Thomas Zeltner

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Thomas Zeltner
Born (1947-11-15) November 15, 1947 (age 71)
OccupationPhysician, lawyer, and former Secretary of Health of Switzerland
Known forFormer Secretary of Health of Switzerland; co-founder of the Global Patient Safety Forum; Professor of Public Health at the University of Berne, Switzerland; Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health; Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva; Vice-President of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO; and Board Member of the Medical University of Vienna

Thomas Zeltner (born 1947 in Berne, Switzerland) is a Swiss physician, lawyer, and former Secretary of Health of Switzerland Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA. He has a long history as an innovative leader in public health and has repeatedly been ranked among the 12 most influential political figures of Switzerland. [1]

Switzerland federal republic in Western Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western, central and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.


Zeltner is Professor at the University of Berne, Switzerland, in Public Health; Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health; and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. He responsible for the international relations of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and serves on the boards of both the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and the InterAcademy Medical Panel (iamp). He is also the Vice-President of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO and Board Member of the Medical University of Vienna ( 2018-22).

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies post-graduate university located in Geneva, Switzerland

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, or the Graduate Institute (in French: Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement, abbreviated IHEID is a post-graduate university located in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences is a Swiss organization that supports and networks the sciences at a regional, national and international level. They are designated by the Federal Act to Promote Research and Innovation to promote research together with the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Along with J. Michael Henderson, he is a co-founder of the Global Patient Safety Forum, a collaborative forum for global healthcare leaders. He is President of KPT Health Insurance, Switzerland and of Swiss Transfusion SRC Inc.

J. Michael Henderson American surgeon

J. Michael Henderson is an American general and transplant surgeon, with experience in portal hypertension, liver transplantation, and pancreatic disease. Henderson is the Chief Medical Officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center since 2015. Prior to this role, he was with the Cleveland Clinic from 1992-2014. He was the Chairman of the Department of General Surgery and Director of the Transplant Center for 12 years, and was the Chief Quality Officer for the Cleveland Clinic’s 10-hospital system for eight years.


Zeltner was graduated with an M.D. and an LL.M. (master's in law) from the University of Berne. He specialized in human pathology and forensic medicine before becoming the head of Medical Services at the Bern University Hospital. He held various faculty positions at the University of Bern and at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is Doctor of law (honoris causa) of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Pathology study and diagnosis of disease

Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of disease or injury. The word pathology also refers to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices. However, when used in the context of modern medical treatment, the term is often used in a more narrow fashion to refer to processes and tests which fall within the contemporary medical field of "general pathology," an area which includes a number of distinct but inter-related medical specialties that diagnose disease, mostly through analysis of tissue, cell, and body fluid samples. Idiomatically, "a pathology" may also refer to the predicted or actual progression of particular diseases, and the affix path is sometimes used to indicate a state of disease in cases of both physical ailment and psychological conditions. A physician practicing pathology is called a pathologist.

Inselspital Hospital in Bern, Switzerland

The Inselspital, also named the University Hospital of Bern, located in Bern, is one of the five university hospitals of Switzerland. It is associated with the University of Bern.

In 1991, the Swiss Government appointed Zeltner as the 8th Director-General of the Swiss National Health Authority and Secretary of Health of Switzerland, a position he held until the end of 2009.

Under Zeltner's leadership, Switzerland developed in 1991 a pioneering illicit drug policy, which has received global attention. It is based on a 4-pillar strategy (prevention, harm reduction, therapy, and law enforcement), which is enshrined in the Swiss law on narcotic drugs. The harm reduction policy of Switzerland – which includes large-scale syringe exchange programs (also in prisons) [2] and the medical prescription of heroin for chronic heroin addicts – was introduced against the strong opposition of the UN drug control authorities, [3] but endorsed by a majority of the Swiss population in several popular referenda. [4]

A drug policy is the policy, usually of a government, regarding the control and regulation of drugs considered dangerous, particularly those that are addictive. Governments try to combat drug addiction with policies that address both the demand and supply of drugs, as well as policies that mitigate the harms of drug abuse, and for medical treatment. Demand reduction measures include prohibition, fines for drug offenses, incarceration for persons convicted for drug offenses, treatment, awareness campaigns, community social services, and support for families. Supply side reduction involves measures such as enacting foreign policy aimed at eradicating the international cultivation of plants used to make drugs and interception of drug trafficking. Policies that help mitigate drug abuse include needle exchange and drug substitution programs, and free facilities for testing a drug's purity.

Harm reduction, or harm minimization, is a range of public health policies designed to lessen the negative social and/or physical consequences associated with various human behaviors, both legal and illegal. Harm reduction policies are used to manage behaviors such as recreational drug use and sexual activity in numerous settings that range from services through to geographical regions. Critics of harm reduction typically believe that tolerating risky or illegal behaviour sends a message to the community that such behaviours are acceptable and that some of the actions proposed by proponents of harm reduction do not reduce harm over the long term.

