The five scientists include two experts in emerging infectious diseases and Mexico's health minister, an advocate for providing health coverage to the poor, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The newspaper said the choices reflect the WHO's desire to exert more leadership in some of the world's largest public-health challenges, including the battle against pandemic flu and improving health-care delivery in developing nations.
The finalists are Kazem Behbehani, a Kuwaiti who is a top WHO external-relations official; Margaret Chan, WHO's top communicable-diseases official and a former Hong Kong health director; Julio Frenk of Mexico; Shigeru Omi of Japan, WHO regional director for the western Pacific; and Elena Salgado, Spain's health minister.
The U.N. health agency's 34-member executive board chose the finalists. The Journal said the board is expected to vote this week to select the organization's next director general.