Health ministers agree to tackle urgent health issues in the Americas at PAHO Directing Council – PAHO / WHO


The resolutions adopted at the meeting focus on regional production of essential drugs and health technologies, reversing the decline of routine immunization, promoting the digitization of the health sector, strengthening of health systems to better cope with emergencies and other vital health issues.

Washington, DC, September 24, 2021 (PAHO) – The 59th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization [PAHO]), which met virtually from September 20 to 24 and attended by ministers and health authorities from across the Americas, concluded this morning. During the meeting, health ministers adopted 13 resolutions aimed at strengthening health policies in the Americas and addressing pressing challenges, such as erosion of routine immunization coverage and the continued pandemic response. of COVID-19.

The Directing Council, which meets annually during the intervening years between the Pan American Sanitary Conference, is responsible for establishing PAHO’s policies and priorities for technical cooperation and for considering issues of public health importance. .

“You have once again stressed the need to strengthen health systems to be more resilient and responsive to public health emergencies such as this COVID-19 pandemic,” said PAHO Director Carissa F Etienne to the ministers at the end of the meeting. “I have been particularly encouraged by the fact that you have explicitly recognized the need to invest more in health systems, including essential public health functions. “

Dr Etienne recognized the many challenges that have impacted national responses to the pandemic, including “failures in the global supply chain, inequalities in the availability and distribution of essential supplies, regional production capacity limited or non-existent, inadequate regulatory and support systems ”, which together have deepened the region. vulnerability.

She appealed for support to strengthen a self-reliance policy in the region, “which would allow increased national and regional production and increased access to vaccines, essential drugs and health technologies”.

Dr Etienne also called for urgent efforts to scale up immunization, saying this week “we have deplored the general decline in immunization coverage in the Americas with increasing levels of reluctance to immunize, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic ”. She urged “real attention to expanding coverage, improving immunization awareness programs, investing in first level of care and addressing the issue of vaccine reluctance.” “.

She praised the commitments made by key stakeholders at the US-led COVID-19 Global Summit this week, to meet the goal of vaccinating at least 70% of all people in each country by the end. from 2022.

The Council also discussed global health issues, in particular the World Health Organization’s (WHO) preparedness for future health emergencies, including legal and financial aspects. Dr Etienne stressed that there is much to be learned from decades of PAHO’s experience in emergency response and management.

“I am very confident that together, united in the spirit of Pan American solidarity, we will overcome this SARS-CoV-2 and will be much better prepared in real terms for the next one, having taken into account and to heart the lessons learned in this chapter of public health, “said Dr Etienne,” Our people as well as history will demand that we learn from this experience. “

The 13 resolutions of the 59th Directing Council include:

  • Increase the production capacity of essential drugs and health technologies: It focuses on regional production to increase access to essential drugs and other health technologies. More specifically, the resolution calls for the creation of government mechanisms that strengthen national capacities in research, development, innovation and production.
  • Revitalize immunization as a public good for universal health: It calls for revitalizing immunization programs through various lines of action, among which, strengthening governance, leadership and financing of immunization programs; strengthen the integration of immunization programs into primary health care systems; and developing communication strategies to build confidence in vaccines.
  • Strategy for Building Resilient Health Systems and Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic to Maintain and Protect Public Health Gains: The resolution aims to repair structural deficiencies in health systems exposed by the pandemic and build resilient health systems that expand coverage, address the social determinants of health and are prepared to face health emergencies. Specific actions include increasing funding for public health and transforming health systems, based on a primary health care approach, to accelerate recovery from a pandemic, recover and sustain health gains public and move towards universal health.
  • Health: A comprehensive approach to face health threats at the human-animal-environment interface: It calls for fostering collaboration to prevent and prepare for health problems at the human-animal-environment interface. Specific actions include promoting strategic planning, emergency preparedness and response, integrated disease and health surveillance and reporting, as well as laboratory testing and networks.
  • Roadmap for the digital transformation of the health sector in the Region of the Americas: It calls for the development of human capital and infrastructures that allow digital technologies to be used in an inclusive, ethical and secure manner in public health. The resolution includes actions aligned with United Nations goals, such as universal health connectivity by 2030 and inclusive digital health that focuses on the most vulnerable populations.

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