Syringe a simple pump consisting of a plunger that fits tightly in a tube

A syringe is a simple reciprocating pump consisting of a plunger that fits tightly within a cylindrical tube called a barrel. The plunger can be linearly pulled and pushed along the inside of the tube, allowing the syringe to take in and expel liquid or gas through a discharge orifice at the front (open) end of the tube. The open end of the syringe may be fitted with a hypodermic needle, a nozzle or a tubing to help direct the flow into and out of the barrel. Syringes are frequently used in clinical medicine to administer injections, infuse intravenous therapy into the bloodstream, apply compounds such as glue or lubricant, and draw/measure liquids.

In 1999-2000, at the request of the then-Director General of WHO, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Zeltner chaired a committee which investigated the efforts of multinational tobacco companies to undermine tobacco control activities of the World Health Organization (2000). [5] This landmark report marks the beginning of the development of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (2003). [6] With his efforts to reduce tobacco consumption in Switzerland, Zeltner became a favorite adversary of big tobacco and was nicknamed “the Tobacco Taliban." [7]

Gro Harlem Brundtland Norwegian politician

Gro Harlem Brundtland is a Norwegian politician, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway and as Director-General of the World Health Organization from 1998 to 2003. She is also known for having chaired the Brundtland Commission which presented the Brundtland Report on sustainable development.

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is a treaty adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland on 21 May 2003. It became the first World Health Organization treaty adopted under article 19 of the WHO constitution. The treaty came into force on 27 February 2005. It had been signed by 168 countries and is legally binding in 181 ratifying countries. There are currently 15 United Nations member states that are non-parties to the treaty.

As Director General of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, he presided over changes to transform the regulated market model of the Swiss health care sector into a more value- and consumer-driven health care system. The Swiss model guarantees access to affordable insurance to all, even if they have pre-existing medical problems. All residents are required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, so that the risk pool remains reasonably favorable. Finally subsidies are given to low income families to pay for their premiums. Even though the Swiss pay 11.5% of the GDP for health (data 2015), [8] a majority of 78% considers that the system works well or very well. [9] The Swiss health care model is gaining increased international interest, particularly in the U.S. [10]

Zeltner was a member and Vice-President of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) (1999-2002). He chaired the committee to reform the governance rules of the WHO in 2002-4. He was also Executive President of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (1994–95) and Chairman of the Governing Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (1998-2000). Between 2012 and 2014, Zeltner served the World Health Organization (WHO) in the capacity of a Special Envoy. [11] In this function he advised the Director General of WHO, Margaret Chan, in critical areas of the ongoing reform of this UN agency [12] [13] including how to cooperate with non-State actors [NGOs and the private sector] without compromising WHO’s integrity; and how to better align WHO’s priorities with the resources available to finance them. The work was successfully completed by adoption of the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) by the World Health Assembly in May 2016.

Current position

He serves as an advisor of the Swiss Government for the implementation of the National Health Policy, Health2020.

He is co-founder of the Global Patient Safety Forum, a convening organization of the world's leading patient safety organizations and member of the steering board of the Global Patient Safety Challenge, Medication Safety, of the World Health Organization. Other co-founders include J. Michael Henderson. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Health Systems and Reform .

He is a member of the board of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and the InterAcademy Medical Panel; chairman of Science-et-Cité; [14] and an honorary member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences. Since 1992, he has been Professor of Public Health at the University of Berne and is a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health (Boston). He chairs the Advisory Board of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and lectures on health diplomacy there. From 2018-22 he will serve as a member of the Board of the Medical University of Vienna (Austria).

Zeltner is Chairman of the board of the health insurer KPT, the leading online insurance company in Switzerland, which is repeatedly qualified as the best health insurer of Switzerland. [15] He is also president of Blood Transfusion CRS Switzerland, the organization in charge of securing Switzerland’s provision with blood and blood products.

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World Health Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organisation, was an agency of the League of Nations.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is the independent and quasi-judicial control organ for the implementation of the United Nations drug conventions. It plays an important role in monitoring enforcement of restrictions on narcotics and psychotropics and in deciding which precursors should be regulated.

World Health Assembly Governing body of the [[World Health Organization]]

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the forum through which the World Health Organization (WHO) is governed by its 194 member states. It is the world's highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states.

Abdol Hamid Ghodse was an academic in the field of substance abuse and addiction.

Julio Frenk Mexican politician

Julio José Frenk Mora is a Mexican physician and former secretary of Health of Mexico. Frenk is currently the president of the University of Miami. He is the University of Miami's first Hispanic and native Spanish-speaking president. Frenk formerly served as dean of the faculty and T & G Angelopoulos professor of public health and international development at the Harvard School of Public Health, from 2009-2015, where he had been the university's first Hispanic and native Spanish-speaking dean.

The Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) is an international nongovernmental organization established jointly by WHO and UNESCO in 1949. CIOMS represents a substantial proportion of the biomedical scientific community through its member organizations. The mission of CIOMS is to advance public health through guidance on health research including ethics, medical product development and safety.

Anti-Narcotics Force

The Anti-Narcotics Force is a Federal Executive bureau of the Government of Pakistan, tasked with combating the narcotics smuggling and use within Pakistan. ANF works under umbrella of Pakistan Army and Ministry of Narcotcs Control. Due to misconception on Section 4 of ANF ACT 1997, the force's head consisted the active-duty general officer of Pakistan Army. Although the law prescribes that any competent person may be appointed as Director General. Currently a two star Army Officer, Major general Arif Malik HI(M) is deputed as Director General. The ANF also has sole responsibility for co-ordinating and pursuing Pakistan narcotics investigations abroad.

