WHO appoints chief nursing officer

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appointed Elizabeth Iro (picture) as its chief nursing officer, the first time a nurse has been co-opted into the organisation’s management team. Iro is a registered nurse and the Cook Islands’ current secretary of health.

WHO DG Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the appointment fulfilled a commitment he made during his transition to the DG role, to appoint a nurse to his senior team.

“Nurses play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions around the world, but also in transforming health policies, promoting health in communities, and supporting patients and families,” Dr Tedros said in a statement.

“Nurses are central to achieving universal health coverage and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Iro will keep that perspective front and centre at WHO.”

Iro has more than 30 years of experience in public health in the Cook Islands and regionally. As secretary of health, she has implemented health reforms to strengthen the country’s health system.

These include developing the country’s National Health Roadmap 2017-2036, the National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021 and the Health Clinical Workforce Plan. She had previously served as the country’s chief nursing officer and acting director of hospital health services.

For the first 25 years of her career, she was a staff nurse, midwife and charge midwife at hospitals in the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

This appointment is the latest addition to the senior leadership team Dr Tedros announced last week, which includes representatives from every WHO region and is 60% women.