Nakajima, who joined the World Health Organization in 1974, helped develop the concept of essential medicines.
Hiroshi Nakajima, who helped develop the concept of essential medicines during his tenure at the World Health Organization (WHO), died Jan. 26 in Poitiers, France after a short illness, the agency said in a statement. He was 84.
Nakajima joined WHO in 1974 after a career in neuropharmacology. He served as director of WHO's regional office for the Western Pacific from 1978 to 1988, and as the organization's fourth director general, from 1988 to 1998.
Nakajima is credited with starting many of WHO's most successful current programs, including its strategy for treating and reining in tuberculosis and the expansion of its global vaccination program for children. ”For all of these initiatives, the impact on people's health mattered most to him," said current WHO chief Margaret Chan as she announced the news to WHO's executive board at a meeting in Geneva. "One of Dr. Nakajima's greatest passions was to see polio defeated. We are doing so now, for many good reasons. Let these efforts also be a tribute to his memory."
Participants of the meeting commemorated Nakajami's contributions to public health with a minute of silence.
Born in Chiba, Japan, Nakajima received his M.D. from Tokyo Medical University.
His decade-long tenure at the helm of the WHO was marked by controversy, which included a conflict with the former director of WHO's anti-AIDS program. Jonathan Mann. Mann resigned in protest, telling the New York Times: "We're facing a very important worldwide epidemic that requires continual innovation and action, and Dr. Nakajima and I do not see eye to eye on the importance and strategy of the fight against AIDS."
Nakajima is survived by his wife, Martha Nakajima and two sons.