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Former WHO Deputy Director General returns home

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Dr Anarfi Asamoah Baah has just retired as the deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

The Ghanaian born national returns after about two decades (nineteen years) with the UN health body to help groom young professionals for leadership positions and to be a strong advocate for creating age friendly environments for old people.

Dr Anarfi Asamoah-Baah WHO (Photo: Kobby Blay)
Dr Anarfi Asamoah-Baah

Dr Anarfi Baah, also at the rank of Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations confirmed this to ghanahealthnest.com after a meeting with the President of the republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,  last Wednesday.

At the Flagstaff House where the meeting took place, Dr Asamoah Baah briefed the president about his years of work leading to his retirement with the WHO. President Nana Akufo Addo, praised him for his exemplary service to the world through the WHO. He welcomed him to share his experiences to enhance Ghana’s health system especially in the area of health insurance, HIV/AIDS and sanitation in the country.


He was accompanied by Dr Victor Asare Bampoe, a former deputy minister of health and currently the Director and Coordinator of the Fast Track Department of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS in Geneva (UNAIDS), working under UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

Early days
Trained as a doctor at the University of Ghana Medical School, Dr Asamoah Baah’s ambition has always been to be a
Paediatric and a Public Health Specialist.

He took his postgraduate programme in Paediatrics at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital after house job and was persuaded by Archbishop Kwasi Sarpong to work at the St Patrick’s Hospital, Offinso in Ashanti Region for a short while, with the promise that the Catholic Diocese of Kumasi will sponsor him to undertake postgraduate studies in the US.

Whilst working at the Hospital, he got involved in the Catholic Church Diocesan Health Programme and
helped to establish the Primary Health Programme for the District, he was appointed the District
Medical Officer. In 1988, Dr Baah was appointed Senior Medical Officer, in charge of Public Health for the
Ashanti Region.

Went to the UK in 1989 to pursue a postgraduate programme in Community Health from Liverpool
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. After which he undertook postgraduate programmes in health
planning (Keele University), health economics (Aberdeen University) and health policy (Wisconsin
University, Madison, USA).

After a short stint as a Lecturer at Liverpool School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine he returned to
Ghana, joined the Ministry of Health as the Head of the newly established Policy, Planning, Monitoring
and Evaluation Unit.

Health sector reforms

Dr Asamoah Baah was instrumental in spearheading  health sector reforms in the 1990s. Notable among them were the establishment of the Ghana Health Service, setting up the foundation for the establishment of the National Health Insurance ( pilot projects in Nkoranza, Koforidua and Dodowa); a programme for establishing a hospital in every district (the one district, one hospital) project, (120 districts at that time) the establishment of the District Heath Management Teams and office complex in every district; Ghana Essential Drugs Programme, Ghana Public Health School, pooled funding for strengthening district health systems; strong partnership with development partners.

In 1987, was appointed the Director of Medical Service (equivalent of the current Director General of Ghana Health Service). Led the team to draft the bill establishing the Ghana Health Service and the establishment of the Food and Drugs Authority.

Global Health 

In 1998, he joined WHO as a Senior Policy Advisor to the then newly appointed Director General, Dr Gro
Bruntland, as Co-Chair of her Transition Team.

He was subsequently appointed Assistant Director General for Governing Bodies, responsible for WHO
Country Offices, partnerships with sister UN agencies, industry and civil society, and for organizing the
World Health Assembly, Regional Committee and Executive Board meeting.

In 2002, he was appointed Assistant Director General for Health Technologies, responsible for WHO’s
work on medicines, vaccines, medical devices, blood transfusion and injection safety.  He was appointed in 2003, as the Assistant Director General responsible for Communicable Diseases and the control of outbreaks and epidemics.

In September 2005, he was appointed Assistant Director General responsible for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Upon the election of Dr Margaret Chan in 2007, Dr Asamoah Baah was appointed as the Deputy Director General of the WHO, a position he held till his retirement at the end of September 2017.

His passion, post retirement, is to help groom young professionals for leadership positions and to be a
strong advocate for creating age friendly environments for old people.

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