Pan American Health Organization. Guyana

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The New PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Faustina Etienne

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO), in its 132nd session in Geneva, 21-29 January 2013, confirmed Dr. Carissa Faustina Etienne as the new Regional Director for WHO's Americas Region (PAHO/AMRO). Dr. Etienne was elected as Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) by the PAHO Sanitary Conference in September 2012 and was subsequently nominated by the Regional Committee for the Americas as Regional Director. Dr. Etienne will take up both her appointments on 1 February 2013 for a five-year term, succeeding Dr. Mirta Roses Periago of Argentina.

“I believe strongly that good health is rooted in equity, universality, solidarity and inclusiveness,” said Dr. Etienne in her confirmation speech, 22 January. “I have learned that Universal Health Coverage is not only the best way to improve the health of every citizen in a country – but that it is entirely feasible.”

Dr. Etienne, from Dominica, holds degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of the West Indies as well as a master’s in community health and an honorary diploma in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In her native country she served twice as Chief Medical Officer (in 2000-2002 and 1995-1996), Director of Primary Health Care Services, Disaster Coordinator, and National Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health. She also served as Coordinator of the National AIDS Programme, Chairperson of the National AIDS Committee, and Medical Director of the Princess Margaret Hospital, and was an Associate Professor at the Ross University School of Medicine.

From 2003-2008, Dr. Etienne served as Assistant Director of PAHO, WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, and from 2008-2012 she was Assistant Director General, Health Systems and Services, at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

In Geneva, Dr. Etienne led efforts to renew primary health care (PHC) at the global level and to strengthen health systems based on PHC, promoting integration and improved functioning of health systems. She has also promoted policy directions to reduce health inequalities and advance health for all through universal coverage, people-centred care, access to safe and effective medical products and technology, integration of health into broader public policies, and inclusive and participatory health leadership.

In her acceptance speech on19 September 2012 after her election as PAHO’s Director, Dr. Etienne said she intended to work for the countries of the Americas, which have made good progress in health and development, but which still face many challenges.

"Our region is strong," said Dr. Etienne. "We now see political stability and economic prosperity in the region at unprecedented levels. At the same time there are millions of people, some of them in our wealthiest Member States, without access to the social determinants of health or health services they so desperately need. Some 74 million people live in extreme poverty. This is a reflection of the inequities that affect several of our Member States and present a challenge for all of us to ensure social justice and social inclusion, and to be proactive in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized.”

Dr. Etienne’s vision of health in the Americas is "societies free of inequality, where people have access to social determinants and healthy environments, which allow them to lead long, dignified, healthy, and productive lives. This includes universal access to health services without fear of being impoverished.” “This vision is based on the hopes and dreams that I have kindled during a career in public health spanning more than 30 years," she added.

Dr. Etienne pledged to build on the rich tradition of Pan Americanism. “If we are to achieve our health goals at local, national, and regional levels we must work together in the spirit of solidarity that characterizes our region, sharing our knowledge with one another, and using our resources to serve those who need our help the most,” she said.

As PAHO Director, Dr. Etienne said she would seek positive change in close collaboration with the Organization’s member countries. "Some people have called me a reformer a change agent. I accept this title and I hope to take PAHO forward in new and challenging directions, working hand in hand with PAHO’s able and dedicated staff. At the same time, pledge never to forget that PAHO belongs to you, the Member States, and that I am your humble servant", said Dr. Etienne.

In December 2012, PAHO celebrated its 110th anniversary and is the world's oldest international public health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of people in the Region, and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO has 38 Member States, with country offices in 28 of them, including Guyana.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 18:50

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