Regional Director.

In his new position, Dr Kluge will lead the WHO European headquarters and, together with the health ministers of the Member States, will develop the necessary strategies and programmes to safeguard and improve health in the European Region.

Dr Hans Kluge brings a lot of experience to the WHO headquarters in Copenhagen. He has worked as a general practitioner in our country, but has also worked for Artsen Zonder Grenzen in Somalia and Liberia, and in the Siberian prison system. For the past ten years, he has been working as Director of the WHO Health Systems Department in the European region.

Dr Kluge speaks Dutch, as well as French, English, German and Russian. This makes him a valued partner for the health ministers, and a bridge builder in the field of health within the European region.

The European Region comprises 53 countries, which include the Member States of the European Union but also the central and eastern European countries such as Turkey and Russia.

The WHO European headquarters supports health ministers in the development and implementation of their health policies, and provides guidance on how to adapt our health systems to the changing needs of the population, such as the increasing number of chronic patients and mental health. The WHO also deals with major health threats in Europe, such as increasing antimicrobial resistance and decreasing vaccination coverage, and supports health ministers in reducing non-communicable diseases such as cancer or diabetes, and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Kluge faces a difficult task in his new position over the next five years. "Various health problems are increasingly on the political agenda, in all the Member States I have visited," says Dr Kluge, who in recent months has visited 49 Member States in the region in order to meet with the health ministers. "The rising prices of drugs, for example, present us with a major challenge, but the negative impact of air pollution or the shortage of well-trained doctors and nurses in many countries are just as much a problem for our health ministers", adds Dr Kluge. As the Belgian candidate for the position of Regional Director, Dr Kluge received the support of the FPS Foreign Affairs and the FPS Public Health and their ministers for his campaign.

An essential value for Dr Kluge is his conviction that everyone has the right to a healthy life, as well as to easily accessible and high quality healthcare, regardless of origin, sex or sexual orientation.

In addition to the appointment of the new Regional Director, top federal official Tom Auwers was also appointed by the Regional Committee to serve a mandate in the WHO's 12-member Standing Committee. This is the Board of Directors of the WHO European Region. Tom Auwers is the president of the Executive Committee of the FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment.