By Jill Moss

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

The head of the World Health Organization says important efforts are being made to fight the world's serious health problems. But she says gains could be lost if countries around the world do not support new health programs.

Gro Harlem Brundtland made her comments to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland recently. She described a number of health programs expected in the coming years. However, Doctor Brundtland said the W-H-O's one-hundred-ninety-one member countries must support the programs and put them into action. With this support, she said the W-H-O could reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. She also said the death rate for pregnant women and babies could be reduced.

Doctor Brundtland told W-H-O members that good health is linked to economic and social development. For example, she described how smoking tobacco threatens to reduce the resources of all countries, especially developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that four-million people die each year from diseases linked to smoking. The organization expects that number to rise to ten-million a year in the next thirty years. Most of these deaths are expected in developing countries.

Doctor Brundtland said some progress is being made to improve the health of people around the world. She said there are new medicines to treat malaria and sleeping sickness. Also, the cost of medicines is decreasing for people who have the virus that causes AIDS. And she said reforms in the world's health care systems are progressing. The head of the World Health Organization also believes progress has been made toward educating people about the world's health dangers. She said that decision-makers in both rich and poor countries are starting to understand the cost of deadly diseases.

Finally, Doctor Brundtland said there are increasing numbers ofmedicines and programs to improve people's health. She told health ministers they have a rare chance to improve the health of people around the world. However, she said countries must act immediately to seize that chance.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English