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a public health strategy to lower the health risks to individuals and wider society associated with using tobacco products. It is an example of the concept of harm reduction, a strategy for dealing with the abuse of other drugs. Tobacco smoking is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of illness and death, and preventing smoking is vital to public health.

The Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), also called the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control, is a confederation of nearly 500 organizations from more than 100 countries which banded together to support the negotiation, ratification and implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCA was formed in 1999 when negotiations began in Geneva.

Illicit drug use in Australia is the recreational use of prohibited drugs in Australia. Illicit drugs include illegal drugs, pharmaceutical drugs when used for non-medical purposes, and other substances used inappropriately. According to government and community organisations, the use and abuse, and the illegality, of illicit drugs is a social, health and legal issue that creates an annual illegal market estimated to be worth A$6.7 billion.

Health in Bhutan is one of the government's highest priorities in its scheme of development and modernization. Health and related issues are overseen by the Ministry of Health, itself represented on the executive Lhengye Zhungtshog (cabinet) by the Minister of Health. As a component of Gross National Happiness, affordable and accessible health care is central to the public policy of Bhutan.

The Social Protection Floor (SPF), is the first level of social protection in a national social protection system. It is a basic set of social rights derived from human right treaties, including access to essential services and social transfers, in cash or in kind, to guarantee income security, food security, adequate nutrition and access to essential services.

Dr. Derek Yach is a South African analyst of international health care policy and the current founder and president of the Philip Morris International-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. He is a former World Health Organization cabinet director and an advocate of health promotion, smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction.

Alan Donald Lopez is an Australian global and public health scholar and epidemiologist who focuses on the measurement of population health and the global descriptive epidemiologist of tobacco.

The scientific community in United States and Europe are primarily concerned with the possible effect of electronic cigarette use on public health. There is concern among public health experts that e-cigarettes could renormalize smoking, weaken measures to control tobacco, and serve as a gateway for smoking among youth. The public health community is divided over whether to support e-cigarettes, because their safety and efficacy for quitting smoking is unclear. Many in the public health community acknowledge the potential for their quitting smoking and decreasing harm benefits, but there remains a concern over their long-term safety and potential for a new era of users to get addicted to nicotine and then tobacco. There is concern among tobacco control academics and advocates that prevalent universal vaping "will bring its own distinct but as yet unknown health risks in the same way tobacco smoking did, as a result of chronic exposure", among other things.

The Swiss Medical Students’ Association (swimsa) is an independent association representing all medical students in Switzerland. It was founded in 1917, and currently maintains 17 member organisations, 6 of which are medical faculties and 11 are public health and awareness organisations/projects. All medical students of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich are represented on a national and international level.

Gerry Stimson is a British public health social scientist, emeritus professor at Imperial College London from 2014, and an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine from 2017. Stimson has over 220 scientific publications mainly on social and health aspects of illicit drug use, including HIV infection. He has sat on numerous editorial boards including AIDS, Addiction, and European Addiction Research, and with Tim Rhodes he was the co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Drug Policy from 2000 to 2016. He is one of the global leaders for research on and later advocacy for harm reduction.

FAAAT think & do tank

For Alternative Approaches to Addiction, Think & do tank (FAAAT), often shortened as FAAAT think & do tank is an international non-profit organization registered in France, with offices in Paris (France), Barcelona (Spain) and Geneva (Switzerland) whose aim is to impulse and support research and ground-up policy alternatives in the field of addiction, drug use and substance abuse, and to enhance civil society interaction with policymakers at international level, through social engineering and collective action. According to their website, FAAAT supports "Transparent and measurable drug policies framed by fundamental rights, grounded on sustainable development, enforcing empowerment, social justice and health" and "supports the development of a legally controlled market for cannabis." FAAAT works both at the local level in several European countries, and develops actions close to the international institutions relevant on drug policy issues.


  1. Die Mächtigsten: Geballte Macht
  2. "Nicole Pepper for the Harm Reduction Coalition. Syringe Exchange in Prisons: The International Experience". Harm Reduction Coalition. 2007. Retrieved 31 Jul 2013.
  3. "Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1995" (PDF). International Narcotics Control Board. 1996. Retrieved 31 Jul 2013.
  4. Savary JF, Hallam C, Bewley-Taylor D (2009). "The Swiss Four Pillars Policy: an evolution from local experimentation to federal law" (PDF). The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme. Briefing Paper Eighteen.
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  6. Reynolds LA, Tansey EM, eds. (2010) The transcript of a Witness Seminar organized by the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, in collaboration with the Department of Knowledge Management and Sharing, WHO, held in Geneva, on 26 February 2010. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Retrieved 31 Jul 2013.
  7. Ullekh NP (Jun 2, 2013). "Tobacco industry's bet on India & China may lead to surge in lifestyle diseases: Thomas Zeltner". The Economic Times (India).
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