Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh
WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, an Indian national, became the first woman to assume the office of WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia on 1 February 2014. Dr Khetrapal Singh’s priority areas of work in the Region are:
- addressing the persisting and emerging epidemiological and demographic challenges;
- promoting universal health coverage and robust health systems;
- strengthening emergency risk management for sustainable development;
- articulating a strong regional voice in the global health agenda.
She served for over two decades as a civil servant in India as member of the Indian Administrative Services. She was the Health Secretary of the State of Punjab, with a population of 27 million and a health budget of US$ 350 million.
In 1987 she moved to the Health, Population and Nutrition Department of The World Bank. In 1998 she joined WHO headquarters as Executive Director, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments Cluster, and a member of the Director-General’s Cabinet. Dr Khetrapal Singh served as WHO Deputy Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region from 2000 to 2013. In February 2013, she joined the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India as Advisor for International Health, where her principal task was to strengthen global health outcomes and provide guidance to the Ministry to take forward the international health agenda.
Dr Poonam Singh has devoted more than three decades to strengthening public health as a leader and manager at national and international levels.
Dr. Singh has vast experience in translating scientific evidence into policy in complex state, national and international health systems through direct experience of managing low resourced health systems, leading large multi-sectoral teams and collaborating with global partners and public health leaders for delivering results in the crucially important area of health.
Her vision is reflected in building a strong, result based and responsive regional office that gives cutting edge advice, which is key to developing the best policies and strategies, and stimulates the best research to support Member States in protecting and improving the health of their people. This is of utmost importance at this critical juncture of the end of the era of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, and the dawn of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
The SDGs present an unprecedented opportunity to look at health development as an integrated part, indivisible part of the overall development paradigm which will require collaboration beyond just the health-related players.
In this, Dr. Singh’s experience and committed leadership will help in achieving the goals of improving physical and mental health of all at all ages and leaving no one behind through a stronger systemic approach and more integrated, multi-sectoral and holistic development strategy, particularly in the scenario of dwindling international development aid.
Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, as the Regional Director of WHO, which is the key international technical agency collaborating with Member States, exclusively on health issues at global, regional and country levels, has ensured significant progress in the regional flagship priority areas.
She is dedicated to further leveraging her vast international and national experience to develop and reinforce partnerships, bringing together the full spectrum of public health stakeholders including policy makers, researchers, scientists, academicians, practitioners and civil society, and managing the regional office and its resources for result based public health outcomes.