Indo-Pacific Health Leaders Series: Dr Takeshi Kasai, World Health Organization

Dr Takeshi Kasai


By Ambassador for Regional Health Security Dr Stephanie Williams

I was excited to launch the Indo-Pacific Health Leaders Series on the Contain This podcast with Dr Takeshi Kasai, the Regional Director of the Western Pacific Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In this special series, I will hold frank conversations with leaders looking at how they are facing current challenges, making decisions amidst uncertainty planning ahead while dealing with a current health crisis, and how they, as individuals, adapt and adjust their leadership style.

As the Regional Director, Dr Kasai role is convening and communicating with partner governments on the health and well-being of 1.9 billion of the world's population from Fiji in the east to China and Vietnam in the West and Japan to the north.

A physician by training, Dr Kasai has been involved in responding to outbreaks and crises including avian influenza in Hong Kong and Japan, the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the SARS crisis. Dr Kasai has worked for WHO for more than 15 years and was instrumental in developing and implementing the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases and public health emergencies, which guides Member States ongoing improvements to readiness and response.

Dr Kasai discusses leadership in health emergencies. “My role is about making a decision, and also trying to help the leaders to make a decision. Infectious diseases, is actually a series of decision making. But under the uncertainty. And ironically, the more earlier we detect less information and more uncertainty. But we have to make a decision and some of those decisions has a very heavy consequence.”

He commends the Western Pacific region’s response. “First and foremost, everybody knows that we can't really respond to COVID-19 alone, so everybody knows that how important it is for us to be connected and how important that partnership is,” he says.

“But, to tell you the truth, saying it is easy, but it's not that easy. This time, I was so impressed by the partnership in the Pacific, there'd already a mechanism to respond to measles, and then they transform this mechanism to respond to the COVID-19.”

Dr Kasai calls for developed countries to support their neighbours such as the Pacific Islands. “I think we have to continue to advocate, about the vulnerability and special context. And at the end, we are all tested about our empathy or our solidarity, true solidarity in distributing these global public goods.”

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