Washington, DC, 20 June 2011 (PAHO/WHO)— The Executive Committee of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) began its 148th session today at the headquarters of the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) with discussion and approval of several initiatives that will be endorsed in September by all of the Ministers of Health of the Americas at the annual meeting of the Directing Council.
At the opening session of the meetings, the Director of PAHO/WHO, Dr. Mirta Roses, highlighted the importance of discussing the technical items on the agenda as well as items related to the programs and budgets, their achievements, and the challenges that lie ahead. She expressed appreciation for the presence of the Minister of Health of Peru, Dr. Oscar Ugarte, and praised his overall management. After the preliminary agenda was adopted, the officers of the Executive Committee were named, with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as President, Argentina as Vice-President, and the United States as Rapporteur. The PAHO/WHO advisory body began its deliberations with a presentation by the delegation of Mexico on the Report on the Fifth Session of the Subcommittee on Program, Budget and Administration, which met from 16-18 March 2011 in Washington D.C. The delegates from the Member States also received the Report on the Collection of Quota Contributions, which was approved without comment. Dr. Roses expressed appreciation to the governments for the special effort they have made during these 10 years to pay their contributions to PAHO/WHO despite financial crises. She also noted the recovery of those contributions to the agency since 2006.
The Strategy and Plan of Action on Climate Change was also approved with broad support from the countries and suggestions for modifying details of the final document. Carlos Corvalán, Senior Adviser for Risk Assessment and Climate Change, stated that the evidence indicates this emerging phenomenon also has an impact on health, which calls for specific action by the Member States. He added that the countries should prepare their health systems to combat the direct and indirect impact of the rise in temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns. In addition, they should also contribute to "mitigation" (i.e., reduction) of the greenhouse effect-- gas emissions that have an impact on climate change.
For the first time, the Executive Committee debated a Strategy and Plan of Action on Epilepsy, which was approved by the countries. Jorge Rodríguez, Senior Adviser on Mental Health, pointed out that epilepsy is particularly important in terms of morbidity, disability, and mortality and that there is a stigma attached to persons with this condition. However, he added, there is scientific evidence that simple, low-cost interventions can be very effective in controlling and improving the quality of life of most people with epilepsy.
In addition, the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth was presented by Knowledge Management and Communications Manager, Marcelo D’Agostino, who highlighted the four strategic lines of this strategy: development of public policies in eHealth, implementation of eHealth projects, a digital agenda for the Americas, and a line of action devoted to knowledge management and education. During the discussions, the countries highlighted aspects mentioned in this document: ensuring systems for interoperability, the importance of the intersectoral approach, and the benefits of this strategy for assistance to remote populations. PAHO also emphasized the importance of very clear knowledge about the concepts of interoperability, accessibility, and adaptability to the new information and communications technologies. The strategy was adopted by the Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee also discussed other strategies that will be approved at its upcoming sessions. The Strategy and Plan of Action on Urban Health was considered. In this regard, the Senior Adviser on Violence, Injuries, and Human Security, Dr. Carlos Santos Burgoa, emphasized the need to take advantage of the opportunity offered by urban growth to include health-related issues in urban development strategies. Dr. Roses commented that the Americas have the most rapid urban development process, which should serve as an experience for advancing the introduction of health in urban development strategies. She also pointed out that local governments are essential in this strategy, because they have mechanisms that facilitate better preparedness when it comes to urban health. The final document will be considered again within the next few days.
The Plan of Action on Road Safety was also analyzed. Eugenia Rodrigues, Adviser on Road Safety, highlighted the work of the countries in the Region in launching the Decade of Road Safety. She emphasized the role of health in advocating improvement of the road safety situation and highlighted the importance of working on the risk factors in collaboration with other agencies and organizations. Dr. Roses pointed out that this issue it is of "enormous importance for the Region." She stated that it will also be considered in the context of other PAHO/WHO health initiatives. The country delegations recognized PAHO’s work in this field.
Next, the Plan of Action to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol was presented and discussed. The delegations made suggestions and lent their general support to this plan. They noted the need provide human, technical, and financial resources commensurate with the magnitude of the problem in the Region. Questions were also raised about the role of the private sector in this problem. Dr. Roses pointed out that this issue leads to national, regional, and global debates but has a direct and indirect impact on the burden of disease, disability, and death in the Region.
Dr. Maristela Monteiro, Senior Adviser on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, presented the Plan of Action on Psychoactive Substance Use and Public Health. The delegates supported the comprehensive approach in public health and primary health care. The plan calls for working in this area with other international organizations. Dr. Roses expressed appreciation to the countries for their contributions to the improvement of the plan. She said that the Organization is interested in facilitating good decision-making and taking action that have been agreed on jointly to deal with the problem of increased drug use.
The Strategy and Plan of Action on Malaria, presented by Dr. Keith Carter, Senior Adviser on Malaria and Communicable Diseases, was also discussed. Dr. Roses stressed that this is important for the Region as it is an area in which the Region can meet the Millennium Goals by 2015. Therefore, she emphasized, it is necessary to continue with the strategy that has been employed up to now. The delegations agreed, and the plan will be approved within the next few days.
At the end of the day, the country delegations attended a reception offered by the Canadian Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Allan Culham, and the Director of PAHO/WHO.
The Executive Committee is made up of nine Member States elected by the Conference or Directing Council to serve for alternate three-year periods. The Committee, which meets twice a year, acts as a working group for the Conference or the Directing Council. The Director of the Bureau can convene special meetings of the Committee either on his/her own initiative or in response to a request by at least three Member Governments. The Committee has an auxiliary Advisory body, which is the Subcommittee on Program, Budget, and Administration.
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