In primo piano

In search of people value

 Leggilo in italiano

Employment and vocational training

Can you say you have had a Mentor in your education?

No one mentor but many inspirational sources around the world who work to help others at the individual, group and community level. They have educated me by example by doing what is right and not by doing what others think they should do. Strength of commitment and with a sense of justice.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Inspiring others through my writing to follow the right professional path, to listen to others and to help them to gain more power. I have tried to write in a way that can reach everyone at a technical level and in many different languages. It was my choice not to follow an academic path.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

When people tell me that my work or writing has inspired them. That one word inspire means more to me than anything else, it does not happen often, but when it does it makes me feel very happy.

What is the most memorable comment you have received from a referee?

Inspired. This has led to my work being used in policy and practice all over the world to go beyond the page to change the way health professionals think and act.

Challenges and stakes

The key to creating a career in activism?

Be politically aware. Maintain and manage carefully your network of contacts. Manage your feed of information, the sources you draw upon and how you synthesize this information to see the truth behind a situation and what motivates people and governments to act in a certain way.

What would be the first thing you would try to do as European Commissioner for Health?

Find out what mechanisms exist within the EC to allow people to feedback their ideas, needs and concerns into the priorities of the organization. From the bottom (people in country) to the top, the Commissioner. Make sure that equal mechanisms for inclusion exist in all EC countries.

And as Director general of World health organization (Who)?

Set out a strategy to regain credibility with member states. After the errors made, including with the covid-19 pandemic, trust of the Who has been lost. This is critical because there are few organisations in the world that have a global perspective on common problems that face public health.

What historical figure would you invite to dinner?

Leonardo da Vinci. To pick his brains on modern day problems regarding public health.

Reading and writing

How and where do you find the time to write?

I think for a long time before writing anything and so I can do this everywhere and anytime, at home, when walking, when in the bath! When I write I do so intensively, 6 hours per day, for weeks, even months so as to reach a state when it comes naturally and with continuity.

How did you write your first book?

After my PhD in 2000. The first draft was rubbish but by the 6th draft it was getting good enough for review. I have always redrafted and redrafted sometimes spending days on a single page to get the correct balance and tone.

What is the last book you gave as a gift?

I gave 10 of my books ¨Health promotion in disease outbreaks and health emergencies¨ to university students. When I review a book I always ask for copies of my book rather than payment in return and always give them to students on a low income to help with their studies.

Which book would you take to a desert island?

A full set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

Memories, passions, and…

What is one thing that fascinates you most?

People. How and why they behaviour, act and what motivates them to do the best and worst things in life!

Do you prefer to be at the table or to stand over the stoves?

Depends who is cooking! A good chef and I would rather be at the table.

Veg or meat eater?

Both if it is a good chef.

Wine or beer?

Depends on the food. In Italy the food, wine and beer are all fantastic and regionally wonderful.


How do you wind down at the end of the working day?

I watch TV. My daughter told me that you use your brain less by watching TV than by looking at a wall. At the end of the day I need my brain to down load and prepare for the next day. TV is perfect.

Television is for watching…

Documentaries or mindless trash.

The best time of the day: sunrise or sunset?

Depends on the location. I love the morning but rarely see a sunrise. Sunsets are best with a cocktail or by the sea.

And the best day of the week?

Any day I feel I have been productive or have helped someone else.

Free time

What music do you usually listen to and where?

Online. When I work as background noise and I listen to anything. Music helps me to create the syntax, the clay that can be moulded into something special.

How do you prefer get around the city? Walk, bike, bus or car?

Active transport is the best especially walking. I love to explore the side streets and alleys of a city.

Which country do you love the most?

Italy every time. It has everything. From a public health perspective it is also complicated and fascinating.

Which European city do you love the most?

Bologna. I was a visiting professor there for three months and explored every inch of the city on foot. Great food and drink, warm people and great street artists.

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