GLOBAL – The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the appointment of Mr. José Luis Castro as its Director-General Special Envoy for Chronic Respiratory Diseases. 

This strategic move aims to elevate global awareness and drive effective solutions to address the significant burden of chronic respiratory diseases (CRD) worldwide.

Chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), affect an astounding 400 million people globally, making them a major cause of death and disability. 

COPD alone is the third leading cause of death worldwide, claiming 3.2 million lives in 2019, while asthma accounted for an additional 500,000 deaths. 

Despite their staggering impact on public health, these diseases have often been overlooked in global health discussions, lacking the necessary recognition, resources, and prioritization they deserve.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stated, “With his profound expertise and longstanding commitment to improving global health, Mr. Castro is uniquely positioned to support our efforts in tackling chronic respiratory diseases, “

WHO’s comprehensive approach to CRD focuses on integrating the diagnosis and management of asthma and COPD into primary health care systems globally. 

Additionally, the organization highlights the critical role of tobacco smoke, air pollution, and infectious diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia as significant risk factors for lung health.

The appointment of Mr. Castro as Special Envoy aims to strengthen WHO’s efforts by highlighting the urgency and importance of respiratory health on the global stage.

As Special Envoy, Mr. Castro will spearhead a multifaceted strategy to drive change. He will raise awareness and promote solutions, engaging global and local stakeholders to prioritize respiratory health in their respective agendas. 

By encouraging cities, countries, and partners to integrate respiratory health into their local health policies and programs, Mr. Castro will work to create a more supportive environment for CRD prevention and management.

Moreover, Mr. Castro will lend his expertise and influence to support WHO initiatives and funding streams. 

He will actively promote WHO’s CRD program, advocate for integrating CRD management into primary health care, and seek increased investment from governments and donors to ensure the sustainability and scalability of these critical interventions.

“I am deeply honored to serve as the WHO Director-General Special Envoy for CRD,” said Mr. José Luis Castro.

Mr. Castro brings a wealth of experience to this role, having served as the President and CEO of Vital Strategies, a global health organization he founded and led for 20 years. 

Under his leadership, Vital Strategies grew from a small nonprofit primarily focused on lung health to a global powerhouse with a budget of US$ 100 million and a team of more than 400 professionals working on a wide range of public health issues, from tobacco control and air quality to overdose prevention and data for health.

Mr. Castro will officially commence his role as Special Envoy on September 1, 2024, joining other notable WHO Special Envoys such as Sir Liam Donaldson, WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Patient Safety, and Dr. Vanessa Kerry, WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health.

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