Keynote Speakers

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab

Since taking up her post as WHO Regional Director for Europe on 1 February 2010, Zsuzsanna Jakab has engaged at first hand with many partners and Member States, making progress on a joint health agenda for the WHO European Region. Her travels and activities offer insight into the many and varied duties of a WHO regional director.


Zsuzsanna Jakab took up her duties as Regional Director on 1 February 2010. In January 2015, the WHO Executive Board appointed her for a second term, which began on 1 February 2015. A native of Hungary, she has held a number of high-profile national and international public health policy positions in the last three decades.

Before her election as Regional Director, Dr Jakab served as the founding Director of the European Union's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden. Between 2005 and 2010, she built ECDC into an internationally respected centre of excellence in the fight against infectious diseases.

Between 2002 and 2005, Dr Jakab was State Secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Health, Social and Family Affairs, where she managed the country’s preparations for European Union accession in the area of public health. She played a key role in the negotiations leading up to the Fourth WHO Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Budapest in June 2004.

Between 1991 and 2002, Zsuzsanna Jakab worked at the WHO/Europe in a range of senior management roles. As Director of Administration and Management Support, she managed strategic and operational planning for the Regional Office and guided the work of its governing bodies. Before this, as Director of Country Health Development, she was in charge of external relations and strategic partnerships: coordinating collaboration with the 51 Member States in the WHO European Region and international partners. During her long tenure with WHO/Europe, she also served as Director of the Division of Information, Evidence and Communication and Coordinator of the EUROHEALTH programme.

Born in 1951 in Hungary, Dr Jakab holds a PhD degree in Health Sciences from the University of Debrecen, Hungary; a Master’s degree from the Faculty of Humanities, Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest; a postgraduate degree from the University of Political Sciences, Budapest; a diploma in public health from the Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden; and a postgraduate diploma from the National Institute of Public Administration and Management, Hungary. She began her career in Hungary’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in 1975, being responsible for external affairs, including relations with WHO.

Dr Janez Potočnik

We are delighted to confirm that Dr Janez Potočnik, the Co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) International Resource Panel, will be a keynote speaker at our forthcoming conference. 

Dr Potočnik is a former Commissioner for Environment, and previously for Science and Research  for the European Commission. In those roles and his current position as the Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel he has played a key role in policy making on natural resources and in the transition to a circular economy. 

Dr Potočnik will deliver a keynote address during our October conference where he will focus on decoupling economic growth and environmental degradation and the circular economy. Dr Potočnik will also take part in a panel discussion during the event. 

Janez Potočnik graduated from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1993. He was a researcher at the Institute of Economic Research and became the director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development in 1994. He was appointed Head of Negotiating Team for Accession of Slovenia to the EU in 1998. He was the Director of Government Office for European Affairs in 2000, Minister Councillor at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2001, and the designated Minister responsible for European Affairs in 2002.

During his term as the Commissioner for the Environment, he launched and pioneered on the implementation of Circular Economy and sustainability policies. His term ended on November the 1st 2014. Currently he is the Co-Chair of UNEP International Resource Panel, an active promotor of the transition to circular economy, and the adoption of sustainability policies.

Dr Piroska Östlin

Dr Piroska Östlin is the Director of the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. She holds a PhD in Medical Science from the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and is Associate Professor in Public Health at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. 

Dr Östlin joined WHO/Europe in 2010 as Special Adviser on Social Determinants of Health and in 2012 became Programme Manager of the Vulnerability and Health Programme. 

Dr Östlin has been coordinator of two WHO task forces (in 2004 and 2009) on Research Priorities for Equity in Health. She was also a Member of the WHO Scientific Group on Equity Analysis and Research, as well as co-chair of the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network of the Global WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH). 

Between 2001 and 2010 Dr Östlin was Member of the Board of the European Institute of Women's Health. Her former positions include Secretary of the Swedish National Public Health Commission, Research Manager and Expert in International Health at the Swedish National Institute of Public Health and Member of Board of the Nordic School of Public Health. 

She is the author of several peer-reviewed publications and co-editor of several books, including Gender Inequalities in Health: A Swedish Perspective, Harvard University Press, 2001, Engendering International Health; The Challenge of Equity, MIT Press, 2002, and Gender Equity in Health: The Shifting Frontiers of Evidence and Action, Routledge, 2010.