Prelims cum Mains

Soumya Swaminathan named Chief Scientist at WHO

The news

  • Soumya Swaminathan has been named as Chief Scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO).


About WHO

  • WHO came into being on 7 April 1948, a date which is now celebrated every year as World Health Day.
  • Its headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Its primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.
  • WHO works for-
    • Universal health coverage
    • Protecting people from health emergencies
    • Providing better health and wellbeing


Highlights of the news

  • Soumya Swaminathan, who was a Deputy Director-General (DDG) of the WHO has been appointed as the organization’s Chief Scientist.
  • The “Chief Scientist” is a new position and division created as part of reform at the WHO to:
    • Strengthen the WHO’s core scientific work
    • Ensure quality and consistency of norms and standards
    • It will also ensure WHO anticipates and stays on top of the latest scientific developments.
    • Keeping WHO ahead of the curve by working on digital health and innovation.
  • Digital health
    • WHO is also creating a new Department of Digital Health, in the Division of the Chief Scientist.
    • This will take care of WHO’s digital work and enhance its role in assessing digital technologies and support countries to make decisions about how to prioritise, integrate and regulate them.


About Soumya Swaminathan

  • Soumya Swaminathan is an Indian Pediatrician and Clinical Scientist known for her work in Tuberculosis.
  • Research work on TB:
    • She joined the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis in Chennai in 1992, and later became its director.
    • She started a multi-disciplinary group of clinical, laboratory and behavioural scientists studying various aspects of TB and TB/HIV.
    • She along with her colleagues scaled up the use of molecular diagnostics for TB surveillance and care.
    • She undertook large field trials of community-randomised strategies to deliver TB treatment to underserved populations.
    • Most recently, she became part of the TB Zero City Project which aims to create “Islands of elimination” working with local governments, institutions and grassroots associations
  • She held following positions:
    • In 2017, she was appointed as the Deputy Director General of Programmes (DDP) at the WHO.
    • As Secretary in Department of Health Research – Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
    • As Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.

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