Guest lecture from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization

Covid-19 has affected everyone on the planet and put unprecedented attention on the critical importance of public health, the need for communities to prepare better and for a more effective response to future crises.

University of Nottingham alumnus and honorary professor, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, has played a prominent role during the past 18 months, both guiding the international response to the pandemic, and calling for equitable access to health tools and services as a precursor to preparing the world to respond better to the next pandemic.

In a unique university lecture and discussion as part of our celebrations marking 50 years of Medicine and 30 years of Nursing, Dr Tedros shares his experiences and advice with students, staff and alumni on how they and the university can take an active role in protecting the world from pandemics. 

This guest lecture was recorded on Friday 9 July 2021. 

As well as recording the lecture we have picked out some of Dr Tedros' key points from his own speech and the Q&A with guests:

Dr Tedros on...the vaccine rollout

More than 70% of all vaccines that have been administered have been just ten countries. And at this stage in the pandemic, the fact that millions of health and care workers have still not been vaccinated is not acceptable. The global failure to share vaccines, tests, and therapeutics equitably a two-track pandemic. But we have the means to change this through the Access to COVID Tools Accelerator, ACT-A, and COVAX.

Dr Tedros on...the inequality in the health workforce

We have seen the extraordinary efforts of health and care workers working in dire situations that many of them had never dreamed of. While reporting is scant, we estimate that at least 115,000 health and care workers have lost their lives from Covid-19 and millions more have been infected, while saving others.

It’s fitting that 2021 is the International Year of the Health and Care Worker, because we owe them so much. Addressing inequalities in our health workforce must be a top priority at the same time. For instance, the majority of the world’s health workers, almost 70%, are women. Women represent approximately 90% of nurses and midwives, and close to 50% of all physicians, and yet, women make up only a small percentage of leadership positions in health services around the world. 

Our world is a patchwork quilt, and our health workforce must represent the same diversity that makes our society so vibrant. We must guarantee that workplaces are free from discrimination, violence, and exploitation. Health and care workers must be paid fairly with decent working conditions and proper equipment. We have to keep the people safe who keep us safe. 

Dr Tedros on...the role of universities

Nottingham, my own university, and other universities can play a crucial role in all of this and others. We depend upon your research and data to inform the guidance we give to countries all over the world, with a focus in developing our programming. We need to you to raise your powerful voices in support of these critical efforts, your voice also matters.

Dr Tedros on...the pandemic's impact on mental health

There is no health and there is no wellbeing without mental health. Mental health has been neglected for a long time. And it should get the right attention. It has been a serious problem before the pandemic, but during the pandemic and after, it’s becoming actually a major health problem. And we are actually worried that this is going to result in a mass trauma that the world has never seen before. Because lives and livelihoods of billions of people have been affected. The whole world.

And that's affecting mental health conditions of children, of adults, of our senior citizens, it’s almost everybody. So the scale is big. And what we do going forward should really match with that scale. And then, to address this scale, one, it has to be mainstreamed in the health system.

In many countries, it’s still the responsibility of major specialised agencies where people with mental health problems are treated as criminals. So, that has to stop. So, the alternative is to mainstream it in all our health systems, starting from primary healthcare. And people should start to see it like any other health problem.

Dr Tedros on...Nottingham

The University of Nottingham will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s this university that made me what I am now, and I learnt a lot.